America’s longest-running dance festival, Jacob’s Pillow (established in 1931 by modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn) draws thousands of visitors every summer to its site in the Berkshires, where they enjoy upward of 350 outdoor and indoor performances by more than 50 dance companies, talks, films, kids’ activities, and other events—several of which are free. Among the prime ticketed events this year are performances by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (June 22-26), Juan Siddi Flamenco Sante Fe (June 22-26), the Korea-based Bereishit Dance Company (June 29-July 3), the South American gaucho troupe Che Malambo (June 29-July 3), the tap dance-centered “And Still You Must Swing” (July 6-10), the New York Theatre Ballet (August 3-7), Brooklyn reggae-street dance production “FLEX” (August 17-20), the Pacific Northwest Ballet (August 24-28), a solo-with-African-drumming-accompanied performance by Soulemayne Badolo (August 24-28), and more.
Metaphorically mirroring the spaciousness of its signature Spiegeltent, which hosts cabaret events and other performances, Bard SummerScape, an extension of the Bard Music Festival, has a big-tent spirit; the annual series takes in numerous disciplines as it presents internationally esteemed musical concerts, opera, dance, theater, film, and more. Each season, SummerScape’s programming riffs off the Music Festival’s featured composer—this year, it’s Giacomo Puccini—to offer content that’s directly or tangentially related to that artist’s sphere. Some main items for 2016 include “Iris,” Pietro Mascagni’s art nouveau opera, directed by James Darrah; “Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed,” four futurist puppet plays by Fortunato Depero directed by Dan Hurlin; “Fantasque,” a new ballet set to music by Ottorino Respighi that was created by choreographer John Heginbotham and puppeteer Amy Trompetter; and the film series “Puccini and the Operatic Impulse in Cinema.”
Now in its fourth year, the day-long Newburgh Illuminated festival—of which this magazine is a proud cosponsor—radiates with the optimism of an architecturally rich city on the cusp of immense, positive change. Named in honor of Newburgh’s landmark status as one of the first American cities to be electrified (ca. 1883), this free, colorful street party features locally sourced and ethnic foods, family-friendly activities, a trolley tour of historic sites, pop-up art exhibits, a marketplace, yoga, hoop dancing, and live music by more than 20 acts on multiple stages ranging from funk to rock, hip-hop, gospel, folk, jazz, blues, traditional ethnic styles, and more. The headliners this year are area residents Corey Glover, lead singer of the platinum-selling band Living Colour, and famed rapper, poet, and actor Saul Williams (Slam, Holler If Ya Hear Me).
Warwick Summer Arts Festival
With performances taking place at various town parks and in one of the Warwick’s famous black-dirt farm fields while its Main Street hosts an art exhibit, the Warwick Summer Arts Festival (July 15-24) has been giving this quaint Orange County ’burg a jolt of seasonal culture since 2000. But even after 15 years, the festival’s size remains at a cozy level; its main stage concerts (past headliners have included folk-rock greats the Roches, singer-songwriter Tom Chapin, and avant-jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins) normally bring in somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people. Art, music, and dance workshops are sponsored at the town’s community center and high school and other sites. Described by its organizers as a “fusion fest,” the two-week event also includes further components that “will bring together artists from diverse genres in a multidiscipline showcase set throughout picturesque Warwick.”
Art Omi Summer Exhibition
Columbia County’s Omi International Arts Center and its Fields Sculpture Park make up one of the Hudson Valley’s truly unique cultural attractions. The rambling, 150-acre site in Ghent is home to a permanent collection of massive contemporary sculptures as well as seasonally curated outdoor exhibits of works by artists from around the world. The park’s Summer Exhibition, which opened at the end of last month, features inspiring creations by Rob Fischer, Folkert de Jong, Freya Powell, and Andreas Savva; on view through July 24 inside the gallery of Art Omi’s Berenson Visitors Center (which also houses a cafe) are the prints, architectural drawings, and mechanical sculpture of Charley Friedman. Omi also sponsors summer residencies by a selected cast of visiting international visual artists, writers, dancers and musician-composers, which culminate with public viewings and performances.
