Category Archives: The Arts

Upstate Dispatch Gallery & Studio Update

The Sandy Finkenberg art exhibit was a success with over 70 people turning out to view Sandy’s work in the last month and five pieces were sold. This Saturday June 22nd, is the last chance that art lovers will have to view Sandy’s work, as the show will be taken down after that, but before that happens, we’ll be having a little party to celebrate. From 2pm – 4pm, Saturday June 22nd, come and sit in my air-conditioned studio, sip a glass of bubbly and take in Sandy’s exceptional work. Any excuse for a party really.

Meanwhile, on June 23rd 2024, I will be turning the gallery back into a studio in preparation for the AMR Open Studios Tour in July in which Upstate Dispatch Gallery & Studio will participate and co-sponsor. Artists all over the Catskills will open their studio for three consecutive days from Friday July 26th to Sunday 28th, 2024 11am – 5pm. In July, I will be working in oils again, practicing portraiture which I haven’t done since high school, and will be offering photography, sketches, watercolor, postcards and magazines. The photography will be limited edition large and small works, framed and unframed. It’s going to be a busy art-filled July.

Upstate Dispatch Gallery & Studio, 2nd Floor, Commons Building, 785 Main Street, Margaretville, NY 12455. Open Saturdays and Sundays 1-4pm and by appointment by emailing [email protected].

Gallery Show: Sandy Finkenberg’s Nudes. Opening Reception Saturday May 25th, 2024 2 – 6pm

Upstate Dispatch is thrilled to present a solo show of Sandy Finkenberg’s Nudes. Sandy is a long-time member of the arts community of the Catskills, and a member of the local figure drawing group. This is a new body of work and much anticipated. Sandy’s gorgeous, dreamy nudes rendered in oil on board, many done with a live nude model at the figure drawing group, are some of the Catskills’ most coveted art pieces.

The reception is May 25th, 2024 from 2pm – 6pm. Small bites and beverages will be served. Preview: Friday May 24th. The gallery will be open all Memorial Day weekend from Friday to Sunday with opening hours to be determined. Watch this space!

The show runs from May 24th, 2024 – June 22nd, 2024. Upstate Dispatch Studio, Upstairs at The Commons Building, 785 Main Street, Margaretville, NY 12455. May 24th, 2024 – June 22nd, 2024.

About the Artist

Sandra Finkenberg, a resident of Bovina Center, received her training at the Carnegie Mellon School of Art in Pittsburgh and the Art Students League in New York. She has received a number of awards including second place at the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club (2007), Best of Show Cooperstown Regional (1997), and Best of Show and 2nd Place, UCCA (1993,1992 respectively). Her work in egg tempera was featured in the 2000 summer edition of American Artist Watercolor Magazine. One person shows include the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance in Narrowsburg, NY, and the Walt Meade Gallery in Roxbury, NY. Group shows include the Vivianna Hansen Gallery in Delhi, NY and the Windham Fine Arts in Windham, NY., The Catskill Center Erpf Gallery in Arkville NY, the CANO Gallery in Oneonta,NY, and the Salmagundi Invitational in NYC., The Smithy in Cooperstown, NY, and has shown in the Stagecoach Run at Blue Farm Antiques and at the Freck/Beal Studios.

Figure Drawing Group Art Show: Sketches. February 24th 2024, 3.30-6pm Upstairs at The Commons Building in Margaretville

Save the date! Delaware County has one figure drawing group that meets at the Andes Academy of Art in the summer months (hosted by William Duke), and at ArtUP in the winter months (hosted by Gary Mayer). Upstate Dispatch studio will be hosting a group show of the best sketches of our winter life drawing group. We artists were risking life and limb, driving in all weathers, white-knuckle style after dark, fish-tailing on icy roads, to make it to our Wednesday drawing group throughout winter.

Participating artists are Sandy Finkenberg, Jenny Neal, Gary Mayer, Steve Burnett, Sophia Teixido, Alex Wilcox, William Duke, Joe Wilson, Peter Mayer and more.

The work will be offered for sale, mostly unframed, at affordable prices, to give everyone access to beautiful original pieces. Wine and snacks will be served.

Saturday 24th February 2024. 3.30-6pm. Upstate Dispatch Studio, Upstairs @ The Commons Building, 785 Main Street, Margaretville, NY.

Join us for this reception in the same building as artist Bea Ortiz, Honeybee Herbs, The Catskills Artisans’ Guild, The Longyear Gallery and Carolann’s restaurant. The studio will be open all afternoon.

We hope to see you there.

Art Show in Andes, July 15th, 2023

© Jenny Neal – Usage prohibited without consent

The very first post on Upstate Dispatch on September 9th, 2014, which you can find here, was a post on my first watercolor completed under the tutelage of Alix Travis. After ten years, this watercolor is up for sale at the Andes Academy of Art on 506 Main Street, Andes, NY 13731.

The opening of the show is on July 15th, 2023 from 2pm to 6pm and curated by Peter Mayer.

Hope to see you there!

Andes Academy of Art

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

The first piece of art I bought was in a basement underneath one of the pylons of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1998. The interior of this labyrinthian basement had been painted white and divided into booths by artists who couldn’t find representation. I bought an oil painting by Lisa Creagh for $900 and paid for it in installments over three months. Brooklyn artists would inhabit empty shopfronts in the desolate parts of Brooklyn, like Greenpoint and Williamsburg near the waterfront back in the nineteen-nineties. That memory returned to me when I went to hang my work in the basement at The Andes Academy of Art in Andes.

