Category: News

Paint The Town

As its first post-pandemic program, AMR Artists Inc. presents Paint The Town, a series of five events spanning over five months (from June to October), and taking place in a different town each month: Arkville – June 26; Roxbury – July 24; Halcottsville – August 14; Fleischmanns – September 5; and Margaretville – October 9. The fee for participating artists is $25 for all five dates. The artists can also sign up the day of the event.

This Saturday, July 24 from 10 am to 1 pm, artists will be painting at the Gould Church on Main Street in Roxbury. The location will be marked with colorful balloons to make it easy for visitors to find the artists. At 1 pm there will be a gathering to discuss the artworks produced throughout the day.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Andre

The organizers feel that this is an opportunity for the community to witness the creation of new works of art en plein air, and engage with the participating artists. 

Launched in 2012 as AMR Open Art Studios Tour, AMR Artists incorporated in 2020, the year of the pandemic, as a non-profit organization to better serve the community of artists active in the Arkville, Margaretville and Roxbury area of the Central Catskills, upstate New York.

This program is made possible in part with funds from the Community Foundation of South Central New York, and the Delaware County Department of Economic Development.

COVID restrictions apply. For updates and guidelines visit the website at https://www.amropenstudios.org/

Pandemic Art – Heartfelt Stories from The Catskills

by Simona David

“I have a feeling that in art the need to understand and the need to communicate are one,” remarked Hedda Sterne, revered Surrealist painter. 

Coming out of a 14-month once in a century pandemic, we take a moment to reflect on this monumental experience and make sense of the changes we have witnessed around us thus far.

Artists have extraordinary perceptual abilities, an attribute that Marshall McLuhan referred to as “integral awareness,” something that will guide us through the process of re-gaining meaning in a post-pandemic world. Societal forces play their role as well in influencing the artistic product from idea to execution and reception of the artwork in the field as the artist and his or her social surroundings are interdependent.

The pandemic took a year out of our otherwise normal life – everything was turned upside down. The unexpected circumstance changed our mindset, and forced us to adapt like never before. It also provided the sudden opportunity to slow down and re-think priorities. The post-pandemic world will look a lot different than the pre-pandemic one.

But how exactly does the art world respond to this colossal transformation in our life? In her seminal book “Meaning and Expression: Toward a Sociology of Art,” first published in Germany in 1967, Hanna Levy Deinhard exemplarily illustrated how humans are able to distinguish in a work of art its visual expression from its meaning. While visual expression however remains relatively constant over time, its meaning is subject to change. Deinhard strived to reconcile the everlasting contradiction in art between the artwork as a timeless object and the artwork as an expression of its time. 

With that in mind, we spoke with prominent Catskills artists to learn about their experience during the pandemic and how that might have impacted their creative life.


Brian Tolle (sculptor)

The pandemic and all the chaos that it created gave rise to a different mindset for many of us. On the one hand we were intensively connected to the world, unified in the global effort to control and contain the virus. On the other hand, were in lockdown, limited to our immediate cohabitants guarding ourselves from our families, friends, colleagues and neighbors. My time was spent obsessing over the news and worrying about my loved ones. That said there was little or no time for thinking about art. For the first time in my twenty-five-year career the mere thought of making ART felt gratuitous. However, I greatly respect and appreciate the work that so many artist friends produced during this most difficult time. I alas, did not, could not. What I did do was to reflect on what it meant to be an artist and art educator. My resolve for both pursuits is stronger than ever. Creative thinking is essential for the health and survival of humanity.    

Recently I have begun to focus my energies locally, inspired by the communities that I live among. My work has always been engaged with history and my sights are currently on the history of the Catskills; the place my partner and I call home. More specifically I am studying the history of Roxbury, where I have a studio. Of particular interest are the lives and careers of John Burroughs and Jay Gould, two men who grew up in this place at the same time but pursued very different careers. Burroughs the great naturalist and Gould the capitalist represent very different world views that continue to shape the nation and the world that we inhabit.


Amy Masters (painter)

In a Field, 24”x 24” oil on canvas, 2020

My most recent body of work centers around the idea of home and shelter. I had been exploring the iconic ‘house’ shape for many months, experimenting with its form and how accessible and recognizable it can be. When the pandemic forced so many of us inside and often isolated us, the house paintings took on a new and deeper meaning for me and pushed the work even further. The house became a symbol of safety; a shelter that protects but also isolates.


