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Beacon: City of Creatives


Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:06 pm

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The Local 845 brand of music occurs in the places like the high-ceilinged, intimate Howland Cultural Center (listed on the National Historic Register), suited for both classical voices and a foot-stomping, washboard-playing jug band. At The Piggy Bank, acts like Brooklyn-based Milton sing out evenly textured thunder while local goddess Margaret McDuffie sings listeners back down with her opalescent waterfall. Zuzu’s Leaf & Bean is also a vital source, allowing hipsters and families alike to enjoy anywhere from gypsy hardcore to transcendental techno-jazz. The Spire Studios artists complex on the west end commands attentive reverence in a space reminiscent of a Brooklyn-style industrial loft.

The fecundity of music on any given weekend night transforms Main Street into what freelance PR consultant and Beacon newcomer Summer Hixson calls a “bustling little circuit.” She describes the excitement of being at an art opening, aware that soon she’ll have to leave for shows playing simultaneously. Hixson is the PR arm of a high-powered volunteer team that is currently working on the inaugural Beacon Riverfest. This “American Folk Rock Festival” is the brainchild of Local 845 and will fill Riverfront Park on June 26. Although the festival will include headlining acts from outside Beacon—including The Fleshtones, Tracy Bonham, and Yarn—the goal of the event is to funnel the building energy behind Beacon’s own music scene.

Both Clair and Hixson agree that the fest is a community effort. Clair has partnered with the City of Beacon, Beacon Arts Community Association (BACA), Cold Spring Sound, WAMC, WKZE, and a collective of area musicians raising money through benefit concerts. Clair professes that part of the excitement in planning involves the insanity of trying to create something from scratch. In a recent plea for monetary help, he says of a fundraising breakfast hosted at his home, “That pancake party Jennifer and I held in our home clinched it. Knee-deep in maple syrup, borrowed griddles, and blown circuits, we began to realize that, with the support of such a great community, we were going to make this happen.”

Creativity Is Contagious
Beacon’s art scene has erupted and has now coalesced into varying layers of public involvement, aided by Second Saturday events. On the second Saturday of each month, galleries host opening receptions and many shops stay open late. This is one project of BACA, a blanket organization of artists, galleries, retail businesses, and arts supporters.

For the art spectator, Beacon’s supply is vast and ranges from the local galleries to public installations to the region’s finest to world-class exhibition at Dia:Beacon. But creativity is contagious and its encouragement makes Beacon more than a string of art galleries. Under the auspices of the city’s diverse supply of retailers, residents are beckoned to active participation. Clay, Wood, and Cotton offers all-handmade, often local items for the home. Riverwinds Gallery sells the work of Beacon and Hudson Valley artists and artisans. Echo offers Allyson Vermeulen designs, a local seamstress now selling 60s-style vintage dresses using top hat and mushroom prints. Paper Presence sells many locally sourced, eco-friendly stationary items and is where Lydia Lynch supports a growing rebellion to re-establish the old-fashioned handwritten note as a means of communication.

Beacon also advocates for creativity within the walls of her artist incubator, Beacon Studios. Offering affordable studio space in the unrefined physical interior of the former Beacon High School, it’s a place where artists and professionals with small budgets can establish a foothold. One of the most dramatic uses of space there occurred when a wall in one of the old gyms was used to complete a large mural by Beacon artist Rick Price. Titled Mother Hudson, this 15-by-10-foot painting was commissioned by the Beacon Sloop Club in 2008. Displaying the strong arms of a Native American goddess as she protects her environs, it offers a colorful view of the symbiosis that exists within a healthy community.

Given Mother Hudson’s message, it is no surprise that on a warm spring night, Price can be found leading an eclectic group of artistic residents at Zuzu’s Leaf and Bean. Zuzu’s aids interaction with its copious amounts of caffeine and comfortable seating. It also frequently hosts local talent like the “Small Works” show currently on display. On the night before the show’s opening, Price was to be found gently directing the hands of participants as they flowed in to help. Roles are assigned in a flurry of hanging, spacing, typing, chatting, and doting.

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