In less than 78 hours, three artists transformed the once-grey metal grain silos at the Tuthilltown Spirits farm distillery in Gardiner into wildly colorful cylindrical canvases, each with its own distinct style and imagery.
Ralph Erenzo, the co-owner of Tuthilltown Spirits along with business partner Brian Lee, explained that it was his son Gable Erenzo who first had the idea to do something with “all of that grey metal! We began discussing it and he had this idea of inviting artists and turning the silos into pieces of artwork for our customers and visitors to enjoy. I said, ‘Run with it,’ and he did.”
So Gable invited three artists, two from New York City — Joseph Meloy and Fumero, who goes by only the one name — as well as local artist extraordinaire Ryan Cronin, each to paint one of three 17-foot-high, 69-foot-circumference silos used to store the grain that the Farm Distillery uses for its whiskey.
The entire Tuthilltown scene — a historic district complete with a restaurant/inn along with the spirit tasting and retail shop, the farm distillery and operation, 21 acres of land and enough solar panels in the farm fields to keep Erenzo and Lee’s operation completely off the electric grid — was hopping on July 8 and 9 when the artists were there.
“We have a film crew here: a demonstration on how to turn our mash from waste to energy to generate enough juice to power our steam, so we can stop using propane,” said Erenzo. “Our goal is to make 100 percent ‘green’ whiskey within the year,” he said with a laugh. “We want to go off the grid and let our customers know that this is not only a locally owned and operated distillery, but one that is also eco-friendly and progressive.”
To that end, they gave the artists license to approach the silos however they wanted to in terms of design. “We sent them images of the area, noting that some themes they may want to incorporate could be the grist mill, the river, the farms and mountains; but really, those were just to familiarize them [the two New York City artists] with the area. The designs were really up to them.”
Using various-sized stencils, Cronin was painting his iconic birds that appeared to be flying gracefully around the silo, turning it into a rotating sky. “I use these birds in a lot of my artwork, and I thought it was a good fit for the silo, because there’s a pastoral quality to them that reflects this rural setting.”
The artist said that, despite the heat, he also enjoyed “working in a public realm. That’s been fun: to interact with the public while I’m working, as well as working alongside such other great artists.”
He said that the size and scale of the metal canvas were “challenging but nice. I prefer to go larger rather than smaller, and this is certainly larger!” To learn more about Cronin’s work, go to https://cronartusa.com.
Working on the silo to the north of Cronin’s was Fumero, whose images intertwined elements of the river, the historic grist mill and the Shawangunk Mountains, as well as his own “Fumeroisms,” including his signature bubbles that rose to the surface of the silo. “I find that it [his design] complements the natural environment. Usually I work on these larger-type surfaces in urban settings, so it’s nice to be out here in this beautiful area. I wanted to incorporate what the distillery is about in my own way.”
He said that the size and scope of the metal canvas was “challenging, but at the same time I love taking a lifeless surface and bringing out the colors of life onto it. This has been a great experience.” To learn more about Fumero, go to https://fumeroism.com.
The third silo was a riot of swirling colors in an abstract circular motif, looking like bucolic Skittles. Lower East Side artist Joseph Meloy said that he was contacted by a photographer friend of his who knew Gable. The two met, and he “loved the idea of the project.” He had to wait until the third silo was built. “It was several months ago we set this up, but they needed to complete their third silo.”
“In one way, this served as a great impetus for us to get that third silo up,” said Erenzo. “We had the pad in for it, but with this project set up, it gave us a deadline.”
Meloy’s Abstract Expressionism includes bright yellow, red, blue and brown colors in a post-graffitilike motif. “I call it Vandal Expressionism,” he said. “But the colors I chose were very specific. I wanted the colors to reflect apples, corn, barley: the elements of the region, as well as the distillery.”
He said that this was “by far the largest canvas I’ve ever worked on. I’ve been doing a lot of murals in the City, but nothing of this scope and size. It’s been fun. I’m working next to two great artists, meeting so many wonderful and friendly people. This area is so beautiful, and Gable and Ralph have been so easy to work with.” To learn more about Meloy, go to www.facebook.com/vandalexpressionism.
“I think that this brings a whole other element to Tuthilltown Spirits,” said Erenzo. “We’re not only about whiskey. You can come out here and enjoy the farm, take a tour, view the amazing art on the silos, have a picnic with your family. We’ve been doing more and more events here that just blend in with the neighborhood and pull people in, like a shoestring band on the porch of the spirit and tasting shop the other night. On Fathers’ Day we had a man come out and roll cigars for all of his friends that were fathers. So there’s a lot here for people to enjoy, and the art just adds another stunning visual element to this bucolic setting.”
For additional information about Tuthilltown Spirits and the farm distillery, call (845) 797-9010.