Trade Secrets: The Ultimate Destination for Plants and Antiques
By Dan Shaw
One of the unspoken fears in our neck of the woods is that our area will eventually become like the Hamptons, with the helicopters of hedge-fund managers hovering over our hills and women toting their tomatoes from the farmers’ market in Hermès bags. Of course, residents of the Rural Intelligence region have been worrying about Hamptonization for decades. (Are you old enough to remember the New York magazine cover story “Forget the Hamptons—Now It’s Country Chic” in 1981? Or the “Hail, Columbia!” story in September 1986, when New York announced that “Columbia County, which was an economically stagnant backwater just three years prior, had become one the hottest second-home real-estate markets in the United States”?)
It’s counterintuitive, but Trade Secrets—the glamorous rare plant and garden antiques sale this year on May 18 in Sharon, CT—has reassured us for the past 13 years that as stylish and trendy as our region may have become, it is definitely, and defiantly, not the Hamptons. While Trade Secrets has the elegance of an old money Southampton garden party, it has the heart and soul of a New England church supper. Entirely run by volunteers—no professional organizer collects a fee to stage this gardenpalooza—Trade Secrets is a major fundraiser for the worthiest of causes, Women’s Support Services (WSS), a non-profit organization that offers free and confidential services to victims of domestic violence in northwest Connecticut, as well as nearby Massachusetts and New York State.
The event has haute/humble roots. It began on the front lawn of Bunny Williams’s home in Falls Village, which is nearby the railroad tracks so that the china in her 19th century Greek Revival house vibrates when the freight train passes by twice a day. Her then chief gardener, Naomi Blumenthal, who was a WSS volunteer, suggested that they sell the overflow from the greenhouse as a fundraiser. Bunny and Naomi asked a few favorite antique dealers and nurseries if they’d like to set up booths, too, and Trade Secrets was born and became an instant institution. (Now, there is a waiting list to become a vendor and there are only five new ones this year: Anthropek, Peace Tree Farms, Peony’s Envy, Rare Find Nursery, and Windy Hill Farm.)
Eventually, the Trade Secrets sale became too big for Williams’s property in Falls Village, and is now held at Elaine LaRoche’s vast Lion Rock Farm in Sharon with its corn fields, manicured gardens, and panoramic views of the Taconic Range. A second day of garden tours was added, and they are more evidence that we live in the unHamptons because the owners are hands-on gardeners (with hired help to be sure) who have a deep connection to their land and understanding of the physical and emotional challenges required to nurture a garden in our fickle zone. This year’s tour features three homes in Sharon. There’s Lee Link‘s unpretentious but luxurious garden that includes a custom greenhouse on one end and a sybaritic lap pool on the other; Garrett and Ann Goodbody’s Mudge Manor with its breathtaking views of Mudge Pond, a pair of wisteria-draped pergolas, and a pool surrounded by perennial borders; Plum Creek Farm, Lea Davies and Larry Powers’ home that features rock and woodland gardens, ponds, and formal foundation plantings that they’ve been cultivating for 30 years. And, as always, there is Bunny Williams‘s beloved spread in Falls Village with its Adirondack pool pavilion, orchard, parterre, and cutting gardens.
If you’re a competitive shopper, it’s wise to get the $100 early buyer’s ticket (8 a.m. - 10 a.m.) so you get first crack at the antiques and plants that catch the eyes of uber-gardeners like Anne Bass, Margaret Roach (near left), Carolyne Roehm, and Martha Stewart (far left). But all the vendors who return year after year come prepared with a wide variety of merchandise, so whether you simply want some annuals for a planter, a rare fern for your shade garden or a topiary for your porch, you will find plenty to choose from. And no matter whether you live in Berkshire, Columbia, Dutchess, or Litchfield counties, Trade Secrets always feels like a homecoming.
Trade Secrets at Lion Rock Farm - May 18
Early Buying: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. — Admission: $100
Regular Buying 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Admission: $35
The Sun Shined for Trade Secrets’ 10th Anniversary, May 15, 2010
Trade Secrets: The Ultimate Outdoor Shopping Party, May 16, 2009
Trade Secrets: Martha Stewart Makes the Scene, May 17, 2008
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Making A Day of Hyde Park
Springwood, the Dutchess County estate commonly (though erroneously) called Hyde Park, is to the pantheon of great American houses what Franklin Delano Roosevelt, its scion, is to the pantheon of great American men— perhaps not the most brilliant, but so preternaturally confident, relaxed, good-humored, and patrician that any shortcomings are quickly overlooked. Like FDR, Springwood bears no trace of the arriviste striving and pomposity that casts a pall over the Vanderbilt Mansion next door. It is comfortable American well-to-do, rather than lugubrious European rich — better suited to a Democracy and certainly to a Democrat.
