Saugerties Performing Arts Factory hosts Art Along the Hudson kickoff this Saturday

spaf @When Art Along the Hudson (AAH) holds its annual kickoff on Saturday, May 31 at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory (SPAF) with emcee Mikhail Horowitz, Saugerties supervisor Greg Helsmoortel and Director of Ulster County Tourism Rick Remsnyder greeting celebrators for an evening of great art and music, the 11-year-old organization will be essentially embarking on a new era.

Art Along the Hudson is a collective promotional venture of Hudson Valley towns and cities known for artistic venues and activities. “This all started out of conversations between Ben Krevolin at the Dutchess County Arts Council, Linda Hubbard, who had a gallery in Beacon at the time, Albert [Shahinian] and myself and Nancy Donskoj in Kingston,” said Joanna Hess, co-president of AAH’s board, of the coming event. “Beacon and Kingston were doing joint openings, along with Poughkeepsie, and it made sense to join forces.”

First Newburgh joined in, so that there was a full month of Saturday-night art events up and down the Hudson Valley. Five years ago, a much bigger expansion occurred, bringing in Rhinebeck and New Paltz, and eventually Hudson, Woodstock and Garrison/Cold Spring – even Ossining for a year – and now Saugerties. Along the way, added Hess (whose co-chair at Art Along the Hudson is Paty Lott), Hubbard became the consortium’s volunteer director, making sure that everything was coordinated and happening as it should. But then she decided to step back in the past year, which is what is making for the “new era.”

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Some towns have pulled out for a spell, like Hudson and Woodstock, while others have consolidated, such as Rhinebeck/Red Hook and Tivoli or Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park. But the basic work at hand has stayed the same, and the underlying sense of structure. Towns pay an annual fee to cover AAH costs for printing and a limited amount of advertising. In return, they become part of a cultural juggernaut for both art aficionados in the region and visitors interested in the rising aura of cultural tourism.

Seventy thousand copies of an annual brochure – whose new edition will be available at Saturday’s kickoff – are disseminated to local businesses, Thruway stops and Grand Central Station in New York. And a regularly updated website is supported, full of local arts listings and events focused on those once-a-month coordinated openings.

“It’s finally getting into people’s heads that we’re a consortium of ten different communities,” Hess said. “What we do allows people who enjoy one opening to figure out how to attend others. Say you’re in from Boston; with our website and brochure, you can now know where to try out openings and events in several communities in a single trip. And as Dutchess County Tourism’s Mary Kay Vrba says, for every dollar spent on art, there’s many more spent on other businesses in our communities.”

As for Saturday’s event at SPAF, be prepared for art from each participating community, great music from Malcolm Cecil, who was the genius behind much of Stevie Wonder’s 1970s sound, plus the Arm-of-the-Sea Puppet Theater and Horowitz’s wit. As Peter Schickele (P.D.Q. Bach) says, “Horowitz does with the English language what Jim Carrey does with his face.”

Art Along the Hudson Annual Kickoff, Saturday, May 31, 5-9 p.m., Saugerties Performing Arts Factory, 169 Ulster Avenue, Saugerties; www.artalongthehudson.com.

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