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“Woodstock is not all about the past,” says sister Julia. “The art and music scene is continuing, and there’s wellness, spirituality, and eco-consciousness.” She mentions the Zero-Carbon Initiative passed in Woodstock in 2007, which pledges to neutralize Woodstock’s carbon footprint by 2017, and the various spiritual paths that are celebrated in the town, including the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra monastery, the seat of Tibetan Buddhism in America. “Woodstock is not that hippie dippie. Yes, there’s that aspect, but that’s not Woodstock in my view.” Weston chimes in: “Sally Grossman [wife of Bob Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman] said it rather well. Once you come to town you see whatever you see, but the real action takes place back in the hills in those little artist or music studios where creativity is cranked out at great cost, sometimes, to the creators. The good stuff endures, but it’s the other side of Woodstock that isn’t generally seen or supported. You have to be a discerning, thinking person to recognize and appreciate the Woodstock underneath the surface.”
Pat Horner and Larry Lawrence are publishers of the Woodstock Travel Guide and they also recognize the spiritual aspect of the town. “The heart of Woodstock is her arts,” says Horner, “including the art of living. The location lured us, and this is why many of us came here originally. But the art and creativity of the people inspired many of us to stay. Woodstock is a conduit for enlightenment, mostly through art, truth, and beauty.”
Town councilwoman Liz Simonson describes Woodstock as a place for those “in search of utopia and a better life filled with spiritual enlightenment, music, art, progressive politics, and personal freedom. It is an idea that has been luring artists and idealists alike since 1902, and again in the 1960s, when another generation rebelled against the constraints of society. It continues today as the next generation sets down roots and struggles to keep this dream alive. It’s what makes this town incredibly unique with enduring vitality.”
Town councilman Jay Wenk has a slightly different take on things, recognizing those townspeople who are engaged in nonartistic trades. “People outside of town are not aware that a sizable percentage of the population are not wild-eyed, radical artistic Bohemians living on welfare,” says Wenk. “We have many people who are conservative and regressive. Woodstock’s self-inflicted motto as The Colony of the Arts is in many respects a misnomer; I believe that the Chamber of Commerce has more influence most of the time. The arts here are always perilously close to going under, with constant need for finances. The music scene here importantly includes classical performances, not only rock, jazz, and other forms. Traffic tie-ups in the center of town are constants on busy and holiday weekends, and it seems the police are loath to get involved. I love living and working here, being on the town board, and I’m not unaware of negative aspects that exist here, all of which are vexing.”
Marsha Fleisher, owner of Loominus Handwovens, a retail establishment on the town’s main thoroughfare, Tinker Street, that specializes in the weaving of fine clothing, expresses unabashed enthusiasm for Woodstock. “It’s a small town with country roots and city influences. Its history reflects generations of hardworking, land-based families and an arts, crafts, and theater influence that runs deep and is highly esteemed. It’s open and inviting, personal and genuine, full of extraordinary people with strong individuality and diversity. I’ve lived in Woodstock for 30 years and still meet people who intrigue me—the woods are full of us! It’s about the community of wonderful people who are truly there for each other, especially when needed.” And Michael Lang, one of the founders of that famous festival, sums up that Woodstock is a community founded on the arts. “There’s is a tradition here of creativity that informs everything. It is rich in art, music, and theater—which makes for an open-minded exchange of ideas and a real community spirit.”
Though widespread reputation descended on the little village four decades ago and earned it often-misunderstood fame, it is the creativity of its inhabitants that cries from Woodstock’s lovely forested hills, beckoning the citizens of the world to visit and explore its charmed life.