Gail Freund (painter, illustrator, and embroiderer)  

Catskill Beauty page from fabric Verso-Recto book, fabric paint and embroidery floss on linen, 8″ x 18″, 2020

It has been an unchartered time. Terribly sad, isolating, yet interesting. I was fortunate to have moved to the Catskills from New York City in 2016 and had already been familiar with leading a remote life in this beautiful region. Over the past year I had been missing social interaction and community, however. Pre-pandemic, I was working on a fabric book project called Verso-Recto at The Pine Hill Community Center. A few artists including Hedi Kyle and myself were meeting there regularly to work on our books. The pandemic put a stop to those meetings, but I continued to work independently at home. Because the book is heavily embroidered, I used to jokingly call it my “security blanket”. On the bright side, this was a rare occasion to literally have more time on my hands. Working on the book was meditative and handily portable. For three months last summer I had to take care of my 93-year-old mother in Long Island. It felt great to be able to bring this project with me.  


Lisbeth Firmin (painter)

Waiting, 16″ x 20″ oil on wood panel, 2020

When the pandemic first hit, when we shut down in March 2020, I was stunned and afraid like everybody else. We did not know anything about Covid, and the panic about that combined with the isolation bred fear and anxiety. I was working on a few paintings for my gallery on the Cape, and for a while I continued to do that. But after those paintings were finished, I just did not do that much. I would go to the studio – I was very lucky that I was able to do that. My building was empty, and I was the only one there. So, I would just go there and read the news, and sit and worry. All my workshops and exhibitions were cancelled. My art income was gone. Then in the fall, I started a new series of oils. I have painted through so many tough times. I will continue to do so.  


Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes (textile artist)

Verso-Recto Tapestry, Book Project with Catskilled Crafters, 2019 – 2020

2020-2021 has been a time of great challenge for me. My husband fell critically ill last fall and winter, and I had very little time to spend in the studio and create new work. In the midst of such upheaval, I have been blessed however to be visited by producer Jan Albert and filmmaker Kent Garrett who interviewed me for “Catskilled Crafters” as part of a series hosted by The Pine Hill Community Center called “Getting to Know Your Neighbors.” The presentation is posted on my website at VIDEO: Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes Studio Visit | Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes Studio where people can learn more about my work as a weaver.


Alan Powell (media artist)

Mutation, 3″ x 3″, video graphic 2020

In May of 2020 I was asked by a colleague from Buffalo, NY, Dorothea Braemer, to take part in a global project to document our dream during the Covid pandemic. Many of us were having intense dreams due to the stress of the pandemic and the isolation that we were feeling. There were about twenty initial participants from as far away as Bulgaria and Arizona. These dreams were to be produced as video projects. I put together a team of ten former and current students to work on a 30-minute narrative called “A vacation in Covidville”. The narrative centered on two young women taking a road trip during the Pandemic. One woman was a rock and roller looking for her next gig. The other woman was a revolutionary looking for a home for her revolution. They would stop at homes along the way. Each home housed a dream. In the fall of 2020, I made collages from the dreams and showed them in a popup exhibition that was hung in the store windows in the town of Stamford, NY. The ad-hoc collective included artists such as Nat Thomas, Elaine Mayes, Amy Masters, and others. One such dream is what I titled Corona Diary #15, posted on Vimeo along with other videos that I created in the past year.


Nursing Home Pantoum  
By Sharon Israel 

I call to hear my mother’s voice  
She eats so little, drinks Ensure    
So sorry I can’t visit now 
We say I love you at the end    

She eats so little, drinks Ensure
I keep disaster from my voice
We say I love you at the end
She worries that I’m not all right 

I keep disaster from my voice
I hear fear in every word
She worries that I’m not all right 
Everyone’s so strange here  

I hear fear in every word
I’m in a hospital, she thinks
Everyone’s so strange here
Nursing staff wear bunny suits. 

I’m in a hospital, she thinks
Friends disappear from the dining room 
Nursing staff wear bunny suits
The dead visit her in dreams 

Friends disappear from the dining room
I call to hear my mother’s voice
The dead visit her in dreams 
So sorry I can’t visit now 

This poem first appeared in the May 2020 issue of Chronogram magazine. The pantoum, a form from 15th century Malaysia, consists of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza.  The last line is the same as the first.  Poet Sharon Israel used it in her poem for its repetitive and incantatory qualities. Her mother died on June 28th, 2021 at the age of 99 and a half.  

Women Take Center Stage in Museums This Year

As we’re coming out of the pandemic, 2021 appears to be a year dedicated to women in the arts as several museums and art centers in Europe and the United States are hosting programs devoted to female artists, far too long left out of the history books.

Hedda Sterne, Chandelier, 1945, oil on canvas, 38 in. x 32 in. Source: The Hedda Sterne Foundation

When speaking with art historians and scholars, the often-cited reasons that left women behind were: they had no access to education, they were living reclusive lives and did not have as much access to sources of inspiration as men, women painters were not accepted in art shows and museums, they also did not sign their paintings, and finally they were deliberately left out.  

