The Wassaic Project Brings Art to the Right Side of the Tracks
The Wassaic Project has a lofty home and ambitions. Located in a majestic, partially restored granary just a half mile south of the Wassaic Metro-North station, it is the brainchild of Eve Biddle & Bowie Zunino (who produce art together as Eve + Bowie) and Elan Bogarin, a movie producer. Their mission: To create a multidisciplinary arts center in rural eastern Dutchess County with strong connections to New York City (which is made feasible by the proximity of the train and the promise of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail—a bike and walking path—being extended from the station to the hamlet of Wassaic.)
If the not-for-profit Wassaic Project feels a bit like MASS MoCA South—a venerable industrial complex transformed into a backdrop for contemporary art and performances—you won’t be surprised to learn that Biddle and Zunino are both 2004 graduates of Williams College and were regulars at MASS MoCA in neighboring North Adams. “I really like MASS MoCA’s multidisciplinary approach to the arts,” says Bowie. “We’ve also been inspired by Project Row Houses in Houston and the Peekskill Project. We want to present art and create community at the same time.”
Last August, 500 people showed up for the Wassaic Project Festival, a free weekend that included 17 bands, 35 artists, 7 performance artists, 5 dancers, 15 films, and 60 campers. This year, Eve + Bowie are expecting twice as many, which is why they are having a benefit opening on July 3 for their summer show, Outside In, which includes work by emerging artists, established artists, and art stars like Mike+Doug Starn. (There will be a free public opening on July 4 from 2 - 4 p.m.) The exhibit is being curated by Bowie ‘s mother, Sally Zunino, art consultant Liz Parks, and Sally Morgan, who runs the Morgan Lehman galleries in Lakeville and Chelsea. “It’s not a traditional landscape show,” says Park, noting that the artists include Judith Belzer (aka Mrs. Michael Pollan) and Karen Hesse Flatow, whose work tells the story of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy in a naive and powerful way. “It’s about manipulation of the landscape whether by artists in their studio or by people in the real world.” (The works range in price for $200 to $15,000.)
While their elders curated the exhibit, Eve + Bowie have been involved in every step of the installation (above), using the post-and-beam building’s architecture and views to be in dialogue with the work. They are eager to emphasize that Outside In is a fundraiser for their free August festival. “We bring a flatbed truck to the field for the bands,” says Eve, as we tour the ghostly cattle barn (left) and adjacent luncheonette. “We have eleven artists who are going to be creating installations in these old stalls.” Adds Bowie: “We’re very interested in site-specific, site-intentional and site-sensitive projects.”
They have cannily planned to install the Starns’ photographs (and the bar) in the top-most gallery which requires climbing seven ziggurat flights. Says Sally: “Tell people to wear comfortable shoes!”
The Wassaic Project at Maxon Mills
35 Furnace Bank Road, Wassaic, NY
Outside In Benefit Preview
July 3; 4 - 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25 - $500
Open Saturdays & Sundays, July 4 - 26, from noon - 6 p.m.
Wassaic Project Festival 2009
August 13 - 16