Ariel Shanberg is the executive director of the Center for Photography at Woodstock, a nonprofit, artist-centered organization supporting artists working in photography and related media and engaging audiences through opportunities in creation, education, and presentation. The Center, located in the former Tinker Street Cafe, is a exhibition hub for photographers of international renown, including Mary Ellen Mark, Sylvia Plachy, and Ron Haviv. Shanberg has curated numerous exhibitions at CPW including “Family Album,” co-curated with Kate Menconeri in 2006, “Shifting the Political: Portraits of Power,” and “F|R|A|M|E—Analysis of Movement,” both in 2004; and serves as editor of CPW’s publication, PQ. In addition to his work at CPW, Shanberg will be curating an exhibition entitled “Food for Thought” at The Light Factory in Charlotte, North Carolina in spring 2008, and has contributed essays to accompany publications on the work of artists Stephan Hillerbrand and Mary Magsamen, and photographers Angelika Rinnhofer, Jeffery Milstein, and Sun-Joo Shin.
Shanberg has served on various panels and nominating committees including an upcoming panel on artist opportunities at the 2007 PhotoPlus Expo at the Jacob Javits Center moderated by W.M. Hunt, and he has been an invited reviewer to Fotofest (Houston, Texas), Rhubarb Rhubarb (Birmingham, UK), and Photo Lucida (Portland, Oregon).
Shanberg lives in pastoral splendor in the woods outside Woodstock (though he is allergic to most tree species native to the Northeast) and splits his time between his home (no pets, no TV, no Internet, houseguests aplenty) and that of his girlfriend, the photographer Charisse Isis, in Kingston.
Chronogram: What’s the worst job you ever had?
Ariel Shanberg: I’ve had some jobs that have provided me with some unpleasant experiences (I’ve worked in pest control and while living on a kibbutz worked in the chicken house), but I always found something meaningful to pull from the experiences, so nothing thus far ranks too low to be called “worst.” Plus, I’ve always been fortunate enough to have great co-workers and decent bosses. Why do you choose to live in the Hudson Valley?
Both my parents were immigrants which helped give me a strong sense of a larger world around me. At the same time, we lived in a town in northern New Jersey that didn’t seem particularly interested in welcoming or celebrating the “other.” So after finishing college, I knew I wanted to live somewhere where the idea of community and the arts played a major role in peoples’ lives—that, plus serendipity, brought me to Woodstock in 1997.
What’s the strangest thing in your fridge?
Whatever it is, it is no longer identifiable, has recently grown legs, and I think it ate my leftovers from last night’s dinner. What are some the things you’d like to change about the area? What are some of the things you’d like to stay the same?
I’d like to see the younger population who are growing up in the region stay and be a dynamic part of our communities. In order to do that we have to find ways to lower the cost of living and increase the number of real paying jobs in the area.
As far as keeping things the same—I’d like to see artists continue to be able to live here and access the amazing resources this area has to offer. This region has been a well of inspiration for over a century and it has always been a place where independent dialogue and ideas could be nurtured and flourish.
What is usually your first thought in the morning?
What ordinary thing is very hard for you to do?
Go on vacation.