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ecoartspace NY summer exhibitions

Since moving to Garrison, NY from NYC in 2001 I’ve organized museum, gallery and sculpture park exhibitions that have taken place in towns up and down the Hudson including Yonkers, Nyack, Beacon, New Paltz and Ghent – but collaborating with the Habitat for Artists (HFA) group has been my first opportunity to work on an exciting project right near my home. HFA was initiated in the summer of 2008 and came out of the work of Cold Spring-based artist Simon Draper. Initially he built a series of small shed structures that were placed at Spire Studios in Beacon, NY. They were made from used and recycled material, old lumber, windows and doors and even unfinished art works. Draper invited several artists to participate in the project, which then became known as Habitat for Artists. The artists took up residency and created small studio spaces working both in and outside the structures. They were asked to examine how they might redefine their creative space, needs and process. These small studios, each only six by six feet, become an intimate work space for the artist – but also act as a metaphor for viewers to contemplate how much space we really need in our own homes. HOW MUCH? HOW LITTLE? THE SPACE TO CREATE is the question HFA poses. In other words – how much more creative could we be as a culture if we used less materials, energy and land?

In the two years since it began, HFA in collaboration with ecoartspace has partnered with over twenty organizations and engaged with over fifty artists in various locations. Completed projects have taken place in Rhinebeck at Poet’s Walk with Scenic Hudson, in the town of New Paltz and at the SUNY campus, Kingston, Workspace Harlem, Urban Go Green NYC, Chashama in Times Square and Solar One on the East River Park, NYC. Aside from the current project at the Hudson Highlands Land Trust in Garrison there are also new works installed at Common Ground Farm CSA at Stony Kill, NY Burlington Community College in NJ and coming this September in Philadelphia along the Schuylkill River with the Destination Schuylkill Project.

Currently there are several new HFA artists working in studios hosted by the Hudson Highland Land Trust in Garrison, NY at their site at Philipsebrooke. Artists will rotate over the course of the summer and include: Susan English, Sheilah Rechtschaffer, Carol Flaitz, Michael Natiello, Sarah Haviland, Marnie Hillsley, Kit Burke Smithe, Christopher Manning, Carla Goldberg, Dionis Ortiz, Todd Sargood and Simon Draper. River of Words, a Garrison School based group of students hosted by Irene O’Garden and Lisa Mechaley have already created artworks for the HHLT site. Images: top Sarah Haviland, bottom left Sheilah Rechtschaffer, bottom right Susan English.

Habitat For Artists seeks to engage the artist with their community and to provide the opportunity to create a more dynamic relationship and role for the artist in that community. The Hudson Highlands Land Trust is a community-based organization devoted to protecting the natural resources, rural character, and scenic beauty of the Hudson Highlands in NY State’s Hudson Valley.

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Dar Williams benefit concert 6/27/09

The first ecoartspace live concert and fundraiser took place this past Saturday. Singer/songwriter Dar Williams gave a solo acoustic guitar concert at the McKenna Theater at the SUNY New Paltz campus – it was a thrilling evening and the audience gave Dar a very welcome reception, they were all big fans. See Dar’s blog post on the event HERE.

The concert coincided with a museum exhibition titled Ecotones and Transition Zones at the Dorsky Museum, housed in the same building with the McKenna Theater. Museum curator Brian Wallace describes the exhibition in this way, “New Paltz is an ecotone, a place where overlapping natural and social ecologies—the river and the mountains, the cosmopolitan and the rural—exist in a fragile tension. The artworks and art historical narratives associated with this region suggest the great opportunities (and responsibilities) that area artists, residents, and visitors have to visualize and act upon opportunities to contribute to a better world.” The museum stayed open late that evening so that concert goers could stroll through the galleries before the show, it was a successful crossover event.

Included in the exhibition is a work by Simon Draper’s Collective, Habitat for Artists (or HFA, which recently had an exhibition at the ecoartspace NYC project room). The Collective includes 15 artists -give or take- as the number changes with each project. There are 3 Habitats currently installed in New Paltz, one on campus, one on Main Street and the third (and most beautiful site IMHO) at Historic Hugenot Street. All of the Habitats have artist residency projects on-going for the duration of the exhibition.

Dar Williams was one of the original HFA members from the first exhibition last summer in Beacon, NY, where she turned her own Habitat into a writing space. She became interested in the bigger picture cause behind the HFA with her interest in recycling, sustainability, and artist’s need for space, and decided to give this benefit concert to help ecoartspace and HFA’s work continue.

The concert lasted for 2 hours with an opening act by Nick Panasevich who played some cool Randy Newman-esque piano tunes and also a guitar piece. Dar sang for an hour and a half, one great song after the next. Her set list included (The Ocean, The Beauty of the Rain, Spring Street, Midnight Radio, Book of Love, Buzzer, Iowa, The Babysitter’s Here, You Are Everyone, Holly Tree), and my personal favorites, Mercy of the Fallen and Hudson, (see complete Hudson lyrics BELOW). Dar is one of those gifted musicians with a beautiful voice, moving lyrics, well crafted songs, great guitar playing AND a huge generous spirit. It was a privilege to work with her.

If we’re lucky we feel our lives know when the next scene arrives so often we start in the middle and work our way out we go to some grey sky diner for eggs and toast New York Times or the New York Post then we take a ride through the valley of the shadow of death but even for us New Yorkers, there’s a time in every day the river takes our breath away And the Hudson, it holds the life we thought we did it on our own The river roads collect the tolls for the passage of our souls through silence, over woods, through flowers and snow and past the George Washington Bridge, down from the trails of Breakneck Ridge, the river’s ancient path is sacred and slow And as it swings through Harlem, it’s every shade of blue into the city of the new brand new And the Hudson, it holds the life we thought we did it on our own I thought I had no sense of place or past time was too slow, but then too fast the river takes us home at last Where and when does the memory take hold, mountain range in the Autumn cold and I thought West Point was Camelot in the spring. If you’re lucky you’ll find something that reflects you, helps you feel your life protects you, cradles you and connects you to everything. This whole life I remember as they begged them to itself never turn me into someone else And the Hudson, it holds the life we thought we did it on our own And the Hudson, holds the life we thought we did it on our own.

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