Roxbury, an international destination in recent years given its wildly popular attractions The Roxbury Motel and Plattekill Mountain, is now home to a Writers’ Residency, newly opened by writer Annie DeWitt and photographer Jerome Jakubiec. The three-day residency program includes accommodations, meals, workshops and manuscript review by DeWitt, who teaches writing at Columbia University and is the author of White Nights in Split Town City, greatly reviewed by The New York Times.
The residency, which opened on July 11, hosted an inaugural Editors’ Panel on July 13, featuring Jonny Diamond, editor in chief of LitHub, and Tracy O’Neill, author of the acclaimed novel The Hopeful and editor of the literary journal Epiphany. Diamond and O’Neill talked about the submission process to literary journals.
Asked about her aspirations with the residency, DeWitt said: “We couldn’t be more delighted with the outcome of this summer’s inaugural residency. It has fueled our creative energies to put so much of ourselves into a project and community that we love. We see Roxbury Writers’ Residency as an ambitious project with a dual focus: providing writers at all stages of their careers with a supportive vibrant atmosphere within which to create, think and question as well as to provide Delaware County with a wellspring into New York City’s creative excellence by offering free programming such as our Editors’ Panel to all Delaware County residents which furthers artistic dialogue. We want to help put Delaware County on the map as the thriving artistic community and rural paradise that it is.”
Roxbury, the birthplace of financier Jay Gould, has long had a literary tradition going back to the days of naturalist writer John Burroughs, Gould’s contemporary, and Walter R. Brooks, who wrote Freddy the Pig series in Roxbury. Writers in the Mountains, a literary non-profit organization serving the Catskills and Hudson Valley area for over a quarter-century, is also headquartered in Roxbury. Writers in the Mountains offers creative writing workshops year-round and hosts a series of literary events throughout the region.
Roxbury Writers’ Residency program, founded by DeWitt and Jakubiec, gives participants the opportunity to work in a secluded location on a 27-acre farm, and receive feedback from top-notch professionals. Writers can enroll in the three-day standard program, or book a room and design their own schedule. Jakubiec, who is the author of I Actually Wore This: Clothes We Can’t Believe We Bought published by Rizzoli, offers author portrait sessions on sight, thus immortalizing the experience.
“Our hopes for the future are many,” explains DeWitt. “Short term, we are looking into funding through the MARK Project to be able to build additional artist cabins as well as provide scholarship assistance to residents. Long term, we have our eye on building a barn and studio space. Fashioning it from the existing blue prints for the original dairy barn which was torn down and filling it with artist studios ~ a metal workshop, a digital photography room, a dark room, and a performance space with the hope of expanding the residency to attract artists across various media and disciplines. We’re also horse enthusiasts and we would like to eventually bring that unique angle to our residents,” she adds.
Roxbury’s charming appeal and bucolic scenery have in fact attracted a wide range of creatives for years – artists, writers, an Oscar winning filmmaker, fashion and theater professionals, and other creatives have made Roxbury their home. How Art Is Made: In the Catskills by this author features some of these creatives, including sculptor Brian Tolle, and painters Adam Cohen and Ellen Wong, whose studios are located in Roxbury. This burgeoning artistic community can only benefit from the newly opened writers’ retreat with the potential expansion into a full arts colony similar perhaps to Byrdcliffe in Woodstock or Sugar Maples in Maplecrest. In recent years Mount Tremper Arts opened to offer performing artists a space to rehearse and explore new ideas.
AMR (Andes – Margaretville – Roxbury) Open Studios Tour 2018 will take place Saturday and Sunday, July 28 – 29 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with close to thirty participating artists and artisans working in all disciplines – painters, sculptors, photographers, printmakers, ceramicists, furniture designers and textile artists. Located in a bucolic scenery, all studios will provide unique experiences for visitors to explore the area and learn directly from the artists.
Launched in 2012, AMR Open Art Studios Tour has grown into a major cultural attraction, as art tours have become more and more common all over the country. Studio visits trigger questions that aren’t often asked in formal settings such as galleries and museums, and allow for a more intimate interaction with the art work. As art historian George Philip LeBourdais eloquently articulated in a piece for Artsy magazine in August 2016 “The studio is where strange magic happens, as much for the artist’s imagination as for the public’s. It’s the conjuring place of new concepts, styles, or forms. Sometimes it even comes to be seen as sacred, a place where visitors become pilgrims to the altar of art.”
