Oscar Buitrago and the Guild’s In the AiR

Oscar Buitrago (photo by Dion Ogust)

Oscar Buitrago, of the New York City law firm world and Woodstock, has found great excitement, as well as something apropos to his local ties, in his curating work for the new exhibit opening at the Kleinert/James Arts Center this Saturday, April 7, entitled “In the AiR: Byrdcliffe Artists in Residence 2017.”

“My mother and I kind of grew up at Byrdcliffe,” Buitrago said of the classic arts colony, the residents of which his new show and catalog celebrates, and Kerrie Buitrago, who has long served as Executive Vice President of the Pollock Krasner Foundation, a key funder for artists around the world, as well as Byrdcliffe’s various programs. “At first we’d stay with a friend; we just loved the community and traditions of Woodstock. Eventually, my mom was able to rent The Forge [one of the older seasonal residences in the 114 year old arts colony], which we then spent five years in after which we decided we’d buy a house.”

Buitrago recalled “huge barbecues” his mother would host for artists in residence each summer. He noted how integral his time in Woodstock has long proved to his career path, however obtuse it might seem at first, and how special it feels to have curated the current exhibit, his second for the Woodstock Guild on whose Board of Directors and Exhibition Committee he serves, the first having been last summer’s Drawing Sound show, mixing media in an extravaganza put together with Kerrie Buitrago and artist Melinda Stickney-Gibson.


So what career keeps Oscar Buitrago in Manhattan before heading off to his Woodstock self each week?

The young man, who just celebrated his 40th birthday with a bash at the Cucina Barn, grew up in Brooklyn Heights, then received B.A.s in Classics and Art History from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was awarded a Donat Fellowship for the advanced study of archaeology and a Phi Kappa Fellowship for advanced international studies. The latter got him to Rome for studies in art and architecture, and a number of key archeological digs in Israel.

For work, he landed a job at the top New York law firm Skadden Arps, and within four years located to their Singapore office, where he spent five years debating whether he should advance to a law degree or MBA while immersing himself in the art and culture of Asia, learning to live the overseas life he’d long dreamed about.

Eleven years ago, Buitrago was recruited by the New York office of another major international law firm, White & Case, where he’s risen to become the firm’s Director of Business Development and Marketing for the Global Mergers and Acquisitions  practice group.

“My win rate is pretty high,” he said of his ability to recruit business for the firm, maintaining its reputation as one of the key entry points for overseas businesses looking to navigate the complexities of the U.S. market. Talk about a position for mixing and mingling a constantly-updated sense of current affairs with a subtle ability to read others’ needs.

Along the way, Buitrago added, he has maintained his love for art and culture by experiencing all he could during his constant travels, by focusing on all his home city of New York has to offer, and by amassing a collection of Woodstock artists’ work with a focus on contemporary and abstract art.

The exhibit that opens with a 4 p.m.-7 p.m. reception Saturday and continues through June 3 is designed “to celebrate the creative benefits of producing work at the historic Byrdcliffe Art Colony” with panel talks, the opening reception, and readings by resident writers, as well as over 60 works in a variety of media — and styles — and a separately-funded catalog. Buitrago, in the latter document, noted how it is all “a reflection on Woodstock as a town with traditions rooted equally in visual excellence and socio-political awareness.” 

Asked about it all during our recent talk, the curator spoke about the breadth of achievement within the exhibit, and how it reflects Byrdliffe’s emphases on independent exploration, often beyond what participating artistspreviously have experienced, and the colony’s rustic and embracing setting. “Artists, writers, and composers come to Byrdcliffe’s Artist-in-Residence Program to become part of the ongoing Byrdcliffe legacy. They are able to escape from their regular routine and have the time to reflect and perhaps even become risk-takers in their art. It is our hope that the gift of time, which is so precious, and the experience in Woodstock and at Byrdcliffe will have an impact on their lives and give them inspiration to go forward in their artistic careers.”

Buitrago added that he sees it all, including his work on the new show, as part of his all-in enthusiasm for the historic arts colony and its new sense of life and future.

“I love it. I believe in it. Everything’s falling in place for the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, making it a magnet for artists and the community,” he added, talking about his role as co-chair of the Guild’s Development Committee, as well as work with exhibitions. “The Guild has an outstanding Board of Directors who are serious and committed. The institution is innovative and hard-working… there is no question that we will continue to see great things happening at the Byrdcliffe art colony in the future!”

Asked whether he himself dabbled in the creation of art, the man laughed, noting how he’d been working on a piece for the Guild’s annual 5’x7’ holiday fundraising exhibit…for years now. He said it would likely take him another five years to complete the piece, but it continues to reinforce his appreciation for the artists at Byrdcliffe.

Buitrago then added that his creative input was the catalog accompanying the new show, which he felt was important for the participating artists presentation of what they created at Byrdcliffe, as well as a potent tool for the Woodstock Guild in general.

Need we say that what he’s put together for the artists involved, many with deepening local ties, is as enthusiastically infectious as everything the man does?

The opening reception for In the AiR on Saturday, April 7, from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 36 Tinker Street in Woodstock, will be preceded by an informal panel discussion with the artists and curator at 3 p.m. and followed by a 7 p.m. series of readings by the annual program’s literary participants. A separate reading by 2017 AiR author Laura Brown from her recently published novel, Made by Mary, will take place at The Golden Notebook at 2 p.m. on the same day.

Call  679-2079 or see woodstockguild.org for further information.