The Academy had its first exhibit of small works beginning with an opening reception on October 29th, 2022. I was honored to be included, and excited to be part of this talented group, offering one of my bird illustrations in watercolor. Also included is work by William Duke, Gary Mayer, and the inestimable Sandy Finkenberg, among others. Life drawing alongside Sandy and hearing her greatest tips has been a highlight of my year. The extraordinary artist Peter Mayer, who as a life drawer has a unique talent for capturing a subject’s stance and posture (“if you’re having problems getting it, start with the feet”, he told me), draws small figures on massive pieces of paper that have been papered to the walls in the bathroom at the Academy.

Thanks to William Duke for bringing us together; the camaraderie is real, as artists almost never get together in large groups like we have been. The life drawing class has been a bit of a lifeline this year and we’ve reached our fifth year of sketching, having started out in 2017 at Willow Drey Farm.

A broadsheet is published monthly, called State Of The Art beginning November 2022 which details art news in the Catskills.

Andes Academy of Art, 506 Main Street, Andes, NY 12444. Open Saturdays 2-4pm until December 10th, 2022.

Plein Air Painting Show in Fleischmanns

In addition to a gallery, new arts center, and two cafes, Fleischmanns has a pop-up plein air painters group that has temporarily moved into the empty shopfront that used to be the old bank on Main Street (with its magnificent safe still in place), evoking memories of Brooklyn in the nineties when artists would occupy abandoned commercial buildings. Tomorrow, Saturday June 4th 2022, they will host an artists reception from 2 – 4pm.

EBDRPAP: 1084 Main Street, Fleischmanns, NY 12430.

The Arts Inn, Fleischmanns, NY

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

The Catskills village of Fleischmanns in Upstate New York is undergoing a very slow but sure renaissance, after a long period of quiet, under the influence of newcomers who remember when the village was bustling with locals and tourists fifty years ago. Main Street, which has been relatively sleepy in recent decades in comparison to neighboring towns and villages has sprung to life following the opening of its cafe, The Village East. In addition to the farm store run by Alan and Robin White of Two Stones Farm, and the Main Street art gallery, there is a keenly anticipated wine bar and Greek restaurant in the works.

Adding to this burgeoning roster is The Arts Inn on Main Street which will host arts workshops like poetry and plein air; meditation and dance classes; music evenings and movie nights. The Inn will open its doors on May 29th, 2022 from 5pm to 10pm for its first variety show that is free to the public and donation-based. There was a fundraiser online and all the performers will be paid.

Opening an arts and event space has been a lifelong dream for former dancer and teacher Heidi Stonier who owns the property with husband Randy Leer; they closed on the property two weeks before the pandemic hit and have spent the last two years renovating it. The Arts Inn is coming to an area that really needs and welcomes it. “I feel the love,” says Heidi who has been been conducting free meditation classes and has made deep and genuine connections with members of the community.

To fund their vision, three rooms are available for rent via AirBNB. The rooms are themed: guests can stay in the Jane Austen room, the Rumi Room or the Matisse Room. There are weekend packages available for guests who participate in the workshops. Art is for sale in the rooms, most noteworthy are exquisitely serene barn paintings by Carol C. Young in various striking turquoise hues, think Edward Hopper without the people. Downstairs in the common areas are a lounge, a game room, a dance studio and a music room gorgeously renovated.

Says Heidi: “We have to think about creating a world that’s based not on material things, but on love. The way that we can communicate love, aside from caring for those directly around us, is through art. It brings people together. This is how you can touch someone on the other side of the world in a different culture or set of circumstances. It’s a universal language that spreads love”.

The Arts Inn, 923 Main Street, Fleischmanns, NY 12430.

Church of the Robin’s Ha-Ha! John Burroughs’ Natural Religion by Anne Richey

“Talk of Heaven! Ye Disgrace Earth”. Thoreau

Anne Richey, both student and teacher of the works of John Burroughs, the writer and naturalist (1837-1921) from Roxbury, New York, has published an homage to his works in the form of a collection of poetry and prose.

John Burroughs had what Anne Richey describes as an “essentially religious connection to nature. For the famed naturalist and writer, ‘heaven on earth’ was no mere cliche, but a reality”.

His parents were religious and this confounded him. Richey writes: “His parents’ Calvinist preoccupation with the heaven to come seemed to him tragically misguided and counter-productive”. In Burroughs’ time, 150 years ago, the Catskills were mostly deforested by loggers and tanners, so he had to watch his majestic boyhood home dwindle to rolling hills. The trees have now grown back, but for how long will this stalwart chunk of craggy green in the middle of New York state survive?

It’s a matter that hangs heavily in the air here in the Catskills, this mountainous region in Upstate New York, a lush, verdant environment protected only by virtue of being part of the New York City watershed. The Catskills State Park, about 700,000 acres and the surrounding area – its multitude of tributaries and it’s ecosystem – produces all of the city’s pristine drinking water. Gas pipelines snake through the state, on the flat lands either side of the Catskills, which have been protected from the ravages of the oil industry by their elevation and their status as water bearer: the ancient Aquarius in a modern Industrial Age.

Anne’s work is beautiful and unusual, like a private diary, a slim journal incorporating notes, remarks, “found poetry” and lines like the following to inspire the imagination:

“Where an ice-sheet once ground south,
the breath of summer rises
now, and the Hudson basks like a snake
in the sun”.

Find out where to find your copy here.

Anne will be reading her work and discussing it at two events, here in the Catskills: on June 23rd, 2018 at the Catskill Center Book Fair on Route 28 in Mount Tremper and on Saturday July 7th at 5pm at the Woodstock Library Forum.