Participating artists this year include Adam Cohen, Amy Masters, Ted Sheridan, Alan Powell, Lisbeth Firmin, Ellen Wong, Peter Yamaoka, Gerda van Leeuwen, Frank Manzo, Helene Manzo, Tabitha Gilmore Barnes, Gary Mayer, Barbara Alyn, Oneida Hammond, Ken Hiratsuka, Roshan Houshmand, Agnes Freas, Esther de Jong, Lesley A. Powell, Rosamond Welchman, Robert Axelrod, Deborah Ruggerio, Gary Mead, Anthony Margiotta, Rebecca Andre, Patrice Lorenz, Sharon Suess and Gail Freund.
A good place to start the tour is the Wawaka Grange in Halcottsville. Several artists will be showing at this location, including painters Agnes Freas and Oneida Hammond, and photographer Rebecca Andre. Art in the Catskills will present and sell autographed books – “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills,” which features a host of Catskills creatives, including sculptor Brian Tolle and urban realist painter Lisbeth Firmin, will be offered at a discounted price.
Still in Halcottsville, ceramicist Rosamond Welchman, who has participated in the tour every year since it launched in 2012, will open her studio located at 266 Halcottsville Road. For forty years, Welchman taught mathematics and education at Brooklyn College. Since retiring and moving to the Catskills, she has returned to her earlier love of visual design and ceramics. Her professional interests in mathematics (especially geometry) and in teaching (especially problem-solving) have had a strong impact on her ceramic work as well. Welchman’s pottery is hand-built with an emphasis on surface texture, often with patterns influenced by her travels around the world. “Wherever I go, I look for new forms and textures,” she says. “This year I am particularly interested in architectural pieces made from cut slabs of clay fastened together,” she adds.
Painters Robert Axelrod and Sharon Suess will also open their studios in Halcottsville at 261 and respectively 239 Halcottsville Road.
In Arkville, painter and printmaker Amy Masters, and architect and printmaker Ted Sheridan will open their studios located at 222 Chris Long Road. Over the past two years Masters has had a prolific time producing a new host of works: etchings and colorgraphs, as well as paintings from her summers spent in Maine. The artist is inspired by the natural world and the actual objects and vistas around her studio in the Catskills, but what she mostly likes about her work is re-arranging and re-envisioning the landscape in the abstract. One can see in her recent paintings a slight departure in color and texture compared to previous works.
Masters’ husband, Sheridan will be showing new works on paper using iron and iron oxides in addition to drawings and watercolors. A few years ago, Sheridan began experimenting with metallic compounds, corrosion, and magnetic fields to create original patterns of rust on paper. Coming from the world of architecture where everything is controlled and precise, in recent years Sheridan sat to explore the randomness of the oxidation process in metallic prints, and gradually began working on more and more elaborate projects.
Painter Anthony Margiotta will be showing at his studio located at 355 Route 3 in Halcott Center, while multi-media artist Alan Powell and painter Lesley A. Powell will be showing at their studios located at 993 Main Street in Fleischmanns.
“The canvas is now my stage,” says multi-disciplinary artist Lesley A. Powell. Since childhood, Powell has been attracted to non-verbal means of artistic expression whether be dancing or painting. As a choreographer, her interest revolves around the dancer’s ability to change the performance space, working under the influence of German expressionist dancer Rudolf Laban. Over her decade-long career, Powell has produced numerous shows for whom she designed anything from costumes to posters, brochures, and playbills.
As a visual artist, Powell focuses on human anatomy and body movement to depict either dance or circus scenes as well as nudes. She is drawn however to a broad range of media and thematics. Watercolors are prone for still life because of the space required to do the work, she explains, whereas oil paintings allow for more creativity and give the artist more time for reflection and revision. The tone, the feeling and the expression, Powell adds, are also different in oil compared to watercolor. When working in watercolor, the artist uses a more subdued color palette given the spontaneity of the medium, whereas in oil she prefers bolder and richer colors.
In Margaretville, urban realist painter Lisbeth Firmin will open her studio in the Commons Building at 785 Main Street, and show recent works and works in progress. For over four decades Firmin’s work has been in hundreds of solo and group shows across the country and internationally. She was the cover artist for the 2008 spring issue of Epoch, Cornell University’s literary magazine, and was the featured artist in the 2008 summer issue of the Gettysburg Review. This summer Firmin is showing a new series of paintings and monotypes at Rice Polak Gallery in Provincetown, MA. “What’s happening these days is that I see something about the light on a figure, and this is what interests me,” she says. She insists that her work is not about the colors, but about the light and shadow in the composition, apparent in works such as Fifth Avenue (1995), and Woman on a Train (2014). Firmin is one of the artists featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” book by this author.
