Arts

New history of Hudson Valley puts a spotlight on the Catskills

Above: Vernon Benjamin's history of the Hudson Valley. 

“I think one cannot divide the Hudson Valley from the Catskills in a historic account, and I try to keep that theme alive in small ways,” said Vernon Benjamin, the author of the voluminous new book “The History of the Hudson River Valley: From the Civil War to Modern Times,” which came out last month.

Benjamin is giving a talk and signing copies of his 625-page account of the last century-and-a-half of Hudson Valley history tonight, Thursday, September 29, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hunter Public Library.

The fact that Benjamin is touring with his book in the mountaintop communities of Greene County shows that he is serious about including the Catskills in his sweeping view of local history.

This is a great corrective: All too often, the Catskills region gets lumped into the Hudson Valley region, despite the fact that the two regions are wildly different.  Read more

Andes Community Day balloons into two-day historical extravaganza

Above: A clown and a float at Andes Community Day in 2007. Photo via the Andes Community Days Facebook page.

In past years, the main event of Andes Community Day was the parade, featuring the members of the local fire department and other town worthies, that kicked off just after the Trailways bus passed through along Main Street.

But this year, Andes’s annual celebration has ballooned into a two-day extravaganza featuring belly dancers, a petting zoo, watermelon and corn-on-the-cob eating contests, a “tractor dance,” horse and buggy rides, live music by multiple bands, auctions and raffles, wildlife and sheepdog demonstrations, a family fishing clinic, guided hikes and paddles, a magician, bake sales, bratwurst, beer and farm tours. We hear that Congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout may be in attendance.

  Read more

Giant heads, electronic music and DIY fun: The Anomolia Festival

Above: The Anomalia Festival. Photo by Drew Harty. 

The Anomalia Festival, which brings a diverse crowd of bands, artists and avant-garde art exhibits to the Delaware County town of Andes on Saturday, July 30, is a somewhat anarchic DIY event.

Back in 2009, when it was founded, it had a much more risqué name: Cockstock. 

“It was a tongue-in-cheek pun about badminton,” said Alex Gohorel, the festival’s founder.

Gohorel lives in New York City, but his mother, Anne Gohorel, runs Bread Fellows, a bakery, on the family property near the border of Andes and Bovina on Route 28.

That’s where the festival, which Gohorel expects to draw over 100 people, happens today starting at noon.

Gohorel books the event himself. He’s been doing that kind of thing since high school, when he put on DIY punk shows and raves.  Read more

Pros and newbies rub shoulders at Catskills open mics

Above: The Open Eye Theater in Margaretville hosts a monthly open mic night on every first Friday of the month. Tonight, Friday, July 8, the venue hosts its July open mic night starting at 7 p.m. The event was pushed back a week due to the Fourth of July holiday. Photo by Rebecca Andre. 

Across the Catskills, open mic nights offer audiences a chance to see veteran and amateur musicians, poets, storytellers and comics, usually for free.

The level of talent of the performers varies, as does the age and choice of instrument, but that unpredictability is part of the fun. Guitars, keyboards, banjos, fiddles, egg-shakers and plan old spoken word: You can hear it all in one impromptu variety show.

For four years, musician Ben Rounds has hosted an open mic night at every Tuesday at the Emerson Resort and Spa in Mount Tremper.

“I am proud of the fact that this weekly open mic gives performers a place to try out new material, play at least one show a week, or expand their fan base,” Rounds said.

Melissa Zeligman, a local chef, poet, and filmmaker, is a regular.  Read more

Mount Tremper Arts leaps into year-round programming named for NYC's watershed

Above: Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian, the members of Darkmatter, a trans south asian performance art duo that will appear at Mount Tremper Arts on Saturday, July 16. Image via the MTA website.

Mount Tremper Arts is expanding its public programming from a summer festival to year-round events.

The gorgeous artist-run space, tucked away on a maple-thick hillside off Plank Rd.–i.e. Old Route 28–in the Ulster County hamlet of Mount Tremper, begins its ninth performance season on Saturday, July 16 with South Asian trans duo DarkMatter, followed in August by theater company 600 HIGHWAYMEN. Both groups are based in NYC. 

In the past, that would’ve been it for the year, performance-wise. (Since its 2008 inception, MTA has hosted year-round residencies, retreats, and rentals, and continues to do so.)  Read more

Belleayre Music Festival returns this weekend after year off

Above: The Yardbirds play the rebooted Belleayre Music Festival this Saturday.

After taking a season off for the first time in 23 years for financial reasons, the Belleayre Music Festival returns this summer to the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in the hamlet of Highmount in the town of Shandaken.

Offering six shows over six weekends, from July 2 to September 3, the festival, helmed by new Operations Manager Garrett Burris, will be a leaner affair, operating inside the 400-capacity Discovery Lodge in the ski center. Previous festivals took place in a 700-person tent atop the slopes.