Monday’s Radio Show

© J.N. Urbanski  – Usage prohibited without consent

On Monday’s radio show (April 16th) at 9am on WIOX, my guest will be Leslie T. Sharpe, editor and educator, author of The Quarry Fox and other Critters of the Wild Catskills.

Copyright © The Overlook Press

Leslie gave a remarkable speech at the Catskill Center on Saturday entitled “John Burroughs and H.D. Thoreau: The Roots of American Nature Writing” that transported the audience back in time with a teen-aged Washington Irving he sailed up the Hudson; described Thomas Cole as he painted the Catskills; showed us how John Burroughs forthrightly traipsed through dense hemlock forests.

Leslie, a member of PEN America, began her writing career at Farrar, Straus & Giroux and has been an editorial consultant, specializing in literary nonfiction (especially memoir, creative nonfiction, biography and cultural criticism), literary fiction (novels and short stories) and poetry. She has been Adjunct Associate Professor of Writing at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where she taught in the undergraduate and graduate (MFA) writing programs for twenty years. Join us as we talk about her life as a naturalist, why she wrote her memoir and what’s so special about the quarry fox.

Life Drawing at Streamside Yoga in Andes

© Sandy Finkenberg

Art is meditation, says William Duke who runs a Life Drawing class at Streamside Yoga in Andes every Thursday night with a live nude model from 4 to 7pm. Charge is $10 to pay the model and there is usually some serious regular talent at this event, like Sandy Finkenberg, Peter Mayer and William Duke, Steve Burnett or Gary Mayer. Continue reading

5th Annual Burroughs Catskill Mountain Community Day Lecture

Copyright © The Overlook Press

Leslie T. Sharpe, naturalist and author of “The Quarry Fox and Other Wild Critters of the Catskills” will be the guest speaker at the 5th Annual Burroughs Catskill Mountain Community Day Lecture at The Catskills Center in Arkville on April 14th at 1pm.

Her subject will be “John Burroughs and H.D. Thoreau: The Roots of American Nature Writing”.

This event has been arranged by the board of  John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge Inc, the nonprofit organization that is custodian of writer John Burroughs’ home in Roxbury.

Woodchuck Lodge was built by John’s brother in 1862, 15 years after John was born, on the east end of the Burroughs family farm. The Burroughs’ homestead where both boys grew up, later sold, is a mile away up the road and was built when John was 13 years of age. Woodchuck Lodge was John’s retreat in retirement and he is buried nearby.

After Leslie’s speech, attendees will also commemorate his birthday. Birthday cake and light refreshments will be served. All are welcome.

Saturday, April 14th 2018 1pm at the Erpf Center, 43355 Route 28, Arkville, NY 12406. (Directions in link.)

Sponsored by John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge, 1633 Burroughs Memorial Road, Roxbury, NY 12474.

Copyright © D.J. Glick

Shakespeare At The Round Barn in Halcottsville

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

Last Saturday, The Halcotsville Shakespeare Company presented its inaugural performance of Romeo & Juliet at the Round Barn at Pakatakan Market. This Saturday, August 19th, at noon will be its second and final performance. The production is unique in that it is performed amongst the crowds of market goers. The event was organized by Tom Hughes an NYC educator and writer who has worked with kids in the theatre with Epic Theatre Ensemble for many years in the Bronx. This production brings young actors together from both the Catskills and New York City.

The intent “is to make the shoppers part of the performance, turn the farmer’s market into Verona,” says Hughes.

UPDATE: In some places, the event is being billed as beginning at NOON not 12.30pm as previously reported. Get there earlier to guarantee being able to experience the whole performance. Continue reading

Bovina Fashion Week

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

Country life is a great leveler. There are American icons in our midst who are asked to sit on boards with people who forget their names and there are enigmatic art directors who hold fashion shows with clothing made entirely from recycled garbage on their 100-acre farm. Who knows what the sheep thought, but a good time was had by the humans in attendance and an essential statement was made about the environment.

Yes, the model pictured above is blurry, but the organizer, Steve Burnett, aka The Bovina Farmer, had a glittering career in New York City before he realized his dreams, so he got everyone drunk on Manhattans. In fact, refreshments for the audience were two whole watermelons and a copper bowl of Manhattans served to us by the illustrious Sir Julian of Richards, he of Tickler fame. The audience was ushered into the event through a dense thicket of balsam fir by the dulcet tones of the bagpipes played by a piper clad in full blue tartan. Once the bagpipes had retreated, musical accompaniment for the show was provided by a world class drummer beating some expert modeling marching orders on metal garbage pails.

There is seriously never a dull moment here in these beautifully eccentric Catskill Mountains.

Everyday Philosophy

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

I walked down a mountain today to the Gilding Bee at The Painters Gallery in Fleischmanns, run by Laura Sue King.

If you don’t understand the arts, like contemporary art for example, or you can’t see a use for it, The Gilding Bee couldn’t be of more help to guide you and it runs for another week. The object of this project, funded by a grant administered by the Roxbury Arts Group, was to gild small, familiar items (that fit in the palm of your hand) to be included in an exhibition on July 30th in the gallery.

Coating every day objects in gold leaf elevates the ordinary but necessary into something exceptional, reaffirming the value of every day items, and why not? The whole project highlights the importance of art, friendship, community, and other things that seem trivial, or taken for granted, as we rush from place to place. It’s a small, symbolic way to celebrate the good in a world of bad. I bought dice, a bottle, pieces of old Prague pavement that had come loose, and a lipstick.

Lipstick: The lipstick effect is an economic theory holding that during difficult economic times women spend more money on goods like lipstick because it’s a cheap way of making yourself feel good. According to The Economist: “Believers in the lipstick theory trace the phenomenon back to the Depression, when cosmetic sales increased by 25%, despite the convulsing economy”. Something you might think is irrelevant, like lipstick, has had its own economic theory for almost 100 years.