Still in Margaretville, poet and furniture designer Gary Mead will open his studio and gallery located at 1289 South Side Road, painter Barbara Alyn will open her studio at 806 Main Street, and painter Patrice Lorenz will open her studio at 359 East Hubbell Hill Road.
In Andes, participating artists include sculptor Ken Hiratsuka, who will open his barn at 34325 State Hwy 28, and painter Roshan Houshmand whose studio is located at 495 Main Street.
The largest group of participating artists this year is in Roxbury: painters Ellen Wong, Adam Cohen, Helene Manzo, Esther de Jong, Gail Freund and Deborah Ruggerio, ceramicists and printmakers Peter Yamaoka and Gerda Van Leeuwen, photographer Frank Manzo, and textile artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes, will all open their creative spaces and engage in dialogue with visitors who often enough are artists themselves. One might dedicate one of the two days to visiting Roxbury’s studios only as driving from one place to another can take a bit of time.
Poet and painter Esther De Jong, a former fashion model, will be showing her pencil drawings and Catskill landscape oil paintings while working on a new large figurative work during the open studio; visitors can watch her paint and ask questions. De Jong, who is formally trained at the National Academy of Art and Design, co-founded by Thomas Cole in 1825, refers to her paintings as “lyrical images,” reflections of her poetry. De Jong’s studio is located at 50 Maple Lane in Roxbury.
Abstract painter Adam Cohen, known for works such as Intuition (2015), a finalist in the Art Olympia International Competition in Tokyo, Japan, and Mystic Marsh (2014), shown at the Morren Galleries in Amsterdam, Netherlands, is an intuitive painter whose style has been defined as Gestural Abstraction; his paintings are very much sculptural, and have a visceral look and the kind of inexhaustibility that the artist strives to achieve in his work. Cohen is currently working on a new series of paintings as many of his works have sold out in various galleries. He was recently featured in a solo show at Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art Gallery in Seattle. Cohen is one of the artists featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” book by this author. His studio, located in Roxbury’s Historic District at 53856 State Hwy 30, will give visitors a glimpse into the creative process and the naissance of new works of art.
Still in the Historic District, painter Deborah Ruggerio will open her studio located at 54096 State Hwy 30 for the first time this year. “Through a variety of media and techniques I hope to encourage the viewer to look a little more closely at nature’s intricate beauty at different times of the day, changing with the seasons to experience and savor the essence and beauty in nature,” she says. “Whether it’s in the solidarity of a rock formation or in the delicacy of the flower petals that bloom in the spring for only a short period of time, there’s a magnificent canvas to experience every day. All one has to do is take the time to look, see and experience,” she adds.
Mixed media artist Gail Freund will also be showing at 54096 State Hwy 30.
Across the street, at 54091 State Hwy 30, painter Helene K. Manzo and architect and photographer Frank Manzo will open their studios and show works produced over the past year.
Landscape painter Ellen Wong will open her studio located at 121 Shephard Lane in Roxbury. Initially trained as an abstract painter, Wong discovered in time that what she really wanted to do was landscape painting: “I noticed that every time I went somewhere I always brought with me my watercolors, and I always sketched where I was; somehow that’s how I got to understand, absorb or take in a new environment – I felt very sensitive to place,” she says. The recipient of many grants and fellowships, including the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant Program, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Wong studied in the Art Department at Brooklyn College with Philip Pearlstein, known for reviving realist figurative painting in the 1960s. Pearlstein’s departure from Abstract Expressionism back then made him a renegade in the art world. It’s that kind of artistic sensibility and daring attitude that Wong had learned from Pearlstein. She has been painting the Catskills since the 1970s when she opened her studio in Roxbury.
Ceramicists and printmakers Peter Yamaoka and Gerda Van Leeuwen met in a Boston airport in the early 1980s as they were both traveling to and from Provincetown. They married three years later. Yamaoka studied at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, while Van Leeuwen received a degree in art from the University of Utrecht in her native Netherlands. In college both artists studied painting, but later on they switched to printmaking. Since moving to the Catskills in the early 1990s both artists became ceramicists: Yamaoka prefers voluminous mythology-inspired vases, while Van Leeuwen makes small porcelains inspired by animal life. Both Yamaoka and Van Leeuwen work and teach in a fully equipped ceramics studio in Roxbury, while exhibiting extensively throughout the Catskills and New York City. Van Leeuwen’s latest show “Diamonds & Rust,” which includes recent works produced over the past winter, is on view at Longyear Gallery in Margaretville through August 6. Both Yamaoka and Van Leeuwen are featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” book by this author. Their studios are located at 777 Carroll Hinkley Road.