Woodstock Fringe Festival
Woodstock’s historic Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, the oldest continuously operating artists’ colony in America, has been a nexus of creative endeavor since it opened in 1903. This year, the Woodstock Fringe Festival, the town’s long-running festival of theater, music, comedy, and poetry, returns once again to Byrdcliffe with two highly anticipated programs. Opening on August 11 and running for two weeks is a production of Samuel Beckett’s iconic, rarely performed 1961 masterpiece “Happy Days” starring Bette Carson and Rick Siler (tickets go on sale June 1). For 12 days beginning on July 27, five resident playwrights from the Woodstock Fringe Playwrights writers’ retreat will stage individually and collaboratively created new works at Byrdcliffe’s rustic, wooden Eastover venue (check website for updated schedule and other details). Also happening at Byrdcliffe but unaffiliated with Woodstock Fringe: “End Days” presented by Voive Theater (June 9-26) and concerts by Happy Traum (June 18) and Jack DeJohnette (August 13).
Wassaic Project Summer Exhibition and Festival
The Wassaic Project is an arts center that occupies a converted mill and grain elevator, a former school house, a livestock barn, and a 100-year-old hotel and bar near the rural Dutchess County town of Amenia. The site hosts a coterie of year-round artists in residence and every summer sponsors this multidisciplinary arts festival that brought in 5,000 visitors in 2015. This year’s event, which runs August 5-7, overlaps with Appetite for Destruction, an exhibit of artworks by nearly 60 artists, and includes feature films and film workshops, a selection of committee-curated dance performances, live music by nationally touring acts, and more. Wassaic has camping available (free for volunteers), and additional, less-rustic accommodations can be had via Airbnb or local traditional B&Bs (see website). Sustenance options include a late-night food court and The Lantern, which serves wood-fired pizza and locally crafted beer.
On the site of an apple orchard in Chatham, PS21 (aka Performance Spaces for the 21st Century) presents the Chatham Dance Festival every August and a Performing Arts Festival of music and theater in June and July, plus free performances for kids, dance and theater workshops, community sings, and free movie screenings.
Storm King Art Center
Its colossal, surreal sculptures visible from the New York State Thruway like some kinds of Dali-esque hallucination, Storm King Art Center, near West Cornwall, was founded over 50 years ago. Its 500 acres of fields, woodlands, and hills serve as the setting for over 100 works by some of the art world’s most recognized names; Storm King’s permanent and long-term-loaned collection includes pieces by Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Sol Lewitt, Louise Bourgeois, Nam June Paik, Richard Serra, Isamu Noguchi, and many others. Now on view are exhibits by Dennis Oppenheim (“Terrestrial Studio”; through November 13) and Josephine Halvorson (“Outlooks”; through November 27). The facility’s schedule of events this summer also contains yoga sessions, beekeeper tours, children’s and family activities, and more. Taking place on June 11 is “Six Bands, Six Genres, Six Sculptures,” which pairs live music with outdoor art.
This multidisciplinary contemporary arts center ensconced in a cavernous former factory building on the City of Hudson’s waterfront presents adventurous film, music, art, food, and community events that nurture a dialogue between the Hudson Valley and the creative world at large. Hudson Valley Cider and Cheese Festival (June 4); Freak Flag Day party (June 11).
Although the original structure burned down and was later rebuilt, Woodstock’s center of classic year-round and summer stock theater, concerts, and other events has been in operation since 1938. “The Wizard of Oz” (June 4-6), “Guys and Dolls” (June 17-July 3), Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (July 8-24), “Cherry’s Patch” (July 29-31), “Pippin” (August 5-21).
The summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and one of the world’s premier outdoor concert sites, Tanglewood is located in the Berkshires towns of Lenox and Stockbridge. Dolly Parton (June 17), Brian Wilson (June 19), Bob Dylan/Mavis Staples (July 2), and returning favorites “A Prairie Home Companion” (June 25) and James Taylor (July 3).
For its second shining season, Constellation, Melissa McGill’s breathtaking and luminous land art project on Pollepel Island, is currently viewable via sunset boat tours through October 2016. Participants can board the vessel Estuary Steward to see the installation up close and tour the island’s Bannerman Castle ruins.