Pieces of Prague Pavement: we went on vacation to Europe seven years ago and, as we wandered the streets of Prague, inebriated on Czech lager, we took a real, concrete souvenir: part of the city. Adding some gold to these two innocuous, square cobblestones took me back in time. I remembered the stews, the borscht, the bridge, and the stunning beauty of Prague. We’re told that material things are burdensome and we shouldn’t get attached to them, but as you get older, even small objects retain memories for you that the brain has long forgotten.

The gold dice represent people who think they got rich simply by working hard and being smart, when success takes a lot of luck, like being born into a wealthy family.

The Gilding Bee runs for another week: next Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1pm to 5pm at The Painters Gallery, Main Street, Fleischmanns, NY 12430. Suggested donation of $5.

© J.N. Urbanski

The Gilding Bee in Fleischmanns

Photo courtesy of Laura Sue King

This week at The Painters Gallery in Fleischmanns starting Monday July 17th at 1pm for two weeks, a community goldleafing project begins, hosted by Laura Sue King called The Gilding Bee. No reservations are needed. You can turn up at The Painters on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1pm to 5pm for the next two weeks. The project will culminate in an exhibition on July 30th.

Laura will provide the gold leaf and found ceramic, glass and metal objects, but you are welcome to bring your own. Other materials that are gold leaf friendly are plastic, wood and paper. It’s preferable if the object fits in the palm of your hand as the gold is real and we want to make sure there’s enough for all. Participants will be able to take their object home with them.

This is a chance to make everyday items into something exceptional with members of the community: a symbol of the importance of friendship and the significance of art, to put on the mantle piece. It could be a rock, pebble, small pot, or bottle.

The Painters Gallery, 1109 Main Street, Fleischmanns, NY 12430. Suggested donation of $5 will be waived for those who cannot pay.

The Gilding Bee is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Grant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Roxbury Arts Group. Sponsored by the MARK Project.

Bill Birns at The 2nd Annual Book Fair at the CIC

Image: Mountain Arts Media, courtesy of Bill Birns

On Saturday June 24th at 1.30pm the Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper, Bill Birns will be speaking at the 2nd Annual Book Fair.

Bill will be reciting his epic poem Fleischmanns, a Poem (an Historical Imaginative Projection) that was published in three parts here on Upstate Dispatch. (Find Part 1 published here, Part 2: here and Part three: here.) Come and listen to Bill read his richly descriptive, poetic rendering of local history. Bill is a superb orator and listeners will be in for a treat.

Address: Maurice D Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, 5096 Route 28, Mount Tremper, NY 12457.

The Final Part of Fleischmanns, by Bill Birns

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

Parts 5, 6, 7 & 8 of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts

(Imaginative Historical Projection)

By Bill Birns

  1. Griffin Corners at Armstrong Park

Bit hard for me to make a hero

of him, Matthew Griffin, though

lots of folks do. It’s hard not to

admire his sheer American-ness.

That photo-of-the-founder look

on his weathered face as he sat

posing for that end-of-long-life

first-time photograph in

front of his office (or shop)

with the hand-lettered L-A-W-Y-E-R

over his head behind his chair. Maybe

he believed that founder stuff himself.

Armstrong Park must stay out of the public view,

a gentleman’s name need only appear

in print when he is married and when

he dies.


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Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts, By Bill Birns

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

Parts 2, 3 and 4 of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts

(Imaginative Historical Projection)

By Bill Birns

Part 2: Historic Proclamation of 1913

Mr. Julius Fleischmann and Mr. Max Fleischmann,

heirs to Senator Fleischmann, have offered

their good wishes and

the six and a half acre parcel

known as the Fleischmann Mountain Athletic Grounds

to the people of the Village of Griffin Corners,

to be used by the people in perpetuity,

insofar as no admission can be charged

for any event within the park and

that the park be called Fleischmann Park, and

a sum of fifty thousand dollars be on deposit

in the village bank for the endowment of the park.

Mr. Fleischmann and Mr. Fleischmann sincerely acknowledge

the intention of the village to change its name to Fleischmanns. Continue reading

Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts By Bill Birns

© J.N. Urbanski – Usage prohibited without consent

This is Part One of Fleischmanns, A Poem in Eight Parts

(Imaginative Historical Projection)

By Bill Birns

Part One: On the Porch at Fleischmanns

Continue reading

Prelude to a Kiss at STS Playhouse

Two years ago, I saw Proof at the STS Playhouse in Phoenicia and it was riveting and engaging. At the time, I called it “remarkable: deeply engrossing, funny with excellent performances from the cast. Proof explores the world of madness and mathematics”. It was a great production, starring Jennifer Paul, Farrell Reynolds, Stephen Powell and Kimberly Kay.

This year the Playhouse is putting on a production of Prelude to a Kiss, by Craig Lucas, directed by Michael Koegel, owner of Mama’s Boy Burgers. You may remember the movie with Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. Opening night is this weekend, May 5th, running until May 21st. Make a perfect night of it and get early dinner and drinks at nearby Peekamoose Restaurant– the play starts at 8pm.

STS Playhouse, 10 Church Street, Phoenicia, NY. Tickets $20 or $18 for seniors and students. Call 845-688-2279, or click here for more information.

On the Radio with Tickler Industries

© J.N. Urbanski 9.30am

This week, I interviewed Steve Burnett, the Bovina Farmer, on my radio show and tonight at 6pm, I’ll be a guest on his show The Tickler with his co-host Julian Richards, a fellow Brit.

