Pin It

Wassaic Project Summer Festival 

Plum-Colored Drawstring Pants Wearers Need Not Attend

click to enlarge From the Wassaic Project 2013 summer exhibition “Homeward Found” preview party held on June 15. In the foreground, Tora Lopez's Two Cheers For The Bundle Of Sticks Metaphor. In the background, the ivy wrapped around the wooden structure is Gi
  • From the Wassaic Project 2013 summer exhibition “Homeward Found” preview party held on June 15. In the foreground, Tora Lopez's Two Cheers For The Bundle Of Sticks Metaphor. In the background, the ivy wrapped around the wooden structure is Giada Crispiels's Climbing Ivy, Wassaic. The Wassaic Project Summer Festival runs from August 2 to August 4.

Rarely is a free event a hot ticket, but the Wassaic Project Summer Festival is one. Run by a troika of young artists, the event is a four-ring circus—music, film, dance, and visual arts—held inside and outside a former grain elevator in northeastern Duchess County. Their sixth season is the first weekend of August. These curators are addicted to novelty; only about five visual artists (out of 80) repeat from last year—and none of the bands. Because the festival is within walking distance from the Wassaic train station, it's highly accessible to nondrivers; both Brooklynites and neighbors arrive on foot. This may be the best art festival in the USA for pedestrians.

Highlights this year include the folk duo Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion premiering their new Jeff Tweedy-produced album, Wassaic Way. (Sarah Lee is Woody Guthrie's granddaughter.) The actor Martin Starr, best known as Bill Haverchuck in "Freaks and Geeks," will present a film at the festival. Dancers from the Earl Mosley Institute for the Arts, based in New Milford, Connecticut, will also perform.

Artists from previous seasons have gone on to greater success. The film Sleepwalk with Me, directed by Mike Birbiglia and screened at Wassaic last summer, has had a highly successful commercial run. "We like to say, 'You saw it here first!'" remarks Eve Biddle, one of the founders of the festival.

The rest of the year, the Wassaic Project functions as an artists colony. Roughly half of the visual artists in the current show were residents at Wassaic during the past year. Participating artists are encouraged to attend the festival, where they wear name tags on lanyards. Painters and photographers are accustomed to anonymity, but the Wassaic Project encourages conversation between the "creatives" and the crowd.

One purpose of this festival is to demystify art and make it accessible to folks who don't commonly enter the Museum of Modern Art (which now costs $25). Increasingly, the art world is a specialized subculture, with its own language ("Olafur Eliasson interrogates intertextuality") and fashion trends (plum-colored drawstring pants). Wassaic bucks that trend. "It's great to see a 10-year-old who lives across the street standing next to a super-high-powered Chelsea gallery owner looking at the same piece of work, and being engaged in the same way," says Biddle. All the art onsite is for sale, with prices as low as $50. By giving a free festival, then dangling cheap art before the visitors, the project encourages "impulse collecting."

The art show, which is titled "Homeward Found," features an international roster of emerging artists. The design of the seven-story structure, dictated by industrial necessity, today strikes us as mazelike Surrealism. The curators carefully employ the building as a commentary on the art. Certain themes emerge in "Homeward Found": temporary dwellings, secrets encoded as riddles, a gentle eroticism. There are a number of examples of "found abstraction," in which the artist stumbles upon the nonfigurative. For example, the photograph "At Night" by Rachel Barrett suggests that a woman's back, dotted by freckles and moles, resembles a Jackson Pollock painting—or the night sky. Jonathan Schipper's "To Dust" is two gray figurative sculptures hung upside down and rubbed against each other by a mechanical motor. Gradually, their features become eroded, like driftwood. Perhaps the most memorable piece is a drawing in ballpoint pen by Shannon Finnegan spelling out the words "WANT LESS."

Visitors must preregister for camping. "Homeward Found" is also on view weekends throughout the summer, until September 2.

The Wassaic Project Summer Festival runs from August 2 to 4.

Speaking of...

  • The Wassaic Project Summer Festival runs from August 2 to 4.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Hefestus Iron Pour

    The second annual Hefestus festival is returning on May 23 for a full day of iron casting, sculpting, and metalwork, with live music, food, and drinks.
    • May 1, 2015
  • A Light That Never Goes Out

    The Newburgh Illuminated Festival takes place on Saturday, June 20, from 11am to midnight on Liberty Street and Broadway in Newburgh. Newburghilluminatedfestival.com.
    • Jun 1, 2015

Hudson Valley Events

submit event

Big Joe Fitz & The Lo-Fis

Sun., Dec. 4, 10 a.m.

Winter Spark-tacular! Media Celebration

Sun., Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. — Spark Media Project's seasonal student film screening is back, and this December,...

View all of today's events

Latest in Festivals

  • Ahimsa Yoga & Music Festival
  • Ahimsa Yoga & Music Festival

    A weekend-long celebration of traditional and emerging styles of yoga and music at Hunter Mountain, November 4 to 6.
    • Nov 1, 2016
  • Brick Alley Block Party, September 24 – Rain or Shine
  • Brick Alley Block Party, September 24 – Rain or Shine

    Celebrate GARNER Arts Center’s Exhibition, Transposing Perception, wandering through site specific art, music & dance installations throughout connecting 19th Century warehouses and alleyways, ending with a DJ set in a starlit Brick Alleyway. Food trucks, craft beer, wine & cider.
    • Sep 22, 2016
  • Summer Hoot
  • Summer Hoot

    • Aug 1, 2016
  • More »

Related to Festivals

  • La Guelaguetza Festival
  • La Guelaguetza Festival

    For the eighth year this August, Grupo Folclórico de Poughkeepsie is bringing La Guelaguetza to Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie, to share the tradition with locals.
    • Aug 1, 2016
  • Hudson’s Gateway for Music and Art Lovers
  • Hudson’s Gateway for Music and Art Lovers

    With a broad range of programming like experimental film screenings, unconventional art events, and community gatherings, Basilica Hudson draws crowds. And their antifestival, Basilica SoundScape, offers families a chance to get in on the action on September 13th.
    • Aug 31, 2015
  • More »

More by Sparrow

Hudson Valley Tweets