In recent years books were written to correct that, including The Trouble with Women Artists by Laure Adler and Camille Vieville, published in 2019, and Broad Strokes by Bridget Quinn, published in 2017. They provide a wider perspective on the significant achievements and contributions made by women in the arts.

Earlier this year the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam included for the first time ever works by women artists in the Gallery of Honor, alongside works by 17th century Dutch Golden Age masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Frans Hals. Paintings by Judith Leyster, Gesina ter Borch, and Rachel Ruysch are now exhibited in the Gallery of Honor as a move by the Museum to highlight women’s contribution to Dutch cultural history.  

Musée du Luxembourg in Paris is hosting the exhibition “Peintres Femmes 1780 – 1830”, which includes seventy paintings by forty female painters, most notably Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, both members of the famous l’Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (the precursor of the Louvre Museum), and Marguerite Gérard, the sister-in-law of Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Curated by Martine Lacas, the exhibition can also be explored virtually. 


Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, 1872, oil on canvas, 38.50 in. x 27.75 in. Source: Wikipedia

Centre Pompidou is hosting the exhibition “Women in Abstraction” featuring one hundred and six artists, and more than five hundred works dating from the 1860s to the 1980s in various disciplines. Included in this exhibition are works by Louise Bourgeois, Barbara Hepworth, Verena Loewensberg, and many others. Centre Pompidou is also hosting an online class through June this year, free of charge, titled Elles font l’art and presenting a different history of modern art, one that focuses on women artists in the 20th and 21st centuries. This class is held in French.   

In New York, of course, there is a long tradition of women being active in the art world going back to Sarah Cole, the sister of Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School of Painting (Luminism); Georgia O’Keeffe (Modernism) – married to photographer Alfred Stieglitz, O’Keeffe enjoyed painting Lake George where she vacationed extensively; and Hedda Sterne (Surrealism), who was married to The New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg – both Sterne and Steinberg were born in Bucharest but met in New York.

In 2019 the exhibition “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future” hosted by Guggenheim attracted more than 600,000 attendees, becoming the museum’s most visited show in its 60-year history, according to Artsy. This year, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting “Alice Neel: People Come First”, a retrospective that positions Neel as a radical painter, champion of social justice. 

Art in the Catskills has consistently featured works by women artists who have maintained studios in the Catskill Mountains including Amy Masters, Ann Lee Fuller, Ellen Wong, Helene Manzo, June Lanigan, Lisbeth Firmin, Molly Rausch, and many others.

 See below Gallery of selected works.  

Kaatscast Podcast with Writers In The Mountains and Silver Hollow Audio – Promoting the Culture of the Catskills

Listen to this week’s Kaatscast podcast to learn about arts and culture in the Catskills, creative writing and publishing with Simona David, Sharon Israel, Anique Sara Taylor, and Leslie T. Sharpe, authors affiliated with Writers In The Mountains (WIM). Kaatscast is a biweekly podcast produced by Silver Hollow Audio delivering history, travel guides, arts and culture, outdoor adventures, sustainability news and local interviews from New York’s Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley. Celebrate the Catskills with Kaatscast!

https://anchor.fm/kaatscast/episodes/Writers-in-the-Mountains-er29qu/a-a4odqig

Simona David is a media consultant, author of How Art Is Made: In the Catskills (2017), and former president of Writers In The Mountains (2012 – 2019), currently working as an advisor to the Board. Her website is simonadavid.com. 

Sharon Israel hosts the radio show Planet Poet-Words in Space on WIOX 91.3 FM (WIOXradio.org) in the Catskills, and hosts a podcast by the same name (available on Spotify, Apple iTunes and Google Play, and on her website at sharonisraelpoet.com). Sharon’s debut chapbook Voice Lesson was published in 2017 by Post Traumatic Press. She was a 2020 “quarterly challenge” winner in four lines Poetry and Art Magazine online at https://www.4lines.art/challenge/winners . Sharon has served on the Writers In The Mountains’Board of Directors for over a decade.

Anique Sara Taylor is the author of Where Space Bends published in May 2020 by Finishing Lines Press. Her works have appeared in Rattle, Common Ground Review, Adanna, Earth’s Daughters, St. Marks Poetry Project’s The World, and many anthologies. She has co-authored works for HBO, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and others. Anique holds an MFA in Poetry from Drew University, an MFA in Drawing from Pratt Institute, and a Diplôme from the Sorbonne University in Paris. An award-winning artist, Anique’s paintings have been featured in numerous museums and galleries throughout the tri-state area. She teaches creative writing for Writers In The Mountains and Bard LLI.