The show is described thusly: “It’s like a culinary bungee. No sooner have we reached the apex of the bounce than we’re back at the chopping board with bloody fingers. Sunday 23rd, The Tickler welcomes writer, thinker and chronicler of all things Catskills – Jenny Urbanski – for a spot of dinner and a litre of wine (Delco Speedball). We’ll point at each other and laugh; and traffic in truth, the only currency.”

Prepare for utter absurdity, devout irreverence, and some senseless hilarity while we explore the meaning of life. Tune in.

TONIGHT 6pm, streaming live on

Life Drawing at Willow Drey Farm, Andes

© Sandy Finkenberg courtesy of William Duke

William Duke, owner of Willow Drey Farm is hosting a life drawing event on Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm in their beautiful barn overlooking the rolling mountains of Andes. The barn is an event space, the site of many a summer wedding and, for an artist, a gorgeous setting in which to work on figure drawing for three hours with a nude model. We’re lucky to find people willing to take their clothes off! Life drawing is a deeply meditative exercise and focussing intently for three hours really brings one’s sketching skills up to speed. If you’re interested in sitting for the group, or joining the group, please contact William Duke here.

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The Halcottsville Shakespeare Company

Tom Hughes has founded the fledgling Halcottsville Shakespeare Company and is looking to put on an immersive performance of Romeo & Juliet for shoppers at the Round Barn over the Summer. Hughes, a Bronx High School English teacher, has a vacation home in the village and had the idea when he was passing the Round Barn market last year. The market with its dirt floor and circular wooden barn, which although red, does remind certain patrons of what the original Globe Theatre in London would have looked like back in its medieval heyday. Shoppers will be part of the performance and will be able to catch scenes as they shop. There will be a meeting from 6-8pm at the Halcottsville Grange on Friday April 14th for all who are interested. There will be three or four players from the Bronx to join the cast of this incredibly creative idea forming in the heart of the Catskills. Wishing Tom the very utmost success.

Upstate Dispatch in NYC

We’re proud to announce that a framed Daily Catskills print will be offered in a Silent Auction and Art Exhibition at The Emerson in Brooklyn this Saturday organized by Melissa Irwin. It’s a privilege to be able to use this medium to raise money for charity. All proceeds from the event will be donated to Planned Parenthood, a 100-year-old institution that provides reproductive health services and cancer screening for millions of people every year. It was “founded on the revolutionary idea that women should have the information and care they need to live strong, healthy lives and fulfill their dreams”.

Literary Catskills

© J.N. Urbanski

“York state’s richest men wagered their principles
while her poorest hacked life from a hillside farm.”

I had lunch with Bill Birns, literally and literally: last week in person and today with a selection of his written works. A Catskill Catalog, borrowed from my local library, is an anthology of literary history, giving details of the stories behind local roads and place names, many of which are named after families and individuals who have lived in the area over the last two or three hundred years, or still do. For example, I didn’t know that the man after whom a nearby road was named, Basil Todd, was a short-form memoirist.

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Arts Update: Ted Sheridan

© J.N. Urbanski

Ted Sheridan is more architect that artist, having designed the cozy studio attached to the house that he and Amy Masters share. He went into architecture because of his love of drawing which he has done since he was young: technical drawing and line drawing in pencil. “Even though computers have taken over the traditional drawing and drafting, I still hand draw a lot of my projects,” he says. As far as his artwork is concerned: “architecture is so controlled and precise, I was looking for ways to work in a medium that would work against that and be unpredictable, not be in control all the time.”

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Arts Update: Lisbeth Firmin

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Lisbeth Firmin is a studio artist and the bitter Catskills winters present a chance to hole up and focus after a summer spent mostly teaching in upstate New York and New England. Although most of her subjects are in transit, either walking deeply in thought or musing by the window of a moving train, they are rendered indoors. “It’s cozy in the studio and there’s less demand on your time in the winter” she says, not to mention her steep driveway that becomes dangerous when it ices over, prohibiting visitors.

Being in the studio full-time is “like being in a monastery. It’s very ascetic: depriving yourself like a hermit, wearing same clothes every day and painting every day,” she says. “I think it was Milton Avery who said, in his work as an artist, if you just approach it like a job, even only just two or three hours a day every day, you’ll be surprised what you can get done”.

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Arts Update: Amy Masters

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Amy Masters and Ted Sheridan share an elegant and softly lit studio in Arvkille, which they had built as an addition onto their Catskills home three years ago. This winter will be the third winter they’ve worked in it. Warmly inviting, the studio is decorated in muted tones, covered in art and filled with books and trinkets collected over the years. Winter is a time for thought and meditation, especially when there’s a foot or two of snow accumulated outside and your studio is the warmest part of the house, like Masters’ is.

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December Events at the Catskill Center

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Saturday December 3rd 2pm

Function or Form: Utilitarian Art Exhibit, Erpf Gallery, Arkville, NY
The exhibit, Function or Form: Utilitarian Art, will be on display in the Erpf Gallery December 3rd, 2016 through January 21st, 2017. It features beautiful functional items by 17 local artists. An Artist’s Reception will be held on Saturday, December 3rd, from 2pm-4pm, at the Erpf Center in Arkville.

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Art Opening: The Tail Wags The Dog by Steve Burnett


On Saturday October 8th from 6pm to 8pm, Rachel’s Framing and Fine Art will show a selection of striking metal sculptures and watercolors by Steve Burnett. 68 Main Street, Delhi, NY 13757. The exhibition will be up from October 8th to October 29th.

The Catskills Pinhole Camera Project Cont’d…/

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

The Catskills Pinhole Camera Project was launched three years ago and Upstate Dispatch participated last November, writing about it here. My pinhole camera was attached to a tree facing west through our forest for about a month and the above image is the processed result: a month of vivid, winter sunsets through bare trees.

