Grants, music, awards mark Byrdcliffe’s end of summer


(Photo by Dion Ogust)

It must be the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild’s time. Consider all that’s been swirling about it, both in the hamlet at its Kleinert/James Arts Center, home to a vibrant and groundbreaking new exhibit that brings together visual and musical artistry on its walls.

The organization has presented what many are calling one of the town’s most provocatively au courant concerts in eons last weekend, as well as the many things about to happen at its colony home above all on Mount Guardian.

Friday, September 1 comes the second to last in this summer’s Byrdcliff Artist in Residence open studio events, featuring works in-situ by a dozen visual artists, young and old, and readings by two talented writers in the Villetta Inn’s evocative main room from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.


Then there’s the Guild’s just-announced receipt of a $50,000 grant from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation for the renovation and winterization of one of its artists-in-residence buildings, Eastover, along with a new studio named in honor of artist Lee Krasner. The award will enable the organization to extend its season for five artists participating in its artists-in-residence program in addition to a new Lee Krasner Residency at Byrdcliffe for visual artists on a year-round basis.

Topping this all off next Saturday, September 9, will be a very special Saturday,  September 9 Byrdcliffe Awards ceremony being held back at the Byrdcliffe Barn following a year in Bearsville, honoring the Guild’s longstanding ceramics studio guru Rich Conti, artist Manny Bromberg, and musician Kate Pierson of B-52s fame, who was also one of the philanthropists behind the new Krasner residency and will also be giving a special concert as part of Saturday night’s fun, featuring her friends Gail Ann Dorsey, BETTY, and Susie Mosher.

Conti, who’s been the Byrdcliffe ceramics program director for over 20 years, was born and raised in Kingston (his sister, Joan Lonergan, is owner of Village Green Realty and a WBG board member) and recently enlisted Pierson’s concertizing help (along with 60 volunteers) for a truly communitarian barn-raising building of a new studio for his always-filled classes…the better to accommodate growth in the classic pottery programs that once again include work on original Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts designs from 100 years back.

“The program he inherited had no classes, no resident artists and only broken down rusted equipment in a damp underground basement room at the Byrdcliffe Barn,” Lonergan remembers of her brother’s early years resuscitating one of Woodstock’s great arts legacies. “Rich borrowed, begged and bartered to kick start his program without any funds. Carla Smith, the Executive Director at the time had one stipulation ‘Rich as long as it doesn’t cost Byrdcliffe any money you can start your program’”.

Bromberg, who turned 100 in March, was chosen the winner of the prestigious George Bellows Award, a national art competition among high school students, in Iowa at age 16; completed three murals for the New Deal’s Section of Fine Arts, served as an official war artist during World War II, and later taught at a number of influential art schools, including SUNY New Paltz during its 1960s heyday, while living in Woodstock since the 1940s.

Pierson has become a key community member in the decades she’s lived in the area, in addition to writing and recording here.

Conti will be given the new Carla T. Smith Award; Pierson, the Whitehead Award; and Bromberg the Byrdcliffe Award.

As for that new grant: Eastover renovations will include installation of an HVAC system, the digging of a new well to allow for year-round water, and other general renovations and upgrades of the early colony building located within sight of the Villetta Inn. The new Krasner studio, meanwhile, will be resurrected on the site of the Hermitage, a studio/residency building that was destroyed by fire in the 1960s, with groundbreaking in October and work set for completion by June 2018, in time for next year’s AIR season.

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation has supported artists and arts organizations since its inception in 1985, recognizing significant artistic contributions by awarding more than 4,300 grants worldwide, totaling over $69 million, and has been a major supporter of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild since 2006. Its director, WBG board member Kerrie Buitrago, was one of three curators of the new Drawing Sound exhibition of graphic music scores up at the Kleinert, alongside her son Oscar Buitrago and artist Melinda Stickney-Gibson.

The new PK grant has also helped secure, through matching, a fellowship for female artists from Pierson and WBG board member Monica Coleman, in addition to helping start a new wave of winterization renovations on other Byrdcliffe buildings.

That Drawing Sound exhibit, on its own, mixes the historical with something truly fresh and new: one can glimpse Bach and Stravinsky’s methods of notation, but then move from there into the future via a series of scores by musicians Raymond MacDonald of Scotland and Marilyn Crispell of Woodstock via the Scots artist Jo Ganter…beautiful works on paper, on the one hand, that become both lessons in utility and expressions of an even greater creativity when accompanied at listening stations by performances of the works they’re to inspire, and notate.

The Saturday, August 26 opening for the show, accompanied by a concert, delighted all involved, and all who had a chance to stop in for its mix of talented local and Scots musicians, including several descendents of the great Walter Scott, as well as the Hudson valley’s adventurist genius, David Rothenberg.

“The international aspect and the serious approach toward a juncture of art and free music were noteworthy,” noted Kleinert/James namesake and funder Doug James, who played drums to the visually-notated works by Crispell and MacDonald improvised around at the Kleinert. “The mix of the Scottish players and the Americans, particularly Rothenberg — who is an authority on animal and bird songs — along with the interpretive playing of art graphics as though written music by players of this quality was a rather unique approach to the joining of these visual and musical media.”

James added how it, and so much the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild is doing these says, “stretches in a new way.”

For more on the Friday, September 1 Artist In Residence open studios at the Villetta Inn up at Byrdcliffe from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.,, as well as the Saturday September 9 awards ceremony and dinner, starting at 6 p.m., or concert at 8 p.m. ($40 tickets for standing room only outside), all at the Byrdcliffe Barn on Upper Byrdcliffe Road, call 679-2079.