In Europe especially, arts festivals are among the great pleasures of summer, stimulating unusual creative connections and bringing in cultural aficionados to cities small and large. But you don’t have to cross an ocean to see what that’s like: Just visit Kingston on August 24, the day of the first annual Kingston Festival of the Arts and a concurrent event, the Taste of Kingston.
It’ll be one jam-packed day. Organized by Kerry Henderson, a professional opera singer who co-founded the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice four years ago, and Gloria Waslyn, the Kingston Festival of the Arts will feature an opera inspired by Julia Child’s TV cooking show; Dzul Dance’s aerial contortions and dances derived from Mayan traditions; a multimedia art installation and happening about Joan of Arc by artist Adrian Frost; a play performed by Brooklyn-based group Honeymoon Heart Revival called Dear Johnny, fresh from a run on the Lower East Side of Manhattan; and a monologue by Paul Boocock, winner of two Alternative Theater Awards, that’s directed by Richard Toff, who previously ran a theater company in Prague.
The Festival will kick off at 8 p.m. Friday night with a worldbeat dance party at the San Severia Spiegeltent, that magical venue that has perked up a stretch of Broadway all summer, with Jordan Matthews, deejay at Bard College’s sister Spiegeltent, spinning the tunes. On Saturday morning, a concert featuring soprano Alison Davy, saxophonist Javier Oviedo and pianist Gene Rohrer – the trio has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and other prestigious venues – will present “How Fine It Is to Live,” music ranging in styles from French Impressionist to Neoclassical and Romantic to Modernist, at 11 a.m. at the Old Dutch Church. At 2 p.m., pianist Neil Alexander will celebrate the centennial of Stravinsky’s revolutionary The Rite of Spring with a performance of his piano transcription of the piece – also at the Church, which is renowned for its superb acoustics.
Four cabaret or cabaret-type performances are scheduled for Le Canard Enchainé and Stella’s restaurant, located on North Front Street, including a performance by David Alpher and Jennie Litt at 2 p.m., Jolie Dunham and friends at 4 p.m. and Amy Wallace, singing Broadway hits, at 9 p.m.
Down on the waterfront, a water “blessing” at the new Clearwater barn on the grounds of the Hudson River Maritime Museum will be conducted by internationally famous avant-garde composer and musician Pauline Oliveros, a Kingston resident, and her partner Ione, also an artist, performer and author. It’ll be followed by a drumming session of Native American women, short speeches by local officials, including Maurice Hinchey, mayor Shane Gallo, county executive Mike Hein and state senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, and music by a bunch of performers from Beacon, including the Rivertown Kids, who just won a Grammy, and possibly Pete Seeger.
Meanwhile, emphasizing the family-friendly nature of the Festival – Henderson and his actor/singer wife Bex Roper-Caldbeck (who will perform her own composition in Voices of the Water) have two young children – a solid program of kids’ activities is scheduled at Forsyth Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., including face-painting, music and dance workshops and performances by a very cool local band, Ratboy, Jr. From 12 noon to 8 p.m., local bands and singer/songwriters take the stage at the Steelhouse Restaurant.
Music isn’t all: At the 721 Media Center, located on upper Broadway and fast becoming a hot spot for post-production digital film and video work, staff members from EdgeWorx Studios, which recently moved from New York City to Kingston, will discuss the making of their animated film about a parrot. The troupe from Barefoot Dance Center will hold a workshop and perform at the Tudor-style Kirkland Hotel. Christine Agro, an internationally known conceptual artist, will display a banner of one of her nature-inspired mandalas at three different locations and invite viewers to share in a meditation. You can also help create a community mandala under the guidance of Rita Schwab at Cornell Park and visit the Bailey Pottery studio, which makes kilns for colleges and potters all over the US.