For those of us who live so near to it, it is easy to postpone a visit to Springwood on the grounds that it will always be there and will never change. Not so. The same resistance that FDR had to his programs are more than echoed in the ones our current president is having. (And, when you finally go there, also give a moments’ thought to presidential libraries, in general. FDR’s, a modest stone and slate-roofed affair, is as unlike the architectural monuments costing tens of millions that have become the recent norm as Springwood is to the Vanderbilt place. But I digress.)
The Roosevelt administration started with a bang. When he was elected, the Depression was entering its fifth year. Thousands of banks had failed, leaving their uninsured depositors penniless. Farmers in foreclosure and school teachers working without pay were demonstrating in the streets and being beaten and jailed by the police. Revolution appeared to be imminent and, to forestall that unthinkable end, the equally unthinkable means, a dictatorship, was being floated by, among others, Walter Lippmann, the pre-eminent liberal columnist of the day.
But Roosevelt did not use the state of emergency he inherited from Herbert Hoover as an excuse for making a power grab. He did not suspend the constitution or expand executive privilege to wartime levels, as many suggested he should. Instead, he instituted the first of his largely symbolic (in the beginning, at any rate) programs for putting the nation back to work and used the relatively new mass medium of radio to get his message across. That message was, of course, “We have nothing to fear…” but the subtext read, “Cheer up. Look at me, I can’t even walk, and I’m confident. Now that I’m running things, you can be confident, too.” Before his administration was 100 days old, there were long lines outside the banks, not of panicky people desperate to withdraw their life savings, but of upbeat depositors who saw it as their patriotic duty — if not as downright fashionable — to pull their cash from under their mattresses and put it back in the banks. The Age of Spin had dawned.
And then, on the 101st day, the president went sailing, and the press said, “well deserved.” Ah, those were the days. It’s all there, just down the road, inventively laid out for us at the The FDR Library. We sit in a replica of a Great Depression Era kitchen (built by McElroy Scenic Studios of Ashley Falls, MA, as was the rest of the exhibit) and listen to the radio as FDR’s voice assures us that, “We have nothing to fear, but…” well, you know. Viewed up close, yet from the safe distance of 75 years, it’s fascinating.
There’s More to Springwood Than Politics
Now let’s see, what else is interesting? Oh right, sex! Many people who visit Springwood combine it with a tour of the Vanderbilt Mansion, as it’s right there. But unless you’re really keen on ormolu, you can skip that and visit Wilderstein instead. While house tours won’t resume until the first of May, the riverside grounds surrounding the house are open to the public, and seeing the mansion itself from the outside is more than worth the trip. (There will, however, be a Daffodil Tea with a tour of the house on Saturday, April 20 @ 1 p.m. to get “a glimpse of what tea time was like during the Victorian era.”) This 35-room Queen Anne pile overlooking the Hudson in Rhinebeck, a few miles north of Springwood, was the ancestral home of Margaret (Daisy) Suckley, who died there at the age of nearly 100 in 1991. Upon her death, a battered black suitcase was found beneath her bed and in it scores of love letters from her distant cousin FDR. Although she was one of the four women (Eleanor not among them) who were with Franklin when he died at Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945, it had not been suspected that they were lovers until after her death. (See related article: A Grand Middle Ground.) Val-Kill, Eleanor’s modest digs, and Top Cottage, FDR’s private hideaway in the hills three miles above Springwood, are also both worth the detour. (Top Cottage, like Wilderstein, reopens May 1.)
And now to lunch: There is only one sane option. The Culinary Institute of America, on the same road five minutes south of Springwood, is Disneyland for foodies. The campus has five restaurants, each specializing in a different style of cuisine and service. I don’t care for table-side service myself (think: silver domes whisked away in unison and frequent outbreaks of flambé) for the same reason I don’t care for ormolu, so I tend to avoid the admittedly fabulous Escoffier. The Ristorante Caterina de’Medici has wonderful Italian food, particularly the fish. But for lunch, my favorite is the St. Andrews Café. Don’t let that “Café” business fool you: this is a bright, attractive, carpeted, tablecloth joint, a perfect place to take a breather in the middle of a day of touring. While you are free to order a pizza or a sandwich at St. Andrews, to do so is to entirely miss the point. The food here is seriously tasty—modern, healthy, inventive, well-prepared and well-priced. Ask your waiter, a student, what to order. Trust him; he’s on his way to becoming the next Wolfgang Puck. —Marilyn Bethany
Springwood, the Roosevelt home, and The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, 4079 Albany Post Road (Route 9), Hyde Park; 845.486.7745; combined admission $14.
Top Cottage (re-opens May 1); admission, $8.
Val-Kill Cottage, the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site; admission $8.
The Vanderbilt Mansion; admission, $8.
People under 15 admitted free; over 62.
Wilderstein (re-opens May 1), 330 Morton Road, Rhinebeck; 845.876.4816; admission $10; seniors $9; children under 12 free.
