Open Season at WAAM

‘A Lion,’ crayon on paper 1947, Phillip Guston on WAA stationery.

“I left a 40 year life in Connecticut and took a leap of faith that I could create a new life here in Woodstock and, remarkably, that is exactly what’s taking place,” said Woodstock Artist Association & Museum Executive Director Janice LaMotta during a break in this week’s rush to get the venerable arts institution’s first array of exhibits up and open by this Saturday, February 4. “I’ve been welcomed, made new friendships, found a beautiful place to live where I wake up to the view of a mountain each day, discovered great jazz joints, and have my favorite morning coffee stop. Our new Recent Acquisitions exhibit reflects that sense of community through acquisitions that were purchased from a collective of dedicated supporters to gifts received from artist’s family members.”

In addition to that show in WAAM’s Towbin Wing will be a Main Gallery exhibit of works by the association’s Active Members, a show of encaustic paintings by Maria Kolodziej-Zincio in the Solo Gallery, entitled, The Lost Holocaust — A Forgotten Odyssey (quite apropriate for the season and its politics, some have noted), and a downstairs Small Work (for artists with last names A-G)  and a Youth Exhibition Space Gallery showcasing of artworks from the Woodstock Elementary Third Grade.

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Also, for the first time, WAAM will be moving its regular Active Member Wall shows over to Oriole 9, across Tinker Street, for the first time, with an exhibit featuring Irwin Berman and Barbara Velazquez staggered to open as the WAAM opening starts to dwindle down.

LaMotta went on to speak up the new season’s fresh focus on several exhibits designed to focus on fewer artists, the better to get a sense of their range and depth, a new Radius 50 exhibit of artists submitting from the greater area to open in August as an addendum to the success of the annual regional Far & Wide Regional show, as well as an expanded lecture series that’s drawing more from the Hudson Valley’s rising contemporary arts scene.

“One of the concepts for the new changes to the exhibition schedule was to better serve our goal of broadening the demographics of our membership and audience. We are embarking on a membership campaign this year as well. The Hudson Valley region has been witnessing a growing migration of artists who have chosen to make this area their home and as a cultural organization committed to supporting the artists in our region, we wanted to create greater exhibition opportunities that addressed the needs of this growing artistic population and to continue to serve the needs of our members,” she noted. “This is a community of great history and attachment to that history and change is not something that all easily embrace. But WAAM’s interest has always been to link the past to the present and future…I believe in WAAM’s potential to cultivate its presence as a regional cultural resource, and I have already seen the many accomplishments that we have made just within this past year.”

Yes, she agreed, there’s blowback in a town like Woodstock, given the richness of its history. But there’s also long traditions of pushing forward, something she’s found refreshing in her year at WAAM, and hopes for the organization’s and town’s future.

“The arts organizations have already formed an alliance and have been meeting regularly. I think our separate identities exist, but it is a collective spirit that we’re looking to establish. We’re working together towards more collaborations, to help cross promote one another, and to increase the profile of the arts in Woodstock,” she said, listing various projects past and planned. Through working together we underscore the concentration of arts offerings to those coming to town and increase the profile of the presence of art in Woodstock. I also think that with all of the relatively new Executive Directors at the helm of the arts organizations in town, we have a newly energized group, happy to work together, cooperative, enthusiastic and supportive.”

What to expect this Saturday, besides crowds criss-crossing Tinker Street as WAAM’s reach expands?

Kolodziej-Zincio’s work is rich and thoughtful, perfect for reflection on what a Holocaust really means. The members’ show is always a robust pleasure, as is anything from third graders. We’ll be getting back on the recent acquisitions, which show a growing sense of exploration in the gifts WAAM is receiving, as well as what the community is treasuring…i.e. that special Guston illustration on the association’s old paper stock.

“WAAM has played a central role as a vital cultural presence in the community and the region with a continuous commitment to providing exhibition opportunities for artists, dynamic educational programming and outreach, and engaging art-related events and programs,” LaMotta concluded, enthusiastically… but also needing to get back to the exhibits-hanging at hand. “Again, one of our interests is to supplement our membership and audience with a broader representation of the artistic population that has migrated to the Hudson Valley region and to respond to the needs of that audience… It has been a thrilling experience to learn more about the Woodstock art colony and the lives of those artists who have lived and worked here. The history of the early utopian communities and the development of the arts in Woodstock over the past century is an absolutely fascinating story.”

 

The new WAAM exhibits open from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, February 4, at the gallery, 28 Tinker Street, Woodstock, and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Oriole 9, 17 Tinker Street). Call 679-2940 or visit www.woodstockart.org for more info. Prior to the opening reception, Maria Kolodziej-Zincio will give a talk at 2 p.m. at WAAM.