The Painters Gallery’s Wanda Siedlecka started the project with her friend Przemek Zajfert and the entire community was invited to join. Everyone who asked for it received the beautifully packaged camera with instructions.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Their exposures were processed for free by Zajfert, a photographer from Stuttgart, who has mastered photographic and cinematic techniques from the time of their invention and early stages of development. Last Spring, the first one hundred exposures were exhibited at The Painters Gallery in Fleischmanns and future exhibitions are planned.

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Catskills Weekend: 27th & 28th August

© J.N. Urbanski 11am

© J.N. Urbanski 11am

Saturday August 27th starting at 10am: Great Catskill Mountain BBQ Fest in Fleischmanns

A day-long Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned BBQ competition and festival for professional and amateur pitmasters. It promises to be an “exciting day of competition, fun, food, music, vendors galore and all things barbecue in Fleischmanns Park in Fleischmanns, NY”. Proceeds will benefit the Fleischmanns Community Pool Project. More details here.

Saturday August 27th 1.30pm to 4.30pm: Bees, Honey & You in Margaretville

Will “The Bee Man” will discuss the inside & outside workings of honey bee hives. Participants will gain a better understanding of the crucial relationship between human beings, nature and our environment. Learn why bees are vital beyond the production of honey. The program will end with a Q&A period and a jar of honey. Blue Deer Center, 1153 County Highway 6, Margaretville, NY 12455. More details here.

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Plein Air Painting in Denver, Upstate New York

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Expansive, dark clouds loomed over the area all day for the Plein Air Painters’ gathering this week, but we got lucky with a dry day. Not only was it dry, but inexplicably sunny despite those dark clouds that threatened continually. We were invited to paint on an exquisitely gorgeous property in the Denver with a stately house, multiple barns, old fences, plants, crops, illustrious stands of old trees and animals, all in plentiful supply. So plentiful in fact that it took some of us about an hour to choose a spot. The antique gas pump that most old farms still have made a stylish, historical accent. The chicken run had a remarkably glorious view overlooking the mountains – a better view than most living rooms. Quite possibly the best location on which we’ve painted so far this year and we had a decent turn-out despite the weather forecast having been rain. The owner kindly hosted our afternoon lunch on the veranda.

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Exhibition: Linda Lariar at the Longyear Gallery

© Linda Lariar

© Linda Lariar

The LongYear Gallery has been showing the works of Linda Lariar, Catskills artist, since July 16th. Linda is part of the East Branch of the Delaware Plein Air Group. Her opening reception will be July 23rd, 3pm to 6pm.

LongYear Gallery
First Floor Rear, 785 Main Street, Margaretville NY 12455
Gallery Hours: Sat 10am-5pm, Fri-Sun-Mon 11am-4pm

Plein Air Painting at Lazy Crazy Acres

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Lazy Crazy Acres Farm is one of the most inspiring and eclectic places to paint. Signage of all kinds competes with farm equipment, animals, barns, outhouses, thick vegetation, stunning views and a babbling brook running through it. Plein Air painting is a practice that requires speed and focus because your light source is literally moving overhead. If you’re in it to capture shadows and light, time is of the essence.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Catskills Behind The Scenes: Artists’ Studios Tour, July 30th & 31st


On the weekend of July 30th and 31st, 16 upstate artists will throw open their doors to the public, so that you can take a peek behind the scenes at what goes on in an artist’s studio. 20 artists are taking part in the tour, but four of us are without a studio. We’ll be showing in the Grange Hub in Halcotsville opposite the old Lake Wawaka Hose #1, a few steps downhill from the Holy Innocents’ Church. Artists are en route throughout the countryside between the villages of Arkville, Margaretville and Roxbury.

The project is the brainchild of local Catskills artist Alix Travis, who was inspired to start the tour after having done similar tours herself in other communities. Studio tours are a glimpse behind the scenes to explore methods and process, swap notes and absorb the creative atmosphere. What’s special about art is that identical processes can result in wildly differing effects when they’re employed by different artists and that’s fun to watch for everyone. What’s a good process for one artist isn’t necessarily good for other artists, but it’s fun to push the envelope and experiment.

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Alix Travis at The Commons Gallery

The Barbershop Singers by Alix Travis

The Barbershop Singers by Alix Travis

The Barbershop Singers by Alix Travis

The Barbershop Singers by Alix Travis

The Barbershop Singers by Alix Travis in watercolor on handmade paper (top) and again, in block print (underneath) both at the Commons Gallery for the next couple of days.

Rhapsody in Hue

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Dotted around the Catskills through the warmer months this year, in leafy nooks and floral crannies, on (disused) train tracks and atop mountains, you’ll find Plein Air painters at their easels from dawn to dusk. The East Branch of the Delaware River Plein Air Group meet every Tuesday and yesterday they were painting on the curated grounds of The Blackbird Inn in Halcotsville, possible the most picturesque hamlet in the Catskills. There were patches of vivid red poppies; fresh mullein glistening with essential oils, getting ready to start their journey upwards like cornstalks from a double set of train tracks; kayaks laid out on the shore of Lake Wawaka were waiting for visitors from far and wide to Susan’s Pleasant Pheasant Farm.

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Artist’s Reception in Hunter, Alix Hallman Travis

Travis, A.H., Winter Apples with Turkeys, o/c, 30x30 in.

Travis, A.H., Winter Apples with Turkeys, o/c, 30×30 in.