The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park; 845.452.9600 or reserve on-line
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Another New Era for the Salisbury Ski Jumps
There are not many spectator sports that make it worth your while to stand outside in frigid weather, but the annual Salisbury Ski Jumps are an exception because they’re so thrilling—and heartwarming. The venerable competition (February 8 - 10), which is an unofficial proving ground for future Olympians, has been a highlight of winter in northwest Connecticut for 87 years.
In addition to the traditional rites of the competition, there’s a new state-of-the-art tower (added two years ago), which was built in record time because the Salisbury Winter Sports Association had to promise to construct a new jump to woo the Junior Olympics. There is also a new line of handsome Salisbury Ski Jumps merchandise (right and below) produced by Peter Beck’s Village Store: baseball caps ($15), knit caps ($39.50), long sleeve T-shirts ($25), and Patagonia fleece vests ($85). These will be sold at Satre Hill (where you can always purchase the cowbells that are traditionally rung as the skiers fly through the sky) as well as at Peter Beck’s on Main Street.
While watching the jumpers when the sun is shining is nice, many spectators’ favorite part of the weekend is Friday Nite Lites, when there is target jumping under the lights along with a chili cookoff, and a human dogsled race. The 12th annual ice-carving competition on Saturday will be held on the lawn of the Scoville Memorial Library. If you’re not familiar with the charms of Salisbury, the Ski Jumps weekend is a great opportunity to explore shops such as Johnnycake Books, Passports, Salisbury Wines and Sweet William’s Bakery.
87th Annual Salisbury Winter Sports Association Ski Jumps February 8 -10
Where to Eat in Salisbury/Lakeville:
Check out our restaurant reviews or restaurant websites
2. Country Bistro
3 At Home in the Country
6. Black Rabbit Bar and Grill
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High Art Meets Hootenanny at MASS MoCA’s FreshGrass Fest
Infamous Stringdusters perform on 9/21
“People might think of museums as being places where you have to be quiet and careful,” says Katherine Myers, director of public relations and marketing at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. “But MASS MoCA—we like to try new things.”
The dynamic and decidedly unstuffy North Adams museum’s latest venture has roots music fans tapping their toes in anticipation. From September 21-23, MASS MoCA is hosting its second annual FreshGrass Bluegrass Festival. The rollicking concerts extend the museum’s tradition of adventurous summer music festivals like Bang On a Can and Wilco Solid Sound well into shoulder season. And lest anyone doubt that there’s a large, enthusiastic, off-season audience, festival tickets are already sold out; Myers says MASS MoCA will be able to release more tickets if the weather cooperates and allows greater use of the museum’s outdoor performance spaces.
“Bluegrass is an interesting kind of music because there’s an old-fashioned kind of feel to it, but it’s also very popular with younger people,” says Myers. The music’s long history and vibrant present is reflected in the festival’s diverse lineup, which unites such bluegrass legends as David Grisman and Tony Rice with fast-rising talents like Carolina Chocolate Drops and Spirit Family Reunion.
Rhiannon Ghiddens, singer and fiddler with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who were enthusiastically received at their last MASS MoCA appearance two years ago, attributes the current groundswell of interest in bluegrass to the premium that roots musicians place on showmanship. “We’re not just sitting there,” she says. “We’re entertaining the crowd.”
Leyla McCalla plays on Sunday 9/23
Bluegrass is a big-tent genre, encompassing sounds that range from quiet folk to shambling rockabilly foot-stompers; the FreshGrass festival includes artists with a wide range of styles. During the day, concert-goers can bop to the acoustic tunes of New Orleans-based cellist and banjoist Leyla McCalla. Come Friday and Saturday nights, they’ll rev their engines with high-energy groups like the punk-tinged band The Devil Makes Three. “Our hope is that people will just dance like crazy,” says Myers.
Most concerts will be held in the 10,000 square-foot Hunter Center or in MASS MoCA’s outdoor courtyard, depending on the weather. The museum will also integrate pop-up performances into its art exhibits too. “There may be a time when you’re just wandering around in the galleries and all the sudden there’s Alison Brown playing a little show with one amp or no amp,” Myers notes.
Attendees who want to polish up on their banjo skills can attend music workshops with world-renown strummers Bill Evans and Brown on Saturday and Sunday. The musically-inclined can strut their stuff at informal jam sessions on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Those interested in understanding the physics behind bluegrass’s distinctive twang may be interested in a talk by a local luthier who will explain how guitars are made.
Visitors new to the bluegrass landscape will have a handy guide in Friday’s world premiere of The Porchlight Sessions, a documentary that filmmaker Anna Schwaber calls “Bluegrass 101.”
Morgan O’Kane, who plays on 9/21, also appears in “The Porchlight Sessions”
The Porchlight Sessions features many of the bands playing at FreshGrass, including The Infamous Stringdusters and Morgan O’Kane, who Schwaber first spotted busking at an L train station in New York City. Schwaber says the documentary’s crowd-sourced perspective stays true to the music’s grassroots appeal. “It traces the evolution of the sound of bluegrass,” Schwaber says, “not through one band or a voiceover, but through the voice of the community.”
