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Wild Nights in Store for Wassaic Project Visitors


From the refurbished historic buildings turned art studios to the colony of artists that enter the hamlet through the seasonal artist residency programs, there’s an energy surrounding The Wassaic Project that I’ve yet to encounter anywhere else in New York’s Harlem Valley. While it feels more secluded than other regional destinations, the wonders to be discovered at The Wassaic Project are nonetheless prolific — especially during the summer months.

Nestled in the hamlet of Wassaic, in Amenia, N.Y., on Furnace Bank Road, The Wassaic Project operates as a nonprofit organization that “uses art and arts education to foster positive social change,” according to its website, www.wassaicproject.org. Executing the nonprofit’s values and vision for the surrounding community is a quartet of co-directors  (husband-and-wife duo Jeff Barnett-Winsby and Bowie Zunino and Eve Biddle) with help from a dedicated staff, contributors, volunteers and Board of Directors.

Artists seeking a space to harness their creative energies into physical works of art can unravel their ideas in the studios installed within the Luther Barn, where livestock were once sold at the former Luther’s Livestock Commission Market in the late 1940s. Their works may later be found among the seasonal art exhibitions arranged within the seven-floor sanctuary for art that is the renowned Maxon Mills building.

Anticipating its biggest summer season to date, The Wassaic Project embraced an early start to summer with the opening of its 2022 exhibition, “A Tournament of Lies,” on Saturday, May 21. Drawing its name from a line in the R.E.M. hit song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine),” “A Tournament of Lies” (according to a recent press release from The Wassaic Project) features the artwork of 46 artists that have gathered “in hopes of harnessing the infinite energy of the life imitates art imitates life imitates art dynamo.”

Describing just a few of the pieces on display, Wassaic Project Communications Coordinator Joe Brommel said visitors can expect to see a burlap horse being eaten from the inside by a seedling, early American landscape paintings with volcanoes added in, birds hurtling out of the canvas, an Italian restaurant where everything (including the guests, utensils and food) is a dog.

“A Tournament of Lies” is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Saturday, Sept. 17. However, that’s just one of many sights to see around The Wassaic Project this summer.

The Wassaic Project officially toasted the start of summer at its 14th annual Summer Benefit at Maxon Mills on Saturday, June 18. Along with taking a tour of the seven stories of artwork on display, guests were invited to savor the coming of summers over hors d’oeuvres and cocktails on the Maxon Mills porch.

The Summer Benefit honored Cornwall, Conn., resident and artist Laurie Simmons, known both for her groundbreaking artwork as a member of the Pictures Generation and for advocating for emerging artists.

Later this summer, the hamlet will come alive with the sound of live music — not to mention dance performances, film screenings, artist talks and other festivities — at The Wassaic Project’s first Block Party of the summer on Saturday, July 23, from noon to 10 p.m. The second Block Party is slated for  Saturday, Aug. 20, from noon to 10 p.m.

For more information on what’s in store at The Wassaic Project this summer, go to www.wassaicproject.org.

Beyond all the summertime fun to be found in the hamlet’s center, visitors are encouraged to stop by The Lantern (10 Main St.) to satisfy their appetites with the restaurant’s selection of wood-fired pizzas. Currently open for indoor dining, takeout or eating in the restaurant’s side garden, The Lantern is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 8:45 p.m and on Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 8:45 p.m. One look at the restaurant’s online menu is enough to inspire visitors’ mouths to water, whether they’re hungry for the imaginatively named pizzas (such as Rattle Snake, Dazed & Confused, Norma Jean and Heart Throb) or the other tasty options listed under the online menu’s “Not Pizza” section.

For more on The Lantern, go to  www.wassaiclanterninn.com.

Looking for something new to read? Head over to the Wassaic Newsstand (located next door to The Lantern) to check out the eclectic arrangement of publications on display. Erika DaSilva of Ten Mile Table said the newsstand is open both by appointment and on specific pop-up dates throughout the season. In addition to the many food, art and hospitality publications on the shelves, she said the newsstand is also printing its very first project: a Community Cookbook featuring recipes from 30 local bakers, chefs, makers, farms and artists. The cookbook is due to arrive in print between late summer and early fall.

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