Welcome again to Mixed Media, wherein we showcase cultural news from within and around the Hudson Valley during these times of COVID-19. Although the impact of the virus has necessitated putting in-person events on hold, artists and arts organizations continue to make and present new work online and in other creative new ways. As we all anticipate the re-emergence of more in-person events, here is some of what has been going on recently in the regional arts community.
Taylor Swift in Columbia County
"Cottagecore" is, apparently, the new thing among Gen Z-ers. According to Wikipedia, "Cottegecore is an aesthetic [that] emphasizes nature, simplicity, and peacefulness; it has been described as a visual and lifestyle movement." And, to many, Folklore, Taylor Swift's eighth studio album, is cottegecore incarnate. Over the course of last year's quarantine, the pop country superstar worked with Columbia County resident Aaron Dessner of The National and Jack Antonoff of Fun and Bleachers on the creation of the album, which was released last July and features a guest appearance by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. (As the January issue went to press, Swift dropped yet another surprise album, evermore, which also recorded with Dessner and Vernon.)
Folklore, hailed as a mature and unexpectedly observant and meditative turn for the youthful songbird, has been nominated for Grammy Awards in five categories including Album of the Year. "Making few references to the conditions that brought about its existence," says The Guardian, which picked the effort as one of its top albums of 2020, "it inhabits a world of doomed teenage romance, waspy knitted cardigans, and beguiling, glamorous women wearing impossibly high heels."
In September, Swift, Antonoff, and Dessner assembled just outside of Hudson in the rustic quietude of the latter musician's Long Pond Studio to tape Folklore: The Long Pond Sessions, a documentary about the making of the album featuring intimate, stripped-down, live performances of the its 17 songs. Released in November and currently appearing on the Disney+ streaming service, the 106-minute program includes casual and candid conversations between Swift and her collaborator about the songs themselves and the stories behind them.
"The Nutcracker" at WethersfieldWhile this year the pandemic has necessitated the shelving of every major production of "The Nutcracker," the dance organization BalletCollective and New York choreographer Troy Schumacher pirouetted around the situation with a live immersive reimagining of the holiday classic at the Wethersfield Estate in Amenia in December. Performances featuring a company of New York City Ballet dancers, took place throughout the house and in the formal garden of the opulent, historic Gilded Age estate, to 25-percent capacity groups. For the performances, attendees arrived at the ballet's famous party scene and enjoyed a tour of the luxurious mansion, which was the home property of James Stillman, Chairman of the National Bank, now known as CitiBank.
The production was created and directed by BalletCollective founder and choreographer Troy Schumacher, whose work has been presented by New York City Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Performa, Danspace Project, Guggenheim Works & Process, Guggenheim Bilbao, Peak Performances, the Joyce Theater, the Savannah Music Festival, and NYU Skirball Center, among others; additionally, Schumacher has collaborated with a long list of esteemed artists that includes Jeff Koons, Karen Rusell, Zaria Forman, Thom Browne, Ken Liu, Ellis Ludwig-Leone, Maddie Ziegler, David Salle, and many more.
Maggazino ExpansionDespite this period of austerity brought on by the pandemic, growth is coming to at least one area arts facility. Art center Magazzino Italian Art recently announced that it will be expanding its Cold Spring campus to accommodate more special exhibitions and public and educational programs. The center plans to break ground this spring on a new 13,000-square-foot pavilion designed by Spanish architects Alberto Campo Baeza and Miguel Quismondo, the latter of whom designed Magazzino's main building. With the acquisition of 3.5 acres of additional land and creation of the new pavilion, the expansion will create over 5,000 square feet of flexible exhibition and programming spaces as well as new visitor amenities, including a reading lounge and a cafe.
Magazzino, which focuses on Arte Povera and postwar Italian art and commissions new works by contemporary artists, will remain open and accessible to the public in its current building during the construction process. At present, center administrators anticipate an eventual return to hosting film festivals, performing arts programs, and other public events. Through January 11, the complex is exhibiting "Bochner Boetti Fontana," which showcases the work of artists Mel Bochner, Alighiero Boetti, and Lucio Fontana. The museum is open to the public via reservations, with strict state health safety protocols in place.