Leslie T. Sharpe is an author, editor, and educator. She began her editing career at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and is currently an editorial consultant specializing in literary nonfiction, literary fiction, and poetry. A member of PEN American Center, she is the author of Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing (Cambridge University Press, 1994), which is regarded as a “modern editing classic” and “On Writing Smart: Tips and Tidbits,” featured in The Business of Writing (Allworth, 2012).  Leslie has been a regular contributor to Newsday’s “Urban ‘I’” column, and her essays and articles have appeared in a variety of publications including the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Global City Review, International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, New York Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, and Village Voice; The Villager; The Writer; and Psychology Today. Her latest book The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills, a lyric narrative look at the wild animals of the Catskill Mountains, was published by The Overlook Press in the spring of 2017. The Quarry Fox audiobook was published by Silver Hollow Audio in June 2020. Leslie has taught writing and editing at Columbia University, New York University and the City College of New York as well as Writers In The Mountains.

Writers In The Mountains (WIM) was founded almost three decades ago in Roxbury to promote literary arts in the Catskills and beyond. Over the years the organization has grown into a major cultural force in the region by significantly expanding its programs and outreach. In addition to its core mission, to offer creative writing workshops year-round, WIM has ventured into other arenas as well, by hosting a popular annual Literary Festival and a quarterly Literary Salon that bring together a variety of publishing professionals: whether be writers, illustrators, editors, literary agents, educators, consultants, and publishers.

Writers In The Mountains promotes literary arts while at the same time builds community. 

The pandemic however has forced the organization to re-invent itself. After New York went into lockdown in the spring of 2020, WIM took a pause, then re-emerged with a series of online programs that catapulted the organization into the national limelight virtually overnight. Once the programs were moved online, nationally recognized professionals from all over were able to participate, in addition to local communities in the Catskills, Hudson Valley, and New York City metropolitan area. Consequently, our literary community has grown bigger and moreover happier, because we get to learn from one another, and grow professionally at a different pace, which makes the experience ever more fulfilling.

WIM PROGRAMS:

  • CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOPS
Self-Publishing Workshop with Simona David

WIM offers creative writing workshops year-round with established professionals and covers anything from creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and publishing advice. For instance, this year WIM has offered for the first time a Micro-Memoir workshop taught by Linda Lowen, a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly – participants learn how to submit stories to The New York Times’ Tiny Love column. Several have already been published. 

  • WRITERS UNBOUND ANNUAL CATSKILLS LITERARY FESTIVAL
Keynote Speaker Jenny Milchman in 2015

Launched in 2014, the festival had been taking place every year in the spring at Union Grove Distillery in Arkville. In 2020 the festival was canceled due to the pandemic. Beth Lisick, a New York Times bestselling author, was scheduled to be the keynote speaker; Beth is also an actress – she has appeared at the Cannes Film Festival and other events. Silver Hollow Audio was scheduled to be on the Publishing Panel to address the rise of audiobooks. The festival has been a great opportunity for authors to network and have a platform. 

  • RANDOM CONTEXT LITERARY SALON
Carrie Bradley Neves at the Literary Salon

A few years ago, WIM launched a literary salon to give writers taking its workshops the opportunity to share their work with the public, and also give the community a chance to get to know the writers. In between readings, there were opportunities to mingle, exchange ideas, and make connections. The pandemic has put this successful program on pause as well. It will be revived with a series of online readings.

  • PARTNERSHIPS WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
Leslie T. Sharpe at the Catskill Interpretive Center presenting “The Arts Converge” in 2017

Over the years WIM has partnered with other organizations in the region to enrich the Catskills cultural life. In 2017, for instance, WIM hosted a series of Artist – Writer Talks called “The Arts Converge – Mutual Muses in the Catskills” in partnership with the Catskill Center. There were writers in conversation with visual artists or music composers to a great effect. In 2018 WIM hosted a series of workshops and readings at the Zadock Pratt Museum in Prattsville, partly funded by Poets and Writers, and New York State Council on the Arts. Leslie taught a nature writing workshop, Simona taught an art writing workshop, and Sharon performed music and poetry with composer Robert Cucinotta. That was a perfect example of synergetic artistic endeavors.

  • UPCOMING LITERARY JOURNAL                                                                       

WIM is currently working on launching a literary journal dedicated to authors who have an affiliation with the organization. More details will be revealed soon. Read about Writers In The Mountains at writersinthemountains.org.

BOOK RELEASE: The Zadock Pratt Museum Coloring Book

The Zadock Pratt Museum has just released a coloring book for adults, essentially a collection of historical quilts accompanied by text and drawings that provide a unique perspective of the region’s settlement history. Inspired by the 2018 exhibition titled “Undercover Stories,” the book was funded by The A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation and The Nicholas J. Juried Family Foundation. The exhibition, the brainchild of Carolyn Bennett, the Museum’s Executive Director, included thirteen quilts, all of which are also included in the book along with an additional thirteen from the Museum’s historical textile collection. All text and drawings are by Suzanne M. Walsh, who curated the 2018 exhibition. The Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave assisted with fact checking. The book is endorsed by Dr. Michelle Delaney, Assistant Director for History and Culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, among other notable endorsements. 