The documentary also gives longtime bluegrass fans plenty of reasons to stomp their feet in appreciation. “We’ve got some really beautiful, intimate, private performances,” says Schwaber. “A lot of people haven’t seen their favorite musicians in that kind of spotlight.”
Families can find plenty to keep the junior set occupied at the festival, too. MASS MoCA’s Kidspace activities include an instrument-making workshop with Mamie Minch on Sunday and a presentation on Bigfoot that culminates in kids shaping their own beastly creations at the Bigfoot Art Cabaret.
A bird’s eye view of last year’s FreshGrass festival
Since MASS MoCA will have a captive audience during FressGrass, it’s taking care to provide attendees with a a wide range of local food and drink options, including plenty of vegetarian choices and a FreshGrass IPA produced just for the festival by The People’s Pint in Greenfield.
And no visit would be complete without tasting those aforementioned, intriguingly named moonshine slushies, a beverage that puts a (legal) twist on old-timey homebrew. “It sounds like they’ll cool you off while they burn you up,” jokes Carolina Chocolate Drops’ instrumentalist Dom Flemons. “I’ll have to get my hands on one of those.” —Sarah Todd
MASS MoCA FreshGrass Bluegrass Festival 2012
September 21- 23, 2012
87 Marshall St, North Adams, MA
Tickets temporarily sold out; any decision to release more tickets will be made by Thursday, September 20. To receive an email notification should more tickets become available, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Creative Workspaces Open to the Public in Art Studio Views
Clockwise from top left: Randy Bloom with one of her paintings; works by Jeff Romano, Carl Greico, and Richard Chianelle
It’s hard enough to be an artist. But to be an artist working alone in a studio in a quiet rural area, however noted for its sophistication and culture, can be, if not a hardship, just a wee bit lonesome and isolating.
When Doris Cultraro (left) first came to Rhinebeck from New York City to set up her studio for making stained glass, she says, “I heard the arts and artists were here—but where were they? I truly wanted to know.” That is how Art Studio Views came into being. Now in its fifth year, this free, self-guided tour, taking place over Labor Day weekend, Saturday and Sunday, September 1 and 2, is designed to promote the work and talents of local artists in Northern Dutchess County. Nearly 40 artists in Hyde Park, Clinton, Rhinebeck, Red Hook, Staatsburg, and Tivoli will open their studios to the public to “share their creative environment, and help visitors understand the inspiration that drives their passion,” Cultraro notes.
“The idea was to encourage people to come into the region and to get beyond the gallery experience to see how the artist works,” says Cultraro. She says that it started with 21 participants in 2007 and now has nearly 40, including painters such as Randy Bloom of Tivoli, sculptors such as Carl Greico of Hyde Park, printmakers such as Melissa Braggins of Rhinebeck (below), and photographers such as Richard Chianelle from Rhinebeck, as well as numerous other artists and artisans working in a variety of media.
“It’s one thing to talk to a gallery owner about an artist, and it’s another to see one working in the flesh,” says Cultraro, who initiated the tour with three other artists. The artists will do what they normally do, and throw in extras for visitors. Joan Levittt, a printmaker in Staatsburg, will teach guests how to make monoprints, by having them create patterns on Plexiglas and run it through the press themselves. Christine Livesey in Rhinebeck, a seriographer who does traditional silk screening, will demonstrate her age-old techinique with help from visitors. Carl Greico will demonstrate the seemingly impossible task of manipulatulating marble or stone into abstract sculptural works.
“It’s hard, like corralling the cats, and I had to pull all my skills in the corporate world to make it happen,” notes Cultraro, a former vice president of administration at Comedy Central, of organizing the annual tour. “Even though I was the newbie at the time, I ended up carrying the torch. But it’s been very rewarding, working with all the artists.” She credits Alice Seeger (niece-in-law of you-know-who) as especially helpful in organizing and promoting this year’s tour; Seeger created this lyrical video for the event.
A new feature of this year’s Art Studio Views is an online auction of wooden boxes designed and donated by each of the artists. Auction proceeds benefit Vassar Brothers Medical Center Pediatric Unit Oncology Arts Program at Vassar Brother’s Hospital in Poughkeepsie. You can check out the Art Boxes in storefront windows in Red Hook, Rhinebeck, and Hyde Park, or preview them here.