An artist’s reception this weekend for “Catskill Mountain Life; a celebration of community”, paintings by Alix Hallman Travis at THE CATSKILL MOUNTAIN FOUNDATION’S KAATERSKILL FINE ARTS & CRAFTS GALLERY, Hunter Village Square, Hunter, New York, from 1pm to 3pm.

Exhibition hours: Friday & Saturday 10am to 4pm, Sunday 10am to 3pm or by appointment.

Catskill Weekend: Maple on Main Art Exhibition


The Roxbury Arts Group is partnering with Fleischmanns First on this year’s Fleischmanns First Maple Festival 2016. They have curated an exhibit, Maple on Main, which will be located at 1053 Main Street in Fleischmanns. The Opening Reception for this exhibit is this Saturday, April 2nd from 4-6pm. The exhibit will be open throughout this two-day festival, April 2nd and 3rd.

This multi-media exhibit, celebrating everything Maple, includes work by Sharon Suess, Alix Travis, Jenny Neal, Dan Williams, Nancy McShane, Emilie Rigby, Solveig Comer, Laura Sue King, Miguel Martinez-Riddle, John Virga, Michelle Sidrane, Joseph Muehl, Dora Chambers, Robin  White, and Andes Central School students Emily Andersen, Katie Edelson, Rylee Burton, Hunter Collins, Destiny Weaver, Stephanie Gaydos, Christian Bauer, Rachel Masterson, and Lila Green.

The exhibition will be a short stroll from The Painters Gallery on Main Street, featuring Project Topoi, “an experiment in using images rather than words to discuss ideas” that includes a 26 minute video from contributors. The Gallery will be open from 12pm to 4pm.

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Catskills Weekend: Friday’s Events at the Winter Hoot


A few days ago, I wrote about this weekend’s festivities at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge called The Hoot. It’s the 4th Annual Winter Hoot this weekend from January 29 to January 31, 2016. The Hoot “welcomes the community, one and all, for a spirit-raising good time in mid-winter” being three festive days of music, dancing, food, film, art and nature activities for all ages. Here’s tonight’s schedule of events:



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Catskills Weekend: The Hoot in Olivebridge

© Tom Eberhardt-Smith

© Tom Eberhardt-Smith

It’s about time for the 4th Annual Winter Hoot at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge this weekend from January 29 to January 31, 2016. The Hoot “welcomes the community, one and all, for a spirit-raising good time in mid-winter” being three festive days of music, dancing, food, film, art and nature activities for all ages,

The Winter Hoot is always a “pay what you can” event. The suggested donation is $30 to $60 per adult for the weekend. The Winter Hoot is an indoor event and space is limited. Advance tickets offer guaranteed admission and may be purchased online or at the Woodstock Music Shop.

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Catskills Art At The Commons Gallery

5833f6f2-db36-4521-b679-381721ded33eLocal Catskills’ artist Alix Travis invites everyone to pop into her new winter studio in Margaretville for a cup of tea and to watch her work. In the gallery you can view her latest exhibition entitled “Family Friends Celebration and Holiday Colors”, which consists of gorgeous works of oil on canvas, watercolor and collage on the subject of relationships, warmth, brilliant color and the shared values of the holiday season and all year round

the Commons Gallery, the Commons, 785 Main Street, Margaretville, NY; December 3, 2015 through March 31, 2016. Open Saturdays from noon – 4pm, and any day when you see the lights on.

For the Love of Dog: Fred Levy’s Black Dog Project

© Fred Levy

© Fred Levy

I will have the privilege of interviewing photographer Fred Levy on my radio show on December 14th at 9am on WIOX because there is such a thing as Black Dog Syndrome. Fred’s new book The Black Dog Project (pictured above), published by Race Point Publishing, is a photographic tribute to black dogs who, it’s reported, are the last to get petted by strangers or adopted from shelters. On the radio show, we’ll discuss the mythology surrounding black dogs and Fred’s gorgeous photography. Plus, Fred’s coffee table book is a superb stocking stuffer for dog lovers. Buy it from the publisher here, or visit your local bookshop and order it. And, just because, here’s picture of my own black dog Alfie, who I have written about here.

© J.N. Urbanski 2pm

© J.N. Urbanski

The Catskills Pinhole Camera Project

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

Back in August, during the Fleischmanns Art Fair, I was given a pinhole camera by Wanda at The Painter’s Gallery in Fleischmanns. Like so many other exciting projects I intend to start, it went on the back burner, but the results have been published in their website and that has given me the impetus to use the camera. It’s new home will be on a tree in the forest for the next two weeks.

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Art Now at Willow Drey Farm

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

William Duke and Madonna Badger, owners of the gorgeous Willow Drey Farm in Andes, New York, are keen to make use of their beautiful barn between weddings and events. The idea is to create a space for artists to gather, collaborate, cogitate, create and exhibit in an inspirational environment. From 1pm to 4pm tomorrow, Saturday November 14th, for their first group show Wide Open Art Exhibit, the public is invited to come and view watercolors, oils, wooden sculptures and tiny scenes of glass forest sprites inside acorns (pictured below by Michael Pereira. The above chandelier was made in one night by William Duke and artist Peter Mayer (who painted the colorful, smiling Avatar below) and they’re calling it “post-apocalyptic modernism”. There’ll be watercolorist on site painting small works outside if it’s not too cold (your humble writer). Join us.