Several factors led to the break, according to Burris: increased competition from large-scale events at Bethel Woods and Hunter Mountain; a desire to offer more economical alternatives; and a realization that the Belleayre facility could more effectively present up-close-and-personal engagements.  Read more

Legislators and celebrities hope to expand film tax credits to Catskills and Hudson Valley

Above: Director Tansy Michaud and cinematographer Adam Carboni shoot “Enjoy Your Intermission," a film about the Hi-Way Drive-In Theatre in the Greene County town of Coxsackie, in 2014. Photo by Philip Doueihi.

Officials have spent years trying to build up the Catskill region's appeal to the film industry. Now new legislation might make things a whole lot easier.

The Hudson Valley Film Commission announced on Thursday, June 16 that state lawmakers have passed legislation this week that will extend tax credits for film productions to 12 upstate New York counties, including Greene, Sullivan and Ulster counties in the Catskills.  Read more

Hand cranked souvenir penny machine comes to Phoenicia

Above: Souvenir pennies made by the new machine in Phoenicia. Photo by Brett Barry. 

Kitsch-lovers rejoice! You can squish one of four Catskills-specific designs onto a souvenir penny in the Ulster County hamlet of Phoenicia using a hand-cranked machine that has been installed on Main Street.

The machine, which was manufactured by a company in Colorado, can emblazon pennies with one of four Phoenicia-specific designs: a Catskills black bear; a “Quill Gordon” fishing fly; a map of Ulster County and the logo of the Phoenicia Diner. The process is manual, using a hand crank and some elbow grease, and costs 50 cents per penny.

The project is the brainchild of Brett Barry, a Phoenicia resident who owns Silver Hollow Audio, an audio production that is also the force behind a series of audio tours and books that celebrate the Catskills region: “Afloat & Afoot by John Burroughs”  and “The Route 28 Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway Driving Guide.”  Read more

Margaret "Peggy" O'Connell, den mother of the 1970s Catskills music scene, dies at 82

Above: Peggy O'Connell appeared on the back cover of “Oceans between Us,” a 1978 album by the Allen Harris Band, released by Tappan Zee Records/Columbia Records. Standing left to right are: Kim Wroble (bass) Mike Kimmel (guitar/vocals), Peggy O'Connell (in the middle, in background), Mandy Rosenblatt and far right standing Allen Harris (guitar/vocals). Sitting left to right: Larry Smith (piano/sax), Robert Rosenblatt (aka Blatts) (congas), Christine Cordone (guitar/vocals) and Rob Leon (lead guitar). Photo courtesy of Christine Cordone.

Margaret “Peggy” Grant O'Connell, the owner of the Pine Hill Tavern who was a patron of the 1970s Catskills music scene and a mother to many, died on Thursday, May 12 at HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston after losing an 11-month battle with breast cancer. She was 82 years old. A celebration of her life is planned for Monday, June 6.

A lover of music, books and her dog Zorro, whose ashes will be buried alongside her, O'Connell dispensed motherly love and presided over a booming local music scene from behind the bar at the Pine Hill Tavern (now Zephyr Restaurant) in the Ulster County hamlet of Pine Hill from 1976 to 1982.

"We used to call her Mother Teresa," said her son, James Michael O'Connell, with whom Peggy lived with in the hamlet of Olivebridge for the last five years of her life.

"Mom was a people person,” he said. “She liked everybody; she never had a bad word to say about anyone."

During the 1970s, in the wake of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, bands performing original tunes flocked to the Catskills, looking for nurturing venues to host them as they honed their skills.

The Pine Hill Tavern, located on the westernmost edge of Ulster County just off Route 28, was often their last stop.

Often known just as "Peggy's Place,” the tavern was not just a bar—it was a home away from home for traveling musicians and others in need.  Read more

Tiny Arts Day in tiny West Fulton

The town of West Fulton may be tiny, but it has a lot of heart—and art.

“West Fulton is a very interesting place, made up of extremely creative people,” said Cornelia McGiver, the artistic director of Panther Creek Arts, a new arts venue in the small Schoharie County town. “And what I find special about that place is that there is a willingness to exchange and complement ideas.”

Panther Creek Arts, which is located in a former grain and feed store from 1919, is all about inspiring this exchange through artistic, recreational and educational events. The building’s upper level, known as The Hall, includes a stage and long, natural-wood picnic tables that can seat 80 to 200 people. Meanwhile, the ground level houses BITE ME, a cafe that serves delicious foods like curried chicken salad over fresh greens, gluten-free sweets, kombucha and more.

“It’s been our mission to bring world-class music and arts to that venue,” McGiver said.  Read more


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