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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Beacon Bits - Second Saturday

On what would have been the night of August's Full Moon, "Second Saturday" night in Beacon was still buzzing with energy in spite of the rain that began to fall steadily as small groups of people walked along Main Street from west to east, and east to west, from gallery to gallery, from cup of wine to glass of wine, from conversation to chance meetings to the next visual feast for the eyes. This planned monthly event is part of a round robin of arts in the river towns along the Hudson (Kingston, Hudson, Rhinebeck, Poughkeepsie, Peekskll, etc.); each town rotating and hosting gallery openings and art enthusiasts on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Saturdays respectively (

Having visited galleries in Soho and Chelsea on opening nights, the feel of excitement and anticipation for viewing innovative creations on paper and canvas in oils, pastels, watercolor, along with collage and assemblages of metal, wood, and plastic sculpture, and for absorbing the artists' accomplishments and final product was very much the same.  A recent (and somewhat controversial) article by Peter Applebome (Williamsburg on the Hudson) alludes to the Williamsburg Brooklyn effect in the Hudson River Valley with young artists moving to greener pastures in search of inspiration and pursuit of art in the river towns.

My explicit intention for this 2nd Saturday was to hear the artist Emily Shiffer speak about her black and white photographic exhibit at Fovea. There was no disappointment in this choice as the attractive, flaxen-haired young woman sporting cowboy boots and a colorful A-line dress reminiscent of the 1950's, with idealistic dreams and sufficient action to support their development, leading to her wild success of being a Fulbright scholar and recipient of other prestigious awards, spoke about her work. Her images, capturing the playfulness and resilience of children living below the poverty line on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota were testimony to her passionate engagement in pursuit of her vocation, her calling, as educator, witness, collaborator, creator, mentor and photographer, as she empowers young people to develop their identity and self-efficacy and enlarge their vision of what is possible as they compose their life goals.

Next, a visit to bau confirmed Beacon's spirit of cooperation, youthful energy and shared space as the two artists (Michael Gaydos and Catherine Welshman) supported each others work by one curating the show for the other; courageously standing together with parallel works of art that mirrored each other in figure drawings and start portraits and caricatures.
The third visit to Marion Royael Gallery climaxed in a high octane showing of diverse artists in distinct styles from abstract expressionism to videography to realism on two scales -- ordinary but iconic city streetscapes like subway entrances and a now-defunct westside diner and larger-than-life fruits, vegetables, and even ladies' brassieres. A conversation with the latter NYC artist, Kathleen Erin Lee, revealed she would continue to show her work in Beacon, having just chosen to sign a contract with the gallery for the coming year. It was rewarding to know there would be multiple opportunities to see her works-in-progress, and perhaps to imagine the possibility of a small purchase.
Some food for thought: In his NYT article, Applebome voiced concerns about the economic feasibility of the river towns. He even quotes the pessimistic outlook of the proprietor of Morphicism gallery, Jay Palefsky (a resident of Garrison), who doesn't buy into the 'hype' about NoBro (the so-called northern suburb of Brooklyn) and doesn't "grasp the optimism" for business because of the failing economy. This is interesting commentary from someone who has a "successful" business in Beacon.

I guess it all depends on how you define success. One can operationalize "success" as the income generated during an evening of gallery openings or the amount of rent that the owner of the building which houses the storefront galleries can generate and even raise higher or the profits gained at the local eateries that stay open later to accommodate the patrons of art and culture, some of whom travel 20-30 miles from neighboring towns, such as Marlborough, across the river. My preference would be to define "success" as the sum total of all the events, gathering places, and opportunities for neighbors to connect over shared interests. This type of success, that is, the product of community participation is not measurable in dollars and cents, but in the enrichment of daily community life. It is this social enterprise that will be profitable for Beacon's long-term development of bringing ideas to fruition so that community building and social networking will enhance the qualify of life for its residents and visitors. The importance of social investment surpasses the more basic capitalistic needs of short term profit. If only big corporations would rediscover this principle, the inverse relationship of exorbitant profit and CEO salaries with low employment would be reversed.

I believe activities such as Second Saturday will enhance the staying power and resilience for the pioneer entrepreneurs who are laying the groundwork for a sustainable, social environment that will survive the recession and thrive once the economy recovers. We just need to keep showing up to provide the encouragement and social support needed to endure the current challenges. It will just take some faith ....and....a keep it all going strong.

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