Fire at Jacob's PillowIn November, the already demoralizing effects of the pandemic on renowned dance center Jacob's Pillow were compounded with another visitation of tragedy when the site's beloved 230-seat Doris Duke Theater was demolished by a fire. Since 1990, the wooden, barn-like structure had staged groundbreaking performances created by the likes of Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, Trisha Brown, and other leaders in the field of modern dance. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the blaze, which destroyed the structure beyond repair, certainly comes as a devastating blow to the operations at Jacob's Pillow's 220-acre campus in Beckett, Massachusetts, which is a National Historic Landmark and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts.
Founded in 1933 by modern dance pioneers Ted Shawn and his wife Ruth St. Denis, Jacob's Pillow is an internationally recognized non-profit dance center, school, and performance space whose mission is to support dance creation, presentation, education, and preservation; and to engage and deepen public appreciation and support for dance. Among the greats who've trained there are Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, Doris Humphrey, and Alvin Ailey. The fire to the Doris Duke Theater, one of only two indoor performance structures, has further crippled the center, which had canceled its income-vital 2020 summer season but was still able to host dancers and choreographers who were able to work in safe pods and stay on campus. As we go to press, the cause of the blaze was still undetermined. The center plans to rebuild the theater.
Resonant Echoes at SUNY New PaltzLast month, SUNY New Paltz music professors Phyllis Chen and Christiana Fortune-Reader began soliciting field recordings from the public for Resonant Echoes, a new work that integrates sounds from within the community using audio samples, visuals, and acoustic instruments. With a December 21, 2020, submissions cutoff date (the arrival of the winter solstice), the aim of the project is to depict the landscapes and environments of disparate indoor or outdoor places around the region while connecting the personal experiences and unique awareness of the participants and the listeners.
"People have been recording sounds from their environments for over 100 years, documenting the evolution of our land, wildlife, and culture," says Chen about the work. "Anyone at any age can participate. Just a curiosity and desire to stop and listen to one's surroundings will do, along with a smartphone with a recording app on it." In conjunction with the project, youth sound makers will also be invited to be part of a music box-making workshop to take place in March and April. Depending on current events and weather, Resonant Echoes will be premiered as an outdoor community event or online in May. "As more of our world around us continues to shift between virtual connections and changing political landscapes, we hope to stay rooted and connected to one another," says Fortune-Reader. "By resisting the loneliness of staying six feet apart or remaining within our own four walls, we aim to celebrate the beauty of our shared landscape and the people around us."
The Chance Goes Up for SaleThe Chance Theatre is, without doubt, one of the Hudson Valley's most storied music venues. It's been the place of performances by an epic list of artists that includes Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Muddy Waters, R.E.M., the Band, Todd Rundgren, Judas Priest, the Ramones (the group photo on their 1978 album Road to Ruin was taken behind the building), Motörhead, Charles Mingus, the Police (to an audience of four in 1978), Guns 'N Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, Joe Jackson, Bon Jovi, Cheap Trick, Duran Duran, and many more. And now, for $1.75 million, it could be yours.
Although for the last several years owner Frank Pallett has been open to the idea of selling the entertainment complex, which includes the main theater space as well as the smaller Loft, Platinum Lounge, and Nuddy Bar and Grill, in December he made a more pointed pitch and officially listed the venue on the market while it remains closed due to the pandemic. Built in 1912 as a vaudeville house, it opened in 1926 as the Dutchess Theatre to present live performances and silent films; after several owners and stints as the Carol Players Playhouse and the Playhouse Theatre, it shuttered in 1945. In 1970, new owner Larry Plover reopened it as the Last Chance Saloon, beginning its run as a club-level rock venue until it closed again in 1977. Peter Francese reopened it as the Chance in 1980, and Pallett acquired the site in 1994. Although the club went black as COVID took hold, at present it has several shows booked for early this year, beginning with Saliva, Powerman 5000, and others on February 20.