After the 2018 exhibition closed, there was a spontaneous desire to keep the quilt stories alive, which is how the coloring book idea came about in 2020. The preservation work to keep the quilts intact is a tedious process that requires re-folding in acid free paper every three to six months. Volunteers at the Museum help keep the tradition alive. There is a vibrant community of quilters in the area that met regularly before the pandemic. They often helped at the Museum with the preservation efforts.  

Quilting has been described by scholars as “the art of necessity.” When textiles were scarce, women patched old blankets, coverlets, and table runners with cloth they had available and ready to use. European settlers brought this practice to the New World, and it flourished here and took on a new life. A utilitarian activity at first, quilting did eventually become an American folk art. American Folk Art Museum in New York City has an impressive textile collection, and has begun the New York Quilt Project to locate, document, preserve, and create an archive for New York State quilts. Dr. Jacqueline M. Atkins, a curator who worked at the Folk Art Museum, wrote the introduction for the The Zadock Pratt Museum Coloring Book, and shared “the thrill of the hunt, as one is never sure just what new and exciting quilts, patterns, and designs will turn up in addition to renewing acquaintances with many old favorites.”     

As part of her research, Walsh was able to date the quilts and also found fascinating details about their making. During the Civil War, the region stopped using cotton from the South and that is when imported cotton was largely introduced to the Catskill Mountains. After studying the quilts, Walsh felt inspired to draw them in a way that best reflects their personality. “The art dictated itself,” she explains. She followed the thread and each quilt led to a different approach and style whether whimsical, serious, or as a cartoon. For each quilt Walsh had to make the decision whether to use pen or ink, or what other approach the style might have required. They are all different and carry fascinating stories.


© Zadock Pratt Museum

For instance, the Lost Ships quilt cover was made in 1893 by Frankie Drum, a thirteen-year-old girl who learned the art of quilting from her grandmother. Quilting was a required skill for girls in the Catskills around that time. The project took two years to complete and includes 8,460 individual little pieces of fabric. If you look closely, you will see a horseman depicted in one of the patterns, suggesting Frankie’s love for horses.

© Zadock Pratt Museum

The Crazy Quilt bedcover resembles a Surrealist painting by Marc Chagall, who incidentally had a studio in the Catskills in the 1940s. The “crazy quilt” pattern reached the height of its popularity in the 1890s, the Gilded Age in America, when the industry provided an immense variety of fabric choices in color, prints, and textures. Dr. Atkins, a quilt expert, explains that American women’s fascination with the crazy quilt was inspired by the Japanese kimono which was introduced to the American public at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia. 

© Zadock Pratt Museum

Another popular pattern throughout the 1800s was the octagon. The Octagon quilt included in the book is made of 352 individual octagonal pieces in different colors and patterns. As Walsh explains, the octagon has held a spiritual significance for centuries signifying “the infinity of eternal rebirth.” The octagonal shaped houses also gained in popularity around the same time, and there is still one in existence not too far from the Pratt Museum.

From 2013 until 2020 Walsh had been tour guide, exhibition designer, curator, and archivist at the Zadock Pratt Museum. Undergraduate work in the arts and post-graduate work in early childhood education, including American Montessori certification, became her background credits for the many years in the professional theatre world that followed, working both on stage and behind the scenes in costuming, scene building, playwriting and children’s puppet theatre production. Walsh’s life-long love for fabrics, their history and women’s fashion has coalesced in her serendipitous collaboration with all the people who had an impact on the Pratt Museum’s Historical Quilting Designs Coloring Book. She sums up her experience in one attitude-altering sentence: “Every single one of these wonderful quilts really deserves a history book unto itself.” Walsh is currently working as an independent artist, author and art history consultant.

The book is available at the following retailers: Blooms & Fabrics in Margaretville; Roxbury General in Roxbury; Carrot Barn–Schoharie Valley Farms in Schoharie; The Conglomerate in Middleburgh; Catskill Mountain Country Store in Windham; Windham Pharmacy in Windham; Taconic Orchards in Hudson; Mahalo Gift Shop in Catskill; Plaid Palette in Cherry Valley; The Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave; The Jefferson Historical Society in Jefferson; The Gilboa Museum and Nicholas J. Juried History Center in Gilboa; What The Soap & Company in Prattsville; Young’s Ace Hardware in Prattsville; Prattsville Diner, and the Zadock Pratt Museum.

The book can be ordered by phone at (518) 299-3395, email at prattmuseum@hotmail.com, or mail at Pratt Museum, PO Box 333, Prattsville, NY 12468. To learn more, visit zadockprattmuseum.org.

