Helen Toomer, who runs a retreat center for women artists not far from the Ashokan Reservoir known as Stoneleaf, has been having a very busy time despite COVID-19 — at least partially on account of it, in fact. For one thing, she curated “Who Really Cares?” this year’s edition of the annual Hudson Valley Artists exhibition, on view through November, at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art on the SUNY New Paltz campus. But she also used the restrictions on public gatherings during the pandemic to spark enthusiasm for a new project designed to get more people to enjoy art out-of-doors and contemplate the relationship between the arts and the land.
In the summer of 2020, Toomer organized a couple of dozen arts centers throughout the Hudson Valley and Catskills to host the inaugural Upstate Art Weekend; it proved so successful that participation will nearly triple for the 2021 edition, set for August 27 to 29. You can see the full calendar of events at www.upstateartweekend.org/program.
So many arts venues in Hudson Valley One’s readership area will be hosting public activities during Upstate Art Weekend 2021 that you might feel a little overwhelmed with choices after perusing the list. But fear not: There’s a simple way to take a deep dive into the spirit of the event by following the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail to explore the site-specific outdoor installations, talks, demos and performances that are linked under the rubric of “Rooted: Art + Land,” taking place in Gardiner, New Paltz and Rosendale. The local organizations collaborating for “Rooted” are the Dorsky, the Cronin Gallery and Women’s Studio Workshop, facilitated by the Wallkill Valley Land Trust with an eye toward “bringing contemporary art into trails and open spaces.”
As previously noted, Toomer already has a show up and running at the Dorsky, where Emilie Houssart is the 2021 artist-in-residence and curated the “Dirt: Inside Landscapes” exhibition that just closed in July. Houssart teaches art at SUNY New Paltz, the Woodstock School of Art and the Fall Kill Print Works, and currently has work in the “Owning Earth” sculpture exhibition at the Unison Arts Center. For “Rooted,” Houssart will present Supergardening, a series of interactive performances challenging humanity’s desires for control over the landscape, at the Nyquist/Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary on Huguenot Street in New Paltz. You can catch her in action from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday, August 28, and from 2 to 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
The Cronin Gallery, headquartered in New Paltz’s Water Street Market, is playing host to Brazilian-born artist Bel Falleiros, whose practice focuses on understanding how contemporary landscapes, city tissue and its monuments (mis)represent the diverse layers of presence that constitute a place. She’s currently teaching at Dia:Beacon. On Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Gardiner Library, Falleiros will conduct an interactive public art installation titled Collective Activation: America (Un)Known. Attendees will be invited to submit phrases that she will inscribe into clay bricks, along with the words of writers and storytellers. Falleiros will then fire those bricks and use them to build a new monument in a horizontal circle that celebrates ancestral and indigenous forms of construction that bring humans, Earth and the cosmos together. From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, the Cronin Gallery itself will hold an artist brunch to open Falleiros’ exhibit at the nearby Denizen Theatre, “To Ripple with Water: Clay + Fire + Water + Sound,” followed at 12:30 by a talk with the artist.
At Women’s Studio Workshop, New York City-based artist Althea James has been selected for a four-week residency creating an original work for WSW’s ten-by-23 ½-foot mural space. A blend of independent and collaborative projects with the goal of using art as a way to navigate our rapidly shifting future, not only as individuals but as a collective, James’ oeuvre explores ideas around gender, class, time and city living. Work will get underway during Upstate Art weekend on the mural wall, which faces the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail as it approaches Williams Lake in the Rosendale hamlet of Binnewater, and also overlooks WSW’s new ADA-accessible patio and community gathering area.
All the outdoor installations associated with “Rooted: Art + Land” will be on view from dawn to dusk all weekend, and all the events are free and open to the public. Go on an art adventure, visit each installation and participate in conversations about land stewardship and the importance of art in connecting communities. To learn more, go to https://wsworkshop.org/rooted-art-land.