The Wassaic Project — which runs its annual truly-young and progressively forward-looking Summer Festival August 2-August 4 with some 100 artists, 25 bands, film screenings, dance performances and wild installations — posits a new way of imaging the future of rural America. Or at least the fringes of our Hudson Valley and similar areas.
It takes place in the Dutchess County community where Borden got its start making condensed milk for Civil War soldiers, long before their later move to Wallkill and the Town of Shawangunk in southern Ulster County. It has completely swallowed up an old, multi-story wooden mill building, a cattle auction structure from the 19th century, and assorted other old hamlet buildings in a bucolic setting surrounded by hay fields, old forests, and the low hills of the Taconic hills.
The big visual arts theme this year for the main mill space galleries (open for over a month now) has been “Homeward Found” in reference to the concept of “a passage, a personal quest, and a seeking of home.” For their sixth season of site-specific artmaking, all seven stories of the Maxon Mills grain elevator are being utilized this year with work by over 80 emerging artists, half of whom are Wassaic Artist Residency alumni (each summer, the well-funded project takes on a dozen or so young artists and puts them up for a season of artmaking). Where last year saw much flooding image, including a frightening overflowing toilet motif, this season has faux kitchens, dust sculptures, strange abodes, and moss pelts.
A complementary show, In The Details, is made up of seven stories of stacked wood…together and in individual constructions.
For the big early August festival itself, more art installations will be going up under the theme, “Argonauts,” with a penchant for journeying and instant mythologies.
Film screenings this year, ranging from experimental shorts to new indie features, will be curated by and featuring, as resident celebrity, actor Martin Starr of Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, and Adventureland fame. Dance was put together by a panel including former Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company member/choreographer Arthur Aviles, site-specific movement invenot Noémie Lafrance, Earl Mosley and several leading dance critis and theoriticians.
Music-wise, expect an endless array of party bands and musicians from overseas, including African and Asian new fusions.
All told, it’s a means of reveling in new arts energy of all stripes…in a great hipster rural location not that far from Ulster County and environs.
The Wassaic Project, August 2-August 4 in Wassaic, NY (off Route 22 near Millerton and Amenia); various costs; for more information, call (347) 815-0783 or see www.wassaicproject.org.