Once upon a time, in the days of the Rosendale cement boom, there was a busy rail depot across from what was then a general store and is now that fabulous nexus of the paper arts, Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW). The railroad tracks and ties have since been torn up, but the rail trail that was left behind, with the recent reopening of the section that passes through Williams Lake, now links Rosendale and points south with Kingston. It’s something to celebrate, and WSW is doing that in high style for most of the coming month, with a free public artfest called the au•gust art festival. It starts a week from Friday, August 7, and runs through Saturday, August 29.
Initially, the PR materials for the festival touted the participation of “almost 30 local, national and international artists whose work responds to the Town of Rosendale and the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.” But truth be told, if you count the eight members of Cave Dogs as individual artists, the tally already reaches 50, and there are other participating arts entities with multiple members: SPURSE, Flick Book Studio, the Spark Media Project and the Next Year’s Words Poets. WSW and its environs are going to be a veritable beehive of activity this coming month for sure.
The main focus is on the rail trail itself, the Binnewater Kiln Parking Lot and the nearby trestle over the Rondout Creek, as outdoor settings for site-specific art installations, many of which will cross over into the realm of performance art. Other events will take place indoors at the Rosendale Theatre on Main Street, the Rosendale Recreation Center on Route 32 or inside WSW.
The au•gust art festival kicks off from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on August 7 with an Art Walk heading out from WSW to check out the installations and experience Margaux Walter’s performance (her first of several) of Semblance. The work involves performers costumed as aspects of the natural environment — a boulder, a tree, a bed of moss — who may keep still and blend into their camouflaging background, or suddenly stir and move to another spot. Art doesn’t get much more site-specific than that! You can also catch Semblance on August 8 at 3 p.m. and on August 22 and 23 at 4 p.m.
Additional docent-guided Art Walks will depart from the Binnewater Kiln lot at 3 p.m. on August 9 and 15 and at 4 p.m. on August 23. Rosendale’s town historian Bill Brooks will lead a history-themed walk on August 16 at 3 p.m. SPURSE, a collective that practices ecosystems design as an artform, will create a “scavenger’s shack” installation near the entrance to the trestle and will lead foraging walks/workshops under the title In which we come to know the greater part of the stomach that lies outside of the body on August 8 and 22 at 2 p.m. and, with a special emphasis on mushrooms, on August 15 at 4 p.m. The foraging workshops have a 15-participant limit and require advance reservations by calling (845) 658-9133.
Among the site-specific works lining the rail trail will be brightly colored seven-foot-tall columns of recycled plastic bottlecaps and lids by Kristen Rego; cast-wax sculptures of clasped hands by Sue E. Horowitz that mimic fungal growths on trees; a cubic wooden structure by Matthias Neumann that you can sit on; and clusters of light-reflecting sculpted metal foil leaves by Joy Taylor. WSW’s own Tatana Kellner will write the text of the Golden Rule from 13 different religions and cultures in white sand along the trail itself, to be dispersed by passing hikers and cyclists. If you spot three people ambling along dressed as buildings from the Village of Rosendale, that’s Emily Speed’s installation, The Committee.
Several artworks will come to life only after dark: Toisha Tucker’s the sky is falling and it’s fireflies, an installation of fairy lights underneath the trestle, and Lizz Thabet’s The Character, a video projection of a moving shadowy silhouette that will appear at the Binnewater Kiln site on August 8 and 15. Shadow plays are the métier of Cave Dogs as well, and they will be performing at the Youth Center at 5 p.m. on August 28 and the Rec Center at 7 p.m. on August 29, the closing party for the festival.
Besides the Art Walk, opening day will include a performance by the Rosendale Improvement Association Brass Band & Social Club at 4:45 p.m. at the Rosendale Theatre, followed by the Shoulder Land Video Festival. A question-and-answer session with Shoulder Land curator Dani Leventhal and an after-party will take place at the Belltower beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Lots of other intriguing activities will be going on during the course of the festival, including videos made by local youth, an Iranian dance workshop, a trailside poetry workshop and more. Everything is free and open to the public; other than reserving a spot for the foraging workshops, you can just show up. For more information, call (845) 658-9133 or visit the WSW website at www.wsworkshop.org/events/category/august-art-festival.