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Writing Myth at Spillian on Saturday

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

There could be some fiction on these pages and there’s a smattering of poetry but none by me. I’m one of those writers with a pile of fiction on hold: a play, a book and a head full of ideas that I call my fictional endeavors, but not for long! I’m attending Writing Myth: A Spillian Writing Imaginarium at Spillian in Fleischmanns, a writing workshop culminating in dinner and some spoken word, in that we will drink, dine and read aloud the works we have written that day. The dinner and reading are open to the public, even if you are not participating in the workshop. The last time I read my fiction to an audience I bombed with aplomb. In fact, it must have been fun to watch me crash and burn like a professional because I was invited to read my works on the radio. So please join us. Give a group of Catskills writers an audience and enjoy a lovely meal in a beautiful setting. Scroll down for pictures of Spillian.

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Fleischmanns Art Fair: August 15th

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 10.57.55 PMFleischmanns, in upstate New York is having an art fair on Saturday August 15th. There have been two galleries in the village for years, The Painters and Zoom, but this is the first annual art fair where you’ll find art on the street: a street art fair. Please come and support Catskills artists, especially the one in the yellow sombrero, from 11am to 3pm.

Catskill Open Studios Art Tour: Day 2 Halcottsville

The second and final day of the Arkville Roxbury Margaretville Art Tour wherein more than 20 artists showed their work and/or opened their studio to the public. Today’s highlights were Oneida Hammond, fine artist, who showed at the Halcott Grange on Main Street in Halcotsville and Alix Travis who has a studio in the hamlet.

Barn Door by Oneida Hammond

Barn Door by Oneida Hammond, Watercolor

It was worth making the trip just to peruse Oneida’s sketch pad and her Mexican travelogue.

Oneida Hammond's Travel Sketchbook

Oneida Hammond’s Travel Sketchbooks

And, of course, there was an array of public art that’s on show year round:

Mark Pilato's 911 Memorial in Halcotsville

Mark Pilato’s 911 Memorial in Halcotsville

Rust in Peace on Route 38 between Route 30 and Arkville, Lynn Johnson

Rust in Peace on Route 38 between Route 30 and Arkville, Lynn Johnson

Catskills Art Studio Tour: The Commons, Margaretville

Lisbeth Firmin

Lisbeth Firmin

Highlights in the Margaretville area: the EBDR Plein Air Painters’ group exhibition at the Commons Gallery, Lisbeth Firmin and Robert Axelrod. Robert’s stunning landscapes are on show at the Longyear Gallery. Lisbeth has opened her studio upstairs in the Commons Building to visitors today and will continue tomorrow. Her New York City scenes are lushly gorgeous and her studio is also reminiscent of a New York City painter’s studio with its warmly inviting office nook. It’s somewhere you’ll want to park yourself for a while, with a frosty beverage, and just soak up the atmosphere.


Lisbeth Firmin’s Studio

Robert Axelrod

Robert Axelrod

Catskills Open Studio Tour: July 25th & 26th

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 4.37.00 PM

Upstate Dispatch goes on the road! Catch us if you can…

This weekend, July 25th & 26th join Upstate Dispatch for the Art Tour Margaretville Roxbury Open Studios 2015. There are so many talented artists here in the Catskills and they are throwing open the doors to their studios and welcoming visitors.

Take a gander around the website here, print out the map, and then take the tour in your car. Zoom around the countryside and eat at the following places on your tour:

Roxbury Public Lounge, opposite WIOX radio station in Roxbury

The Cheese Barrel (in Margaretville when you visit The Commons Gallery and our fine watercolours, all for sale)

The Flour Patch (best vegetable sandwich, dressing to die for), across the street opposite Freshtown

Goatie White’s in Fleischmanns

Arkville Bread Breakfast

Finish up at Peekamoose or The Phoenicia Diner for post-tour refreshment.

Plein Air Painters’ Exhibition in August

Watercolor by Oneida Hammond

Watercolor by Oneida Hammond

The next artists to show at The Commons Gallery are Oneida Hammond (watercolor) and Dale Amato (oil and acrylics) in their joint show: Two Women, Two Visions starting on August 1st 2015. The two painters couldn’t be more different yet complement each other perfectly. Hammond is precise and fine; Amato is emotive and vibrant. Well worth a visit for such a gorgeous juxtaposition. Revel in Amato’s invigorating forests; be calmed by Hammond’s captivating farm scenes and precise close-ups.

The Commons Gallery
785 Main Street
Margaretville, NY 12455

Gallery hours: 11am to 5pm, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Reception: Saturday August 8th 2pm to 5pm.

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The Urge Unchecked at The Commons

IMG_6783A new pop-up show, The Urge Unchecked at the Commons in Margaretville had its reception last night and there are some beautiful pieces in there ranging widely in both size and price. The art is installed in the small gallery in the right window of the Commons building and in the back in the former Home Goods Store.

TheUrgecan_6770A favorite is Elizabeth Firmin’s “Old Man Sleeping” (below). Well worth a visit, the show is up for a month.

THeUrgecan_6776The Urge Unchecked at The Commons
785 Main Street
Margaretville, NY 12455

Catskills Art Event: Doodle with Ohiso


This Saturday Ohiso is curating a public art event called Doodle. It’s no secret that the arts are employed as therapy and the specific benefits of doodling have also been examined in media outlets like PBS, Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post . Doodling is therapeutic. I once worked with the executive assistant of a prominent British CEO who continually worked on an intricate doodle on a large piece of cardboard whenever she had to be on the phone and her masterpiece grew to enormous proportions. It was her lifeline in a very stressful environment and it was something I’ll never forget.

I asked Ellie Ohiso what inspired her to found a doodle event. She says “we took to the doodling notion because sometimes as you do more art-focused events, you realize that some who are not in the traditional art world see it to the exclusion of themselves. Art becomes this kind of intimidating notion. Doodling is for everyone. It’s universal, non-judgmental, free. You don’t need to know anything about art, or art history, or even to be good at it for it to be classified as a doodle”.