Also featured in “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills,” textile artist Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes will open her studio located at 424 Carr George Road in Denver, an idyllic hamlet of Roxbury. Trained at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and the Center for Tapestry Arts in New York City, Gilmore-Barnes designs both functional and aesthetic products using traditional American patterns. Her work can be seen in museums and gallery exhibits, and at various arts and crafts fairs throughout the region. “Weaving is one of the oldest forms of a blend of art and function. The techniques of twisting fibers to make them stronger and durable started out probably in the earliest times of mankind history. From those twisted fibers men and women learned to do basketry, learned to create fabric, and also to use it for decoration.”
The AMR – Andes, Roxbury, Margaretville – Open Studios Tour 2018 is funded by the Delaware County Department of Economic Development – Tourism Advisory Board and The Lindsay A. and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation, and by the 29 participating artists and their 35+ community business sponsors. Additional community support from the Longyear Gallery (Margaretville) and the MARK Project (Arkville).
Open art studio tours have become more and more common all over the country as studio visits trigger questions that aren’t often asked in formal settings such as galleries and museums, and allow for a more intimate interaction with the artwork.
This summer alone, four major open art studio tours take place throughout the region featuring a total of 160 artists from Saugerties to Treadwell and points in between. Building on a century-long tradition that started with the Hudson River School, contemporary artists continue to be inspired by the region once known as America’s First Wilderness, and what we refer to today as the place where American art was born.
Read my article in Chronogram to learn about Stagecoach Run Art Festival (July 7 – 8), Shandaken Art Studio Tour (July 20 – 22), AMR Open Studios Tour (July 28 – 29), and Saugerties Artists’ Studio Tour (August 10 – 12). During the tour you will meet artists working in all artistic disciplines and styles, ask questions, and purchase directly from the artists. Participants include abstract painters Adam Cohen and Tara Bach, landscape painters Ellen Wong and Richard Kathmann, still life painter Judith Lamb, and urban realist painter Lisbeth Firmin.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, the stars of reality TV show “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” will be at Creative Corner Books in Hobart, the Book Village of the Catskills, this Sunday, June 24 from 12–1 pm, signing copies of their latest cookbook A Seat at the Table, co-written with Rose Marie Trapani.
Creative Corner Books, which carries “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills,” was featured on NBC’s Today Show in April.
Naturalist John Burroughs built his log cabin in West Park, Ulster County in 1895, in the Adirondack style. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968, the cabin retains most of its original furnishings, and is open to the public year round. Slabsides is one mile east of Riverby, Burroughs’ main residence. The naturalist wrote some of his most celebrated essays while at Slabsides. He also wrote extensively at Riverby, as well as the Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury, Delaware County, in the Western Catskill Mountains.
Since 1993 John Burroughs Association has honored authors, illustrators and publishers of nature writing by awarding three annual awards: John Burroughs Medal, John Burroughs Nature Essay Award, and Riverby Awards. The Awards Ceremony takes place every year in April at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Woodchuck Lodge, also known as John Burroughs Memorial State Historic Site, was built in the 1860s in the rustic farmhouse style, in Roxbury, Delaware County. It was Burroughs’ summer residence from 1910 to 1921. Burroughs is best known for his collections of nature essay such Wake Robin (1871), and Signs and Seasons (1886). The naturalist writer was friends with many luminaries including President Theodore Roosevelt, industrialist Henry Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, and poet Walt Whitman. Burroughs went to school with financier Jay Gould.
Born in Roxbury on April 3, 1837, he died in 1921, five days before his 84th birthday. He is buried at Boyhood Rock, where he used to play as a child, right next to the Woodchuck Lodge.
Guided tours are offered the first weekend of the month from May to October. Special events and talks are organized the first Saturday of the month, as part of the Wild Saturday series.
1633 Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury, NY 12474
For more information and current hours of operation, visit
Best-selling author Francine Prose, known for nonfiction titles like Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and Reading Like a Writer, wrote a heartfelt biography of Peggy Guggenheim, influential art collector, and early promoter of Modernism in America. Well-ahead of her time, Peggy developed a taste for the avant-garde and unconventional that followed her throughout the entire life. She altered the course of art history in an unprecedented manner by meticulously pursuing new styles and supporting emerging artists.
Born in New York City in August 1898 to a wealthy family, Peggy Guggenheim developed an interest in art at an early age. Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, perished on the Titanic in 1912, leaving Peggy with a comfortable inheritance. Her mother Florette Seligman, who came from a prominent banking family, also left Peggy with a considerable inheritance, allowing for a sophisticated, privileged lifestyle.
