Stardust memories

This image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows Westerlund 2, a giant cluster of about 3,000 stars located 20, 000 light-years away in the constellation Carina.  (NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team [STScI/AURA], A. Nota [ESA/STScI] and the Westerlund 2 Science Team)

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which is built on the location of the original Woodstock festival, is in the midst of an eight-month-long celebration of the famous concert’s 50th anniversary. “A Season of Song & Celebration” includes new exhibits in the museum, the opening of trails through the wooded area west of the festival field and monthly events that will explore the history of the site.

Photograph of astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the moon by Neil Armstrong (NASA)


Less than a month prior to the original Woodstock festival, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon and Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on its surface. The words he spoke on July 20, 1969 remain among the most memorable quotes of the 20th century: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

What effect did space travel have on the 400,000 young people who descended on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm for the concert just weeks after Armstrong’s words were spoken? The Museum at Bethel Woods is exploring this question with an exhibit, “We Are Stardust,” which interprets the objects and history surrounding the Moon landing through the lens of American cultural consciousness at the time. The exhibit, along with another titled “We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival and Aspirations for an Aquarian Future,” will run through the end of the season. Admission to the museum offers self-guided tours and free 45-minute docent tours.

The Bethel site will also mark the proximity in time between space exploration in the 1960s and the Woodstock concert through the upcoming “Lunar Weekend,” with festivities running from Friday evening, May 17 through Sunday, May 19.

Lunar Weekend kicks off with a family-friendly Star Party Sleepover. According to Suzanne Morris, senior director of museum education at Bethel Woods, “Night in the Museum” sleepovers at the site have been popular events in recent years, but this will be the first with a stargazing theme. Attendees who arrive at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 17 will have the option to purchase dinner in the café or bring their own picnic-style supper. Afterward, a number of star-themed activities will be offered.

Performer and storyteller Allan Wolf will offer songs and stories about the myths and legends of the night sky. Members of the Catskill Astronomy Association will set up outside with telescopes for viewing, and late-night flashlight tours of the festival grounds will be offered. The “Your Family Star” talent show will allow little ones to shine, and various space-themed activities – rocket-launching and art projects – will keep all attendees busy. The event is designed for kids between the ages of 6 and 13, who must be accompanied by an adult aged 21 or older. The cost is $30 per person ($25 for Bethel Woods members), with a maximum capacity of 50 people, so reserving a spot in advance is advised.

When the evening’s fun is over, families will stake out their favorite spot inside the museum and spend the night. Air mattresses are permitted, as are roll-out sleeping mats or bags. (Bring a toothbrush; visitors will have access to all restroom facilities inside the museum.) A continental breakfast the following morning is included, and attendees of the sleepover are welcome to stay and enjoy Lunar Weekend festivities throughout the day on Saturday.

Space enthusiasts who join them at Bethel Woods on Saturday, May 18 and those who visit Sunday, May 19 will find an inflatable planetarium with a projector inside, equipped with a round 360-degree lens. Shows will offer digital images from NASA of the solar system and the stars of the night sky. Entrance is included with museum admission, which ranges from $8 to $20, discounted with advance purchase online.

(Photo by Ric Manning)

Saturday evening, May 18 will bring the first in the Bethel season’s “Vibrations” series: eight monthly events that will each put the focus on Woodstock’s 50th anniversary in a different light. First up in the series, for Lunar Weekend, is a screening of Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of Our Universe. Inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope and the imagery it captured of the Deep Field – a group of more than 3,000 galaxies nearly 13 billion light-years from Earth – the film reveals never-before-seen images of the Deep Field, accompanied by animations that create an immersive journey.

The film is a collaboration among Grammy Award-winning composer Eric Whitacre, Music Productions producers, scientists and visualizers from the Space Telescope Science Institute and artists from 59 Productions. Whitacre’s symphonic score features his Virtual Choir for Deep Field, a blending of 8,000 voices age 4 to 87, from more than 120 different countries, alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Eric Whitacre Singers.

The 6:30 p.m. screening will be followed by a panel discussion in which Whitacre will be joined by astrophysicists Michelle Thaller of NASA and Frank Summers of the Space Telescope Science Institute. The panel will delve into space exploration as not only a scientific venture, but also an artistic and cultural one.

Tickets cost $20 for adults, $12 for seniors and students. An additional $40 VIP add-on ticket offers admission to a post-event cocktail hour with Whitacre and the panelists.

Whitacre is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and is currently artist-in-residence with the Los Angeles Master Chorale following a five-year stint as composer-in-residence at the University of Cambridge in the UK. He has conducted choral and orchestral concerts around the globe and is also known for his speaking engagements. He has given two mainstage TED talks, as well as keynote speeches for Apple, Google and organizations that include the World Economic Forum in Davos and the United Nations Speakers’ Programme.

Additional “Vibrations” events planned for the rest of the season include “Power of the Poster” on June 5, with David Edward Byrd, designer of the original Woodstock poster, and Broadway poster designer Frank “Fraver” Verlizzo, who will take attendees on a kaleidoscopic journey through the power of posters over the last 50 years through a panel and hands-on workshops. The event will coincide with “PLAY: After Dark,” a monthly event for adults age 21 and over to explore their creative side. The “Power of the Poster” event will include the presentation of the winning design for the “Peace, Love & Posters” contest, which will serve as the face of Bethel Woods during the Golden Anniversary year.

In September, Vibrations will offer an interactive photography class for students with a panel of acclaimed photographers who will discuss their work and share hopes for photography’s impact in the future. The final event, “Sixties@50: A Woodstock Retrospective” on October 19, invites authors, historians and people who were there to share Woodstock memories and a “People’s Supper” where participants share a meal and facilitated conversation.

“We’re really hoping to offer a breadth of programming that will appeal to everyone,” says museum education director Suzanne Morris, “those who are coming to visit us for the first time and those in our local community to come out and engage with us.”

Lunar Weekend at Bethel Woods: Star Party Sleepover, Friday, May 17, 6 p.m. $25-$30; Vibrations event/film/panel discussion: Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of Our Universe, Saturday, May 18, 6 p.m., $12-$20; General Lunar Weekend activities, including Planetarium/Museum admission Saturday/Sunday, May 18-19, $8-$30; Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, 200 Hurd Rd., Bethel;