Of course Cultraro’s Rhinebeck stained glass studio is also on the tour. “I’ll be having demonstrations on how to make stained glass, a glass-cutting clinic for home repairs, and also a short film on how glass is made,” she says. “With popcorn.” – Scott Baldinger
The Art Studio Views
A self-guided open-studio tour of 30-plus artists in Dutchess County
Labor Day Weekend, Saturday September 1 & Sunday, September 2, 2012
11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
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Role Reversal for Terry Teachout: Critic Turns Playwright
“I hadn’t written a play before, but I had this dream where I saw the stage picture of Pops and heard the first line. It just popped into my mind.” ‘Pops,’ like ‘Satchmo,’ is a nickname for legendary jazzman Louis Armstrong, and the newly minted playwright is the accomplished author and Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout, explaining that he finished off his first draft of Satchmo at the Waldorf four days after that fateful dream.
The four-day draft stretched into a year of work on Satchmo... before its workshop at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, which he also directed, another first for Teachout. And now the one-man play, starring acclaimed actor John Douglas Thompson, is having its New England premiere at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox.
“I’m a committed compulsive individual,” declares Teachout, who says his journey to writing Satchmo… began at age nine, when his mother called him over to watch Louis Armstrong on the Ed Sullivan Show. “It was before I knew anything about jazz,” he says, but that soon changed; Teachout became an accomplished jazz bassist in his own right before breaking into art criticism with a music review for the Kansas City Star, written before he was graduated from college.
In 2009 Teachout published the biography Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, of which New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani wrote, “...Teachout restores this jazzman to his deserved place in the pantheon of American artists.” The book benefited from Teachout’s unprecedented access to tapes Armstrong made during the final decade of his life. Much of the knowledge that Teachout acquired in researching the Armstrong biography has been channeled into his new play.
Satchmo… is actually about two men – Armstrong and his manager, Joe Glaser; the former African-American, the latter white and Jewish – both played by the same actor. At least that was how the play was first workshopped and later staged at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater in September, 2011.
Photo by Kevin Sprague
In a surprise twist, actor John Douglas Thompson, who had already committed to play both roles in his first one-man show, will take on a newly added third character, jazz musician Miles Davis, in Teachout’s latest version of the play. “It’s hard to believe but just two days after we added Davis’s speeches, John came in to rehearsal and he had the voice right and the look. It’s the same with his Armstrong. Suddenly he looks the part, and he’s a foot taller than Pops.”
There have been other changes to this new production, directed by Gordon Edelstein, which runs through September 16 before moving in October to Edelstein’s Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. Originally a two-act play, it’s now a single act. “Dropping the intermission – and I had written a brilliant last moment for the first act that always got great applause – was like taking off the tourniquet: the blood just flowed,” says Teachout. “And people were leaving after the first act, thinking it was over anyway.”
Attending three weeks of rehearsals as playwright, Teachout found the analytical skills he relies on as a critic came in handy to hone and alter the work. “You learn to think diagnostically as a critic and that can be an advantage for a playwright,” he says. “And Gordon is a terrific dramaturge, so you can take a very long look at what you’ve done.”
Creative team Edelstein, Thompson, and Teachout; photo by Kevin Sprague
Like a true compulsive, Teachout – who, in addition to his responsibilities at the Journal, is also the chief culture critic at Commentary and an active blogger – already has two more plays in the works. He has written two opera librettos (The Letter, commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera, premiered there in July 2009, and Danse Russe debuted at Philadelphia’s Center City Opera in April 2011); now he and his composer, Paul Moravec, are toying with a third idea. But before moving full speed ahead on these projects, the author remarked, “there is a need for something to write for, a commission perhaps. Money up front helps. I mean, really, you don’t start the car until the meter’s running.” – Peter Bergman
Satchmo at the Waldorf
At Shakespeare & Company’s Tina Packer Playhouse
Now through September 16
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Homefield: A Shopping Extravaganza at Ventfort Hall
You don’t see much bling in the Berkshires, which is ironic when you consider that Lenox was the summer capital of the Gilded Age. Today, inconspicuous consumption is the law of the land (except for the competitive picnics on the lawn at Tanglewood), so shopping and decorating rarely get their due. But this weekend’s Homefield: Bringing Design Home, a shopping fundraiser at Venfort Hall for Great Barrington-based Community Health Programs (CHP), will prove that “Berkshire style” is not, as some Birkenstock-wearing cynics have quipped, an oxymoron.
Inspired by Trade Secrets, the wildly successful and elegant rare-plant and garden antiques sale in northwestern Connecticut that benefits Women’s Support Services, CHP wanted to create an event that would not only raise much-needed funds but also awareness for its programs for children with developmental delays or disabilities. Michelle Derr, who runs CHP’s WIC program and lives in Litchfield County, turned to her stylish neighbor Stephen Saint-Onge (aka “Designer Dad”) for advice. An interior designer, entrepreneur, author, and blogger, Saint-Onge (right) immediately saw the potential to create a shopping party that would be worth a road trip.
