Situated in the Catskill Mountains between Woodstock and Phoenicia, Mount Tremper Arts (MTA) is an artist-run multidisciplinary arts center that supports contemporary artists in the creation and presentation of new works of art. “We’re kind of a laboratory for many of the leading contemporary international artists working today,” says artistic director Mathew Pokoik, who co-founded the center in 2008 with choreographer Aynsley Vandenbroucke. “We’re not a traditional touring venue; artists don’t simply come here with a show, do the show and pack up. We’re very much interested in dialogue between disciplines and fostering experimentation and innovation.”
The seventh annual Mount Tremper Arts Summer Festival, showcasing seven productions of contemporary dance, theater and new music, will open this weekend with musical performances on Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12 by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). The award-winning group includes 33 instrumentalists on its roster, but they perform in modular units, so to speak, in varying number according to the requirements of the work. ICE is returning to Mount Tremper Arts for its fourth consecutive season to highlight the works of up-and-coming young composer and ICE percussionist Nathan Davis on Friday, July 11, and at the other end of the scale, the works of experimental music pioneer Christian Wolff on Saturday, July 12.
“Christian Wolff is a very well-known and respected composer who has in some ways been overshadowed by his more famous colleague John Cage,” says Pokoik. “And there’s a very significant tie-in to our region in having him here, in that one of the most significant moments of 20th-century art was in 1952 in Woodstock at Maverick Concerts, when pianist David Tudor premiered John Cage’s 4’ 33” – and included in that concert were a number of Cage’s contemporaries, including Christian Wolff. To have Wolff here 62 years later, and in the year of his 80th birthday, is a connection to an important historical moment that happened here in the Catskills. Wolff will be here performing a world premiere of his new work with ICE, along with music that spans 64 years of his career.”
Next weekend, Pam Tanowitz Dance will perform its unique brand of postmodern ballet accompanied by the neoclassicists of the FLUX Quartet on Friday and Saturday, July 18 and 19. The headlining piece is Broken Story (wherein there is no ecstasy),a dance that examines themes of intimacy. The work is a preview for a show that has been commissioned by the Guggenheim to premiere there in February 2015, says Pokoik.
All performances start at 8 p.m. Single-event tickets cost $20, or a season pass costs $95. The MTA Summer Festival continues through August 23, with the full schedule of events posted at www.mounttremperarts.org.
Much of the work to be presented by MTA this summer was commissioned by the center and in many cases was created there throughout the year, Pokoik says. “We’re specifically looking to work with artists who are interested in engaging in that kind of holistic practice of the making and the presentation. It’s a very rigorous process of asking questions and seeing what happens. We encourage artists to take those big risks that sometimes result in failure, and sometimes result in remarkable things occurring.”
From the very beginning, he says, MTA’s founders have thought of themselves as a multi-disciplinary arts center. Their focus comes from the belief, he says, that “innovation requires tightly knit artistic communities, and in our current global art world, those tightly knit communities are becoming more and more challenging to encounter. As a photographer, I often find those cross-disciplinary conversations to be more interesting than me sitting around with other photographers. It raises questions and pushes me past my own perspective in a way that I think is very important, and is something we’re trying to foster here.”
Another part of the process is creating an environment that is welcoming and engaging to new audiences who may not be familiar with or otherwise receptive to contemporary art performances, says Pokoik. “Much like the artistic process, we’re in flux. We’re not set in stone; we’re always trying to do better.”
Advance ticket purchase is advised, as seating is limited. There is no reserved seating. Tickets are available online, at (866) 811-4111 or at the box office one hour before events.
Mount Tremper Arts Summer Festival, Friday, July 11-Saturday, August 23, 8 p.m., $20 per event, $95 season pass, Mount Tremper Arts, 647 South Plank Road, Mount Tremper; (845) 688-9893, www.mounttremperarts.org.