Art in Action in Saugerties

Political anxiety in the large and lively arts community in Saugerties gave rise to the wonderful idea of an October festival to celebrate the importance of the arts in our everyday lives. We don’t necessarily connect art with politics, but following the 2016 election there were fears that funding for the arts would be in the political crosshairs. Mercifully, that bullet remains in the chamber, at least temporarily.

At an early meeting of Indivisible Saugerties, a team formed under the guidance of theater-arts professional Suzanne Bennett. A program of visual, literary and performing-arts events has been put together exploring the historical and very current connection between the arts and activism.

The arts have value for individuals on a personal level and also for communities on a commercial level. Bennett’s vision was to bring the Saugerties community together to showcase Saugerties’ artistic resources. As it evolved, Shout Out Saugerties (SOS) began to focus on ways in which artists, musicians, dancers and other performers expressed social and environmental concerns through their art. Bennett’s guiding principle was to deal with the issues confronting all of us around environmental threats, immigration issues, censorship and stereotyping, the role and responsibilities of journalism, money in politics, community building, and more.

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Painter and graphic artist Prudence See, whose work will be on display at the Dancing Tulip throughout October, is an old hand at making the connection between art and activism.  She has been on the front lines for years, starting with banners she made for the United Nations Earth Day celebrations in 1990 and 1992, which she adapted for the 2014 Climate Change March in New York City.
See sees her work as an integration of spirituality, ecology and art. Shee most recently put her art into the service of action by pledging a percentage of her Saugerties Artists Studio Tour sales to the National Wildlife Federation and the National Resources Defense Fund.

See’s drawing of the iconic Saugerties Lighthouse will be on display all month at the Saugerties Rising Waters installation at the lighthouse kiosk as part of the SOS festival. The installation is the brainchild of See, computer graphics artist and photographer Vivian Beatrice, and science advisor on climate policy Elizabeth Kohl Lennon. The three met up by chance at the Artists Studio Tour exhibition at the Kierstedt House Barn in August. They and a few others, including woodworker Skip Arthur, proposed the installation to the lighthouse board of trustees, which approved it unanimously. Created by Beatrice, See and Arthur, the work will be unveiled at the lighthouse at noon on Saturday. October 7.

Lighthouse keeper Patrick Landewe, whose wife Anna assisted the installation team in the planning stages, believes that the installation will give people a visual way to understand the usually abstract concept of the sea-level-rise forecast. The lighthouse is a high-profile spot for people, both locals and visitors. Given its location on the Hudson River at the mouth of Esopus Creek, it is itself an at-risk structure when the water rises.

The month-long October festival events are organized around environmental and social themes. There will be visual-art exhibits, music and dance performances, writing workshops and panels. Saugerties is so full of talent in all areas that they can’t all be mentioned, but here’s an overview:
An Arm-of-the-Sea performance on October 6 precedes the official launch at Lucky Chocolates the next day. Art openings are scheduled for the rest of the week. The second week features several writing workshops as well as the first musical event, American Roots Music, upstairs at Bella Luna on October 14.  Dance performances and workshops are featured the third week. Stand-up comedy is on offer and American Roots Music continues during that week and the next one.
The event focused on the issue that started the entire project, funding for the arts, takes place at Emerge Gallery on October 15.

The full calendar is available at the Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center, at stores throughout the village, on the SOS website <shoutoutsaugerties.org> and on its Facebook page. The launch will be at Lucky Chocolates, which will be maintaining a “community wall” for comments throughout the month. Most events are free of charge. Donations will be solicited. If you’d like to volunteer to help, contact SOS at info@shoutoutsaugerties.org.

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