Midtown Arts District’s Celebration of the Arts set for Aug. 3

Members of the Energy Dance Troupe perform at last year’s Celebration of the Arts. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

For its fifth annual Celebration of the Arts, to be held on Saturday, Aug. 3, the nonprofit group Midtown Arts District (MAD) is doing something different: an all-day series of interactive workshops — an expo of the arts, if you will — at the Kingston Center of SUNY Ulster, located in the former Sophie Finn elementary school at 94 Mary’s Ave. And it will be held on a Saturday — the exact hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — in part to encourage families to participate. (In past years, the event consisted of performances and an exhibition held on a weeknight.)

“This year we invite everyone to come make art with MAD,” said Anne Bailey, president of the MAD board of directors. “People will have a chance to learn new skills or deepen their current interest in a particular art form — or just have fun watching while others make art.” At least 23 artists and artisans will have a space, distributed throughout six rooms on the first and second floors of the center (the second floor is accessible by elevator). They are as follows: African beading with Maggie Inge; drawing from a costumed model, with Rebecca Hellard; percussive instrument making, with Leaf Miller; bookbinding with Caitland Paterson; T-shirt Yarn and crochet hook with Jessica Meyer; wire sculpture with Tamarra Wilson; watercolor painting with Ray Curran; monotype printing with Lara Giordano; sumi ink painting demo with Linda Schultz; oil stick painting with R&F Handmade Paint; stop-action animation with Addie Farr; papier-mâché Caribbean mask making with Maria Elena Ferrer-Harrington (which will be conducted in both Spanish and English); and cardboard construction, with Felix Olivieri. Bailey Pottery is setting up an all-day Clay Room, which will be constructing a community coil pot as well as a wheel-throwing demonstration by Alexis Feldheim, owner of Kingston Ceramic Studio, demonstration of clay extrusion and slab rolling, and, for those who make their own piece, an opportunity to have it fired.


The performing arts are also represented, along with a meditative dreaming workshop. Nathan Young, founder and director of the Experimental Theater Company, will teach the fundamentals of movement and character development and motivation in two acting workshops; Drew Andrews, executive director of the Center of Creative Education, will conduct a hip hop dance class; and Debbie Lanwill hold a group song workshop, culminating in the singing of a piece in three-part harmony. Evelyn Clarke will facilitate a group African storytelling workshop, in which everyone sits in the round, and dream facilitator Ione, of the Deep Listening Institute, will guide participants through a meditation practice utilizing sound and dream awareness that teaches mindfulness and taps into the creative practice. (For a schedule of times, visit www.madkingston.org and click on Expo.)

Red Goat Awards

In the afternoon, MAD will present its annual Red Goat Awards to this year’s recipients, Pat Courtney-Strong and Radio Kingston; entrepreneur Kale Kaposhilin will also get a shout-out (MAD board member Rick Whelan noted that Kaposhilin, who works at the radio station, “is one of those guys who no matter what kind of help you need, gets it done.”) The winner of the new Todd Samara Art Fund annual award of $1,200 will also be announced.  In the afternoon, there will be two knock-out performances: the distinguished acoustic-music duo Jay Ungar and Molly Mason wrote and will perform a song about MAD, followed by a 50-minute-long performance entitled “Dirt: The Secret Life of Soil” by Arm of the Sea Theater, which will utilize fanciful, large-scale puppets, dancers, and live music to shed light on the biology and importance of this most essential element of the planet.

Rounding out the program is a lecture on Picasso by Wired gallery owner Sevan Melikyan and an hour-long forum about working in the arts, in which a sound engineer, museum curator, and a couple of working artists share the challenges and awards of their professions. Talya Baharal and Fran O’Neill will oversee the making of a giant community collage on the walls of the downstairs hall, which everyone is invited to help create. There will also be an exhibit of artwork by participants in intensive, three-week Teen Art Lab conducted at the Kingston Library this summer. Members of P.U.G.G. will assist P.U.G.G. director Lara Giordano in handing the show and assisting some of the workshop artists. All of the events are free. Several food trucks will be there too. 

Artists, assemble!

To pull together the ambitious event on relatively short notice, MAD hired producer Lisa Barnard Kelley, whose extensive experience in event planning includes events coordinator for the Deep Listening Institute and director of an art-and-science conference at RPI. “We didn’t have a lot of lead time, but we know a lot of artists,” said Kelley, noting that each artist is getting paid $200 plus materials. “Originally we were going to keep it small scale, but the Kingston Center was very generous in offering us so many rooms. We’re hoping for a successful event in terms of future partnerships with them.”

Besides compensating the artists, MAD is also arranging to have tables set up in a room where local nonprofit organizations, such as the YMCA, Haarmbee, O+, Arts Mid-Hudson, Kingston Kids, and D.R.A.W., can promote themselves, along with participating artists. “We want to be as inclusive as possible,” Kelley said. She said MAD has raised more than half of the event’s cost, which is estimated to range between $14,000 and $18,000, and it continues to seek business sponsorships for the workshops to supplement several grants.

Kelley said that she sent out invitations to the participating artists, in order to ensure a diversity of arts forms and also give exposure to talented facilitators, as a way to help them promote their work. The workshops touch on a variety of cultural traditions: Ferrer-Harrington’s mask-making, for example, derives from the Caribbean carnival, while Clarke’s story-telling reflects the African tradition, in which a tale told dynamically changes from teller to teller; the ink-brushing class is based on an ancient Chinese tradition. Some of the workshops also will use recycled materials, such as the strips of discarded T-shirts that will be crocheted into tote bags, the cardboard used by Olivero for fashioning medieval knight’s helmets, and the yogurt cups, water bottles and other throwaways used to make percussive instruments.

Locals represent

While some of the participants live and work outside of Kingston, many are city residents. Tamarra Williams, for example, who will be hosting a workshop on copper wire sculpture — with simple shaping tools, she’ll be crafting a flower, a tree as well as a third piece whose subject will be determined by the participants — is a fifth-generation Kingstonian and Kingston High School graduate who is working on several youth-based projects at Broadway Arts, located in a storefront on Broadway. “We have a beautiful diverse community and I believe this is an awesome way of introducing all the wonderful talent Midtown has to offer,” Williams said. Farr, whose stop-motion animation workshop will feature a light box full of black sand, in which participants can manipulate and draw with in the making of a live stop animation, is a Kingston High School graduate and the city’s  current (and first) Director of Art and Cultural Affairs. Lara Giordano is a retired Kingston High School art teacher who has spearheaded P.U.G.G., an internship program for high school students pursuing the arts, and D.R.A.W., a series of art workshops based at the YMCA. Clarke is the former director of the Ulster County Youth Bureau and Ulster County Human Rights Commission. 

The only possible snafu: in the event of rain, the performances, which are outside (the Kingston Center consists of classrooms only), will have to be cancelled. Anyone interested in donating a tent?