“A Guggenheim, or a Strauss, or a Seligman was expected to be meticulously well mannered and to avoid anything that might be considered ostentatious or vulgar,” explains Francine Prose in her biography of Peggy Guggenheim (p. 37).
As a child, Peggy traveled frequently to Europe with her mother Florette where they stayed at stylish hotels, and learned about art, French history, British literature, and German opera, explains Prose.
In 1920 Peggy moved back to Europe, “in a frenzy to see great art.” “She knew where every important painting was located and insisted on seeing them all” (p. 60).
From 1922 to 1928 Peggy was married to Laurence Vail, a French-born American playwright, novelist, and painter who belonged to the Dada movement. Peggy’s life, relates Prose, had “periods of intense travel interrupted by interludes during which she established and oversaw large bohemian households in Paris, in London, and in rural beauty spots in England and France” (p. 17).
After her failed marriage with Vail, Peggy engaged in notorious affairs with playwright Samuel Beckett, sculptor Constantin Brancusi, and Surrealist painter Max Ernst, whom she married in 1941 – the marriage would end in divorce five years later.
Peggy’s uncle Solomon Guggenheim, who also was an avid collector of modern art, might have been an inspiration to Peggy: Solomon and his mistress, artist and art advisor Baroness Hilla von Rebay opened The Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York in 1937 to display Solomon’s growing collection which included works by Kandinsky, Chagall, Picasso, and many others. As the collection kept growing, the effort eventually led to the opening of Guggenheim Museum in 1959 at its current location on Fifth Avenue in a building designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
While in Europe, Peggy opened Guggenheim Jeune gallery in London in 1938, an unfortunate time, as WWII was about to break out the following year. Peggy had traveled to Paris the year before to secure art for the opening show. She had hoped to open the gallery with an exhibition dedicated to Constantin Brancusi, but the Romanian sculptor was out of town at the time, and Peggy turned her attention to Jean Cocteau. Guggenheim Jeune opened in January 1938 with a show dedicated to Cocteau – the gallery would close in August 1939 due to the war outbreak. In fact, Peggy had plans to open an art museum in London in the fall of 1939, when the war broke, and she had to return to New York.
In June 1941 Peggy and her family sailed from Marseille to New York, bringing with them Peggy’s significant collection of modern art which included 150 works by artists such as Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Braque, Miro, Dali, Magritte, Giacometti, Brancusi, and Max Ernst, works that could have not safely remained in Europe. At first, Peggy had hoped that the Louvre Museum in Paris might have sheltered some of the works, but the museum directors considered the art “too modern to merit saving,” as Prose relates.
Back in New York, Peggy opened Art of This Century gallery, which shortly became the city’s cultural center. The gallery functioned from 1942 to 1947, when Peggy returned to Europe. Alexander Calder, Georgia O’Keefe, and Jackson Pollock frequented the space which was at once “a cultural landmark and a tourist attraction” (p. 137). Peggy helped launch Pollock’s career at Art of this Century – the artist showed four times at the gallery during its existence, and drew the attention of art critics such as Robert Coates at the New Yorker, and Clement Greenberg at The Nation.
In 1943 the gallery hosted the first exhibition of collages in the United States. Also, “among the most remarkable aspects of Art of This Century,” writes Prose, “was the unusual amount of attention paid to women artists” (p. 140). She goes on to say: “equally striking is how few of these women – Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, and Leonora Carrington – went on to develop careers and reputations remotely approaching those of their male contemporaries” (p. 141).
In addition to promoting emergent artists, as Prose relates, the gallery “was used as a background for fashion shoots in Vogue and Glamour, and was the subject of a photo feature in the New York Times Magazine” (p. 138).
In 1946, when Peggy was 48 years old, she published her memoir Out of This Century, which Prose calls “a remarkable document.” “It is hard to think of an important visual artist from the first half of the twentieth century who does not appear in its pages, in the company of an impressive number of celebrated novelists, memoirists, and poets” (p. 11). Several pages are dedicated to Peggy’s “battle to acquire Brancusi’s Bird in Space.”
In 1947 Peggy returned to Europe, and bought Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni in Venice. Her collection was swiftly included in the 24th Venice Biennale in 1948, one of the most prestigious art shows in the world. Afterwards, the collection traveled to Florence, Milan, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Zurich, before returning to Venice in 1951, and being permanently housed at Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni. Among luminaries spending time with Peggy while in Venice, Prose mentions Surrealist painter Marc Chagall, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and experimental composer John Cage.