Micro-Memoir with Linda Lowen

Writers in the Mountains (WIM) presents Micro-Memoir, a six-week long workshop with Linda Lowen, January 8 – February 12, 2021. The class will be held online Fridays, from 10 am to 12 noon. Once they register and pay, participants will be given instructions on how to join the class.

Memoir doesn’t have to cover decades to tell a story. Sometimes a single moment, vividly depicted, illuminates a life. If you’ve wanted to write memoir but are overwhelmed at the immensity of the task—or you’re already writing but need a fresh approach—consider micro memoir. The smaller format can be freeing, allowing you to focus on an event that serves as a microcosm of the larger experience. In this workshop you’ll write short 200-word pieces and discover less is more. Weeks 5 and 6 we’ll focus on Tiny Love Stories, relationship tales of 100 words or less, and you’ll come away with one piece suitable to submit to the New York Times column of the same name.

A book reviewer for Publishers Weekly, Linda’s nonfiction has been published in the New York Times and is forthcoming in “Tiny Love Stories: True Tales of Love in 100 Words or Less” from Artisan Books in December.  Her writing advice has appeared in The Writer and Writer’s Digest magazines. She teaches creative nonfiction at the Downtown Writer’s Center in Syracuse, NY, and has led workshops at the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival and HippoCamp, the annual CNF conference sponsored by Hippocampus magazine. Her website is lindalowen.com

To register, e-mail writersinthemountains@gmail.com. To register online, visit writersinthemountains.org. Class fee is $100, if you register and pay by December 18, and $125 after that.

Writers in the Mountains is a 501 ( c ) (3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to provide a nurturing environment for the practice, appreciation and sharing of creative writing. Learn more at writersinthemountains.org.

Prattsville Clews – A Case Study by Clover Archer

The Zadock Pratt Museum in collaboration with Prattsville Art Center presents Prattsville Clews – A Case Study by Clover Archer, an online exhibition exploring micro or granular histories – small ordinary moments in everyday lives that fill in the vast amount of time around lifetime milestones or what is more generally considered “important.”

In the summer of 2019, as an artist in residence at the Prattsville Art Center, Clover Archer worked closely with the Zadock Pratt Museum to learn more about the history of the area. During this time, she met with Prattsville citizens who generously shared their family histories, stories, photographs, and memorabilia. While meeting with local residents, the artist made notations on large family tree charts documenting their stories as the Prattsvillian contributors reminisced. The artist calls these small human histories “clews.” Our contemporary word “clue” is derived from the word “clew,” originally meaning a ball of yarn or thread. In one Greek myth a “clew” or ball of yarn is used to lead the way out of a labyrinth, which is how we have come to understand the word to mean something that leads to a solution or an answer. Thinking of the labyrinth as a metaphor for life, the artist considers these granular histories to be the moments that lead us through the maze of our existence – guiding the way and filling the time between the more memorable and more commonly documented occasions. Based on this information, the artist has created a series of graphite drawings illustrating a small sampling of the clews that are connected to Prattsville. These small details are both particular to Prattsville and yet not geographically specific. Looking at these illustrations of the ordinary (i.e., a broom, a sled, a car, a cow, etc.), we all have associations with them – we see them as familiar and share the humanity of the small particulars. All drawings are 8 x 10 inches, graphite on paper, made in 2019 and 2020.

The project is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and by public funds from the Greene County Legislature through the Cultural Fund administered in Greene County by CREATE/Greene County Council on the Arts, the O’Connor Foundation, New York University, and others.

Visit the exhibition online at https://zadockprattmuseum.org/prattsville-clews-exhibition/

Book Release: Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days by Nina Shengold

Shengold Book Cover

Author: Nina Shengold

Title: Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days

Publisher: Syracuse University Press

ISBN: 978-0-8156-3696-0 (hardcover)

978-0-8156-1124-0 (paperback)

978-0-8156-5507-7 (e-book)

Release Date: June 15, 2020

 

Art:

Cover Painting: Kate McGloughlin

Map and Line Drawings: Will Lytle

Hand-Colored Linocuts: Carol Zaloom

 

Catskills author Nina Shengold’s latest book Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days will be released by Syracuse University Press on June 15, 2020. Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days chronicles a year in Shengold’s life, from September 15, 2015 to September 15, 2016, when the author took daily walks along the Ashokan Reservoir, a place that she describes as “an ideal reflecting pool for the Catskill High Peaks.” As she was approaching sixty, the author embarked on a journey of self-discovery and re-connection with nature no further than her own backyard, where she finds the Ashokan Reservoir – throughout the book she fondly refers to the reservoir as “the res”.

