Neither a town nor its denizens becomes eccentric overnight. Woodstock has been working on the task for over a century. It’s an endless tug-of-war that Woodstockers wage – even more so in the digital age – but someone, everyone, needs to do it. On Thursday evening, July 26 at 8 p.m., local producer/director and documentary filmmaker Stephen Blauweiss will host a multimedia event at the Maverick Concert Hall that will give some sense of the value of what is always endangered.
I think that the fine balance between authority and defiance is the reason that Woodstock, warts and all, continues to survive as an outpost of free expression while other artistic locales have over time been ground down to stops on the tourist trails. In Woodstock, laws are the tentpoles that the community has erected to shelter its dissidents. The laws exist; they are always respected and they are often ignored. Woodstock’s a town where authority accords self-expression extraordinary (though not unlimited) tolerance.
Though Alf Evers’ monumental history of Woodstock reminded us that the nighttime Bohemian glassblowers of the early 19th century were the first real artists of the picturesque Catskills farming town, the most significant artistic influx came after the arrival of the immensely wealthy Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead in the first years of the 20th century. It was not Whitehead’s creation of an earnest and generally law-abiding Arts and Crafts colony at Byrdcliffe that inoculated Woodstock from philistinism, but the secession of Hervey White, who formed his own much-less-constrained community at the Maverick.
To finance it, White held annual festivals – Woodstock festivals. One of the photographs on this page shows a staid and uncomfortable row of shirted listeners at a chamber concert in 1916, the inaugural year of the iconic “music shed in the woods.” The other two photos give an idea of what a typical Maverick picnic and party were like.
The multimedia celebration on July 26 at Maverick Concert Hall will feature five original short films, including one about the Maverick, and short films featuring local artists. Blauweiss’ third annual celebration of Woodstock history will host storytelling and live musical performances in a variety of genres. Tickets cost $25 general admission and $5 for students. Maverick ticket books are not eligible for this event.