Art from the start

Woodstock’s Byrdcliffe invites the public to Open Studios this Saturday

by Paul Smart
August 18, 2011 11:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 198 198 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We write a lot about art that one can see in galleries and museums, on walls or pedestals. But what about art in progress, and that other side of art-making: its active cultural role as an enlivening aspect of our lives, where the process and climate of creation is as important to our overall sense of life within a community as that which decorates our home and workspaces?

This Saturday, August 20, there will be an afternoon Open Studios celebration leading into a potluck dinner get-together at the historic Byrdcliffe Colony in Woodstock. The reasons for celebration increase exponentially, given the changes within the art colony’s Artists-in-Residence (AIR) program this summer: the establishment of a vital connection between the entity and the New York Foundation for the Arts; an expansion of the AIR program beyond the traditional old Villetta Inn residence and studio workspaces into other classic century-old buildings on the mountainside Eden; and a shift in the Open Studio events from Friday nights to Saturday afternoons.

Over the past 15 years, the work on view has stayed consistently innovative, inspiring and indicative of all that’s good happening in the visual and literary arts these days. The spaces themselves tend to be raw, with plywood floors and window-lit walls, allowing the soft mottled light of an aging forest into each studio. And the use of those spaces differ, especially when prepped for outside eyes, as happens on Open Studio days.

One artist is painting swaths of fabric that then hang from every surface, as she works toward finite canvas presentations. A composer charts sounds with drawings, tight yet inclusive of the woods outside in coloration and form. Another artist works in large abstractions, with a side-table of smaller, more realistic landscapes.

For the first time this year, writers have been working in the classic old pastoral manse White Pines, home to the Byrdcliffe Colony’s idealistic founders Ralph and Jane Whitehead 100 years ago. And a sculpture show – fun for kids of all ages – fills the stately grounds outside.

Things kick off with a tour of the colony’s historic and still-very-active Ceramics Studio in the Byrdcliffe Barn, showcasing the work of this summer’s ceramic residents, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. From 4 to 6 p.m., the studios of five visiting artists will be open at the Villetta, alongside an informal potluck cocktail hour inside the historic structure. From 6 to 7 p.m., short readings and performances by three playwrights and a poet will take place in the Villetta’s main room, followed by more mingling and merriment.

Guests are encouraged to bring beverages, hors d’oeuvres, finger foods or desserts as contributions. Both the Byrdcliffe Barn and the Villetta Inn are located within the Byrdcliffe Art Colony on Upper Byrdcliffe Road, just off Glasco Turnpike in the town of Woodstock. For further information, call (845) 679-2079 or visit

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