In Shengold’s own words:“My reservoir year was a treasure, a gift that keeps giving. I didn’t know it at the time, but that sweet span of days from one September to the next was the only year I could have fulfilled the commitment I made to myself, a restorative pause between wearing the mantles of caregiving mother and caregiving daughter. The Ashokan landscape is a part of me now, a deep well of peace I return to in times of stress and hold in reserve for the times I’ll go back there to grieve; a reservoir in every sense of the word.”

Partly meditation and partly nature diary, the book highlights the importance of being outdoors and re-connecting with self. The author took her daily walks regardless of weather and mood, holidays, birthdays, and celebrations. Sometimes she was accompanied by family or friends, but most of the time she was alone. From time to time she encountered other strollers which she meticulously describes in her book. Shengold’s daily recollections depict nature, people, moods, thoughts, and errands and activities that are on Shengold’s timetable at the time, as she goes about her daily life; the experience is juxtaposed with intermissions to take trips to New York City or attend other social functions, all between taking care of aging parents and spending time with a loving daughter. Adventures and unexpected turns intercede, as it often happens in life.

The book is structured as a chronicle of 367 days – fall, winter, spring, and summer. “The Ashokan is a different kind of gorgeous in every season, in every kind of weather and light,” Shengold recollects. Without taking any pictures or notes, the author immersed herself in this daily experience, only to write about it later. In her diary, some days are full of observations, whereas others are reduced to one single line.

The Ashokan Reservoir was built in the early 1900s when twelve local communities were displaced to make room for this wondrous construction needed to bring mountain water to New York City. The Ashokan is one of several such reservoirs built in the Catskills. The name “Ashokan” comes from Algonkian and can be translated as a “place of many fish.”

Shengold’s observations from Day 9, on September 23, 2015 at 6:50 pm include: “Sun already behind the ridge, air cool and breeze up. I notice the curves of the mountains, even the distant ones, are saw-toothed with individual treetops. But the star attraction tonight is the eastern sky, in soft rainbow stripes—indigo, lavender, pink, amber, gold—and floating above all that color, a startlingly bright moon, already past half.”

Another day reads like this:

“Day 11. September 25, 7:25 pm I drive to the res straight from teaching. Two roller-derby girls in full combat gear—sleek black catsuits, sculpted helmets, red knee pads—sail off the path and circle the empty parking lot, using the wide space to practice. They skate backward, drop into low crouches, do lunges and tango-like dance steps. Both of them laughing, enjoying their badass moves. Then they step out of their skates and remove their protective gear, loading it into the backseat one piece at a time as they chat about haircuts, blow dryers, and Rite Aid reward cards. They get smaller and blander as each piece of armor comes off. Come back, roller ninjas!”

On Day 14, September 28, 6:20 pm, Shengold explains her method: “I don’t have many ground rules for this, but I don’t carry paper and pad when I’m walking. I notice whatever I notice, and memorize a few keywords to help me remember. Here are today’s: heron cloak veil stillness alchemy. Which is either a very short poem or dialogue you might hear from a tarot reader at a Woodstock bar.”

A single line describes the day of October 3, 2015: “Day 19. October 3, 9:55 am Ghost mountains, gray on gray. Cold, wet, and blustery.”

Day 173, March 5, 2015 at 6 pm includes a visit to John Burroughs’s log cabin at Slabsides, a National Historic Landmark:

“Born in Roxbury, high in the Great Western Catskills, the young Burroughs taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the relocated village of Olivebridge, less than a mile from the Ashokan dam. He went on to write hundreds of essays on nature and literature, publishing twenty-three books between 1861 and his death in 1921. It occurs to me for the first time how he saw these valleys change, as one reservoir after another was built on the fast-moving streams he had paddled and fished.”

The motto of Shengold’s book is in fact a quote from John Burroughs’s Signs and Seasons: “The place to observe nature is where you are; the walk to take today is the walk you took yesterday. You will not find just the same things: both the observed and the observer have changed.”

Burroughs, the founder of nature writing in America, is best known for his collections of nature essays Wake Robin (1871), and Signs and Seasons (1886). He is also known for his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt, industrialist Henry Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, and poet Walt Whitman. Burroughs is buried at Boyhood Rock, next to the Woodchuck Lodge, which served as his summer residence in Roxbury from 1910 until his death in 1921.

In the Afterword, Shengold reminisces about how the reservoir had changed her over the course of one magical year of daily walks: “I’m calmer. I found an oasis, a daily routine. In the same way I once used to walk my dog, I walk myself. I’ve learned that the days I resist going out are exactly the days when I need it the most. I lost some, not all, of the “pregnancy weight” I’d carried for twenty years. My eyes opened wider; I pay more attention to details. I can find more constellations in the night sky. I recognize more plants and birdcalls, the flight silhouettes of different raptors. I’m better at guessing how soon it will rain, what kinds of clouds will yield what kind of sunset. I’ve learned that dawn, sunset, and twilight unfold over time. The practice of learning to notice goes on and on. It’s connected me to this particular place, to the cycle of seasons, and to the earth we all share.”