“The setting for the gala event on Friday night and the marketplace on Saturday is in the heart of one of the most stunning areas of the Berkshires,” says Saint-Onge, who’s originally from Vermont and has lived in Litchfield County with his family full-time for the past six years. “When I first drove up to Ventfort Hall I thought it was like an American version of Downton Abbey, so I was loving it from the first moment. From there, we gathered vendors and artisans from the region and beyond to come together in a casual, almost European-style open market under white tents set out on the lawn behind the historic Berkshire mansion. There will be a mix of home furnishings, antiques, art, home design, photography, garden design.”
The 28 vendors (who will donate ten percent of their sales to CHP) reflect the diversity of our region and include Hammertown, Home, Housatonic River Outfitters, Karen LeSage Fine Arts, Nest, Poesis Design, Le Trianon and Wingate Ltd.
“T. P. Saddleblanket from Great Barrington will be having a fashion show at our gala preview on Friday night,” says Derr, noting that the silent auction items include tickets to see the David Letterman Show and a Whirlpool washer and dryer. “You will be escorted by models through the mansion and out to the tents. Stephen said he wants guests to feel like they’re in a movie.” But he also wants people to appreciate the reality that organizations like CHP are vital to the rural social contract. “I love that Community Health Partners was started in this community generations ago and it is still here working with families in the region. That is what makes living in this part of New England so wonderful—a great sense of community.”
Evening Reception and Pre-Sale
Friday August 10, 7 - 11 p.m.
Saturday August 11, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
$25 (free for children under 12)
Book Signing with Stephen Sant-Onge, author of No Place Like Home
10 - 11 a.m
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COVET: ArtBerkshires Offers Insiders’ View of the Art Scene
The Berkshire region enjoys a long-established reputation as a summertime cultural destination for the performing arts; just mention “the Berkshires” and the words Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, and Williamstown Theatre Festival spring from the culturati’s lips. Less broadly recognized is the region’s abundance of similarly world-class visual art. Leslie Ferrin and Sienna Patti, in photo at right, are working to change that.
Based, respectively, at Ferrin Gallery in Pittsfield and Sienna Gallery in Lenox, both gallerists enjoy an international reputation in their particular fields of expertise—studio ceramics for Ferrin and contemporary art jewelry for Patti. Three years ago, they stretched their roles to create a much broader canvas—to borrow from the painterly—by forming ArtBerkshires.
Ferrin explains; “Sienna and I came up with the idea to provide experiences that put the work we exhibit in the galleries into a broader context, so they’d gain a deeper understanding of it.” Cultural tourism is a given in the Berkshires, especially those nighttime dance, theater, and music performances, says Ferrin. During the day, visitors tend to have more free time, and are eager to explore the area. When they stop into the galleries, they often ask for recommendations about other places to see art or where to dine.
Patti elaborates, “These amazing institutions, these fascinating artists are all here, but the visual arts gems haven’t been put together innovatively. Essentially, we’ve taken on the role of cultural curators…” with ArtBerkshires. Ferrin adds, “This series of contemporary visual arts events is designed to appeal to the seasonal resident, the cultural tourist, and someone who doesn’t want to visit the Berkshires for Tanglewood alone.” In its previous two summers, ArtBerkshires worked with the themes Modern Style and Studio Craft, and Decadence and Decay. “This year’s theme is COVET,” says Ferrin, “because it offers a way to connect the dots between history and contemporary visual arts.”
Each dot—that is, each event—lets viewers see more than they could on their own. That’s because Ferrin and Patti have embarked upon ambitious collaborations with the region’s major museums, other galleries, and historic homes, as well as restaurants and hotels, plus artists both internationally known and locally based. The thought-provoking series of events, sprinkled throughout July and August, spans the Berkshires. Each event offers up a curator and a COVET artist; some include a veritable panel of experts. Beyond seeing art, participants can ask questions, glean the insiders’ view, and meet others with similar interests.
The series starts this week with “MEET ME AT” behind-the-scenes tours at MASS MoCA on Thursday, July 19; Hancock Shaker Village on Friday, July 20; and Berkshire Museum on Saturday, July 21. COVET exhibitions featuring works by over 30 artists are now open at the two galleries. Ferrin’s DISH + DINE events brings the cultural conversation to the table, with salon-style dinners featuring local cuisine by renowned area restaurants—this Friday it’s Mezze—served on tableware created by Ferrin ceramists, who will in be attendance along with other gallery artists to discuss the work. And that’s just a few of the events that comprise COVET’s opening weekend.
With ArtBerkshires, Ferrin and Patti have roped in virtually every cultural leader and institution in the Berkshires and a few beyond, including Noor Al Suwaidi of the United Arab Emirates and Bembol dela Cruz of the Philippines, Art Omi resident artists who have extended their stay in the region though IS 183 Art School of the Berkshires’ Berkshire Residency Exchange. In addition to setting up shop in pop-up studios, they’ll be involved in a three-week project with at-risk students in Pittsfield’s Public School District’s summer transition program, Bridge 2o12. The students and artists will participate in an iCOVET brunch and benefit exhibition for IS183’s programming at Stonover Farm’s Barn Gallery in Lenox on July 29th.
The theme COVET isn’t intended solely for viewers; Ferrin encouraged her artists to draw inspiration from the word. To hear Ferrin talk—with excitement and animation—about how she forges connections between curators and contemporary artists to interact over historic work in reflective ways is to appreciate her artistry. She understands how to use connectivity—between people, across disciplines and media—to push conversations about art—and even to push the art itself. Inspired by the COVET theme, artists had the opportunity respond to historic work though the creation of new work. She champions the idea that covetousness reaches beyond wanting to own something; for a curator or collector, she says, “Covetousness might be about putting pieces together in order to see them anew. For an artist, it might be about a springboard from the old to create new work.”
John Singer Sargent’s 1882 painting “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” (collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), at right, inspired Bill Wright’s photograph “Dependence.” Wright will discuss his work for COVET on Sunday, July 22, at Sienna Gallery.
Though the entire COVET schedule is mind-boggling, Ferrin and Patti hope that by sharing the various insiders’ perspectives, the program will leave participants with a newfound sense of the region. They’re betting this type of cultural tourism will draw the kind of people who have overlooked the Berkshires as a visual-arts-oriented destination. And should some good, old coveting lead to sales? Of course, that’s Ferrin and Patti’s business. –Sarah Buttenwieser
COVET: A program of ArtBerkshires
From Thursday, July 19 through Friday, August 17
At various museums, galleries, historic sites, and other venues throughout Berkshire County
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The Millbrook Mystique: Inside Fitch’s Corner Horse Trials
Rural Intelligence’s preview of the Fitch’s Corner Horse Trials first ran in July 2010. We’ve updated Dan Shaw’s original story to reflect this year’s event.
Horse shows are a wonderful combination of sport and style, and nowhere are the equestrians more style-conscious than clubby Millbrook, which every year encourages outsiders to attend—for free!— the Fitch’s Corner Horse Trials Weekend on July 20 - 22. If you admire beautiful, well-groomed, well-trained horses, there will be more than 250 in competition from all over the Northeast participating in dressage, cross-country jumping through rolling fields, and stadium jumping in an arena. The best in show will receive not only ribbons but also silver trophies from Tiffany & Co.
If you like to people-watch and/or power shop, The Marketplace at Fitch’s Corner is like no other tent sale in the Rural Intelligence region. On Saturday and Sunday, beneath an enormous marquee, a distinctive array of vendors will be selling home goods, art and antiques, clothing, jewelry, and other accessories that range from the practical (Hunter Boot Wellies in jelly bean colors) to the whimsical (big straw hats by Madder Hatters.) In the “Equine Village” section of the tent, riders with deep pockets can order fine French-made saddles from Devoucoux and custom-designed courses of jumps from ETB Equine Construction. Clothes horses will find booths selling everything from Charlotte Brody’s luxe collection to Dubarry of Ireland’s rugged outdoor wear to Robert Redd’s men’s and boys polo shirts in every imaginable color. And you don’t have to spend a dime to enjoy the vintage and antique cars that will be on display beginning at noon on Sunday.
“It’s the best, old-fashioned summer destination event—beautiful horses in a beautiful setting and great shopping, too, ” says Fernanda Kellogg, who hosts the trials with her husband, Kirk Henckels, on their 150-acre farm. “You can go everywhere on the property except into my closet or under my bed!” It’s one of those events that always attracts The New York Times’ legendary street-fashion-and-party photographer Bill Cunningham. “It’s a community event, not a celebrity event,” says Kellogg, “but Bette Midler will be here because she is part of our community.” —Dan Shaw (Updated from original post, July 2010)
Fitch’s Corner Horse Trials
July 20 - 22
Intersection of Shunpike and N. Mabbettsville Road, Millbrook, NY
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Bard’s SummerScape Spiegeltent Is a Seasonal Sensation
Surrounded by trees strung with twinkling lights, its irresistible façade beckons passersby, promising untold merriment within.
This is no idle promise. For the past six years, Bard has erected the Speigeltent during its SummerScape season as an option for pre-show dining and drinks, or for post-show drinks and dancing, and as a performance venue in its own right, with programs ranging from kids’ stuff to strictly adults-only affairs. And it opens this weekend with with the raucous Gypsy jazz quartet Fishtank Ensemble (right) on Friday, July 6, followed on Saturday evening, July 7, by Martha Wainwright, performing songs from her recent tribute album to Edith Piaf, Sans Fusil, Ni Souliers, à Paris.
The Spiegeltent (Dutch for “mirror tent”) has its roots in Belgium, dating back more than 100 years. Originally mobile dance halls that toured small towns and fairs, the tents traditionally featured mirrored walls that allowed would-be dance partners to make discreet eye contact with one another and provided patrons with a casual way to watch and be watched.