Shengold’s previous books include the novel Clearcut (Anchor Books), River of Words: Portraits of Hudson Valley Writers (SUNY Press, with photographer Jennifer May), and fourteen theatre anthologies for Vintage Books and Viking Penguin, many coedited with Eric Lane. She won the Writers Guild Award for her teleplay Labor of Love and the ABC Playwright Award for Homesteaders. Her plays are published by Playscripts, Broadway Play Publishing, and Samuel French; War at Home: Students Respond to 9/11, written with Nicole Quinn and the Rondout Valley High School Drama Club, has been produced around the world. Shengold has profiled more than 150 writers for Chronogram, Poets & Writers, and Vassar Quarterly. She’s a founding member of the theatre company Actors & Writers, author series Word Café, and Hudson Valley Writers Resist. A graduate of Wesleyan University, Shengold has taught at Manhattanville College and the University of Maine, and currently teaches creative writing at Vassar College. She was born in Brooklyn, grew up in New Jersey, escaped to Alaska, and now lives and works in the foothills of New York’s Catskill Mountains.

Reservoir Year: A Walker’s Book of Days expounds the transformative power of making a commitment and sticking to it. There is reward in that, as the author herself discovers throughout her journey. The book is an invitation to find our own “Ashokan Reservoir,” a place of magic that will engage our senses and awaken our spirit.

To purchase the book, visit Syracuse University Press.

The Quarry Fox: And Other Critters of the Wild Catskills Audiobook to Be Released in June

First published by The Overlook Press in 2017, The Quarry Fox earned rave reviews. From the New York Times: “A poignant and modern reminder of untamed creatures so close to home.”

Audio Book Cover

From Library Journal: “This engaging portrait of the Catskill wilderness will appeal to nature enthusiasts of all stripes.”

Silver Hollow Audio will be releasing the audiobook edition of The Quarry Fox narrated by the author herself in June this year.

Leslie T. Sharpe is an author, editor, and educator. She began her editing career at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and is currently an editorial consultant specializing in literary nonfiction, literary fiction, and poetry. A member of PEN American Center, she is the author of Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing (Cambridge University Press, 1994), which is regarded as a “modern editing classic” and “On Writing Smart: Tips and Tidbits,” featured in The Business of Writing (Allworth, 2012).  Leslie has been a regular contributor to Newsday’s “Urban ‘I’” column, and her essays and articles have appeared in a variety of publications including the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Global City Review, International Herald Tribune, New York Times, New York Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, and Village Voice; The Villager; The Writer; and Psychology Today. Her latest book The Quarry Fox and Other Critters of the Wild Catskills, a lyric narrative look at the wild animals of the Catskill Mountains, was published by The Overlook Press in the spring of 2017. Her poems for children have appeared in Ladybug Magazine. Leslie has taught writing and editing at Columbia University, New York University and the City College of New York.

To learn more, read our interview conducted with Sharpe in 2016, included in our book How Art Is Made: In The Catskills, published in 2017:

https://artinthecatskills.com/2016/11/30/featured-artist-leslie-t-sharpe/

Book Release: Where Space Bends by Anique Sara Taylor

Anique Taylor

Where Space Bends by Anique Sara Taylor will be released in May by Finishing Line Press.

To pre-order, go to https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/where-space-bends-by-anique-sara-taylor/

Taylor’s work has appeared in Rattle, Common Ground Review, Adanna, Stillwater Review, Earth’s Daughters among others. She’s co-authored works for HBO, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and a three-act play that was performed by Playwrights Horizons and Williamstown Playhouse. In 2014 her chapbook version of Where Space Bends was chosen Finalist by both Minerva Rising and Blue Light Press’ Chapbook Competitions. In 2015 her book Under the Ice Moon was chosen Finalist by Blue Light Press’ Chapbook Competition. She holds a Poetry MFA (Drew University), Literature Diplome (The Sorbonne, Paris), a Painting BFA (Highest Honors/Pratt) and Drawing MFA (Pratt Institute) and studied Literature at Antioch College. She studied Poetry at St. Mark’s Poetry Project with Alice Notley and Bernadette Mayer. She teaches/taught Creative Writing for Benedictine Hospital’s Oncology Support Program, the Phoenicia Poetry Workshop, Bard LLI and Writers in the Mountains.

To learn more about Taylor’s work, read our interview conducted in 2016: https://artinthecatskills.com/2016/12/03/featured-artist-anique-taylor/

Follow Taylor at https://aniquesarataylor.com/