Authentic Spiegeltents are made of wood, canvas, mirrors, and stained glass, embellished with velvet. The tent can be broken down into small sections so that it can be easily erected by just two people; no nails are required. The tent itself is as architecturally fascinating on the outside as the entertainment that takes place within. While there are very few true Spiegeltents in existence today, one family has kept the tradition alive. Since 1920, the Belgium-based Klessens family has owned Het Spiegelpaleis. Bard’s Spiegeltent, known as “The Carousel,” is owned by Rik and Lillian Klessens; it’s one of nine Klessens tents that make the rounds of Europe and the United States.
Enter “The Carousel” and you’ll find yourself in an intimate space, a glittering round hall encircled by colorful stained glass, and those mirrors, of course. Gracious oak booths and smaller cocktail tables line the periphery, along with a bar serving wine and beer. Seating for 250 surrounds a raised, central stage. The ceiling is draped in red velvet and strung with small, cheery white lights. It’s an enchanting, celebratory one-ring circus that transports you to another time, even before the entertainment begins.
As for the acts that occupy that central stage, think Cabaret meets Moulin Rouge. Real burlesque that will make you blush, or feel a little flush, takes it right to the edge, as true burlesque should. Contemporary vaudeville, with its unique blend of old-timey humor, innuendo, and intelligence, provokes both laughter and thought. There is gorgeous singing from around the world, heart-thumping dance, and side-splitting comedy. The Spiegeltent offers intelligent, whimsical entertainment that will satisfy the child in every adult.
Many favorites from seasons past are back this summer for evening cabaret on Friday and Saturday nights. The Wau Wau Sisters wow the audience with their bawdy brand of circus vaudeville, and the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus inspires shock and awe, with its unique hybrid of exotic circus, vaudeville, and sideshow acts. Weimar New York also returns with an edgy, subversive show blending burlesque, drag, and performance art. This act dips deeper into risqué territory and may include nudity; don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The Two Man Gentlemen Band, performing a raucous romp through Tin Pan Alley to Western swing to hot jazz, has been known to get the audience involved by handing out kazoos; they were “discovered” by Susana Meyer, Associate Director of the Fisher Center, who heard them while she was shopping at a local health food store. Meyer asked the manager who they were. After listening to more of their music she booked them for the tent last year, and they’ve earned a place on this year’s roster.
On Thursday nights the tent reverts to its original purpose – a dance hall, albeit one with some spectacular bands, playing music from around the world that will compel you to your feet. Just try to remain seated when Buckwheat Zydeco arrives on August 9. (If you can even get a seat; buy your ticket early!) Other acts range from Klezmer to Salsa to Swing to Gypsy jazz; there’s even a tango night on August 2, with a class for beginners and a demonstration by a pair of pros.
At the center of it all is Spiegel Maestro Nik Quaife (right) who keeps the show moving. You’ll know the Maestro when you see him; he’s the tall Irishman sporting a black and white silk dinner jacket and flashy red, green, or blue shoes. Quaife was brought in as Maestro by Meyer’s predecessor, Tambra Dylan, during the Spiegeltent’s first season, after she had seen him perform a similar role in Dublin. He still lives in Dublin, where he runs Zoetrope, an arts marketing company, but, he says, “I’ve made sure to keep my summers free so, if invited back, I can Maestro again!”
During four weekend afternoons, the Spiegeltent reorients itself toward kid-friendly performances, including Bindlestiff Family Cirkus’ G-rated acts – with tumbling, juggling, and clowns – or The Little Farm Show, an educational musical production based on the history of agriculture. Saturday, July 14 has been designated “Kiddie Bastille Day;” the Bindlestiff show will be expanded to include additional family fare such as stilt walking, face painting, balloon-twisting.
Clearly, the Spiegeltent is more than just another summer venue; it’s an ephemeral party for kids of all ages that you can enjoy every weekend during SummerScape. Take it from the SpiegelMaestro himself. Says Quaife, “The thing I love about the Spiegeltent is that you can talk quietly and interact with other members of the audience and your friends during most shows. It’s a more convivial, less reverential performance space and allows people to have fun, dress up a little… (and explore) the artistic side of themselves.”
But if you want to explore Spiegeltent for yourself, don’t wait; this evanescent tent will be packed up and shipped off long before the season turns. Should your best-laid plans fall through, your last chance to experience the enchantment is the free dance party for SummerScape’s closing night, August 19. Otherwise you’ll have to wait until next summer, when the Spiegeltent magically materializes once again on that empty field. — Colleen Challenger Schropfer
Spiegeltent at SummerScape
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
From July 6 – August 19
Thursday evenings: Dance to live music from around the world
Friday and Saturday nights: Evening Cabaret performances, followed by SpiegelClub late-night bar and dance party with DJs from NYC and the Hudson Valley (21+)
Select weekend afternoons: Family Fare