Founded by photographer Mathew Pokoik and choreographer Aynsley Vandenbroucke, Mount Tremper Arts is a cultural center in New York’s Catskill region that hosts performances, exhibitions, residencies, and hybrid food and art events. The 2011 summer festival runs until August 21.
WE OFTEN SAY that Mount Tremper Arts is an antidote to the global art industry. It’s like summer camp for artists: from the intimate size of the space to the seven-week length of the festival, as well as the communal meals, the relaxed pace, the beautiful environment. We wanted to build a place where artists, like us, could make rigorous work in an intensive yet informal setting; where relationships and dialogue would have time to develop over dinners and around the campfire, and artists could create new risk-taking work and share it with an engaged community.
When we found this property in 2003, it was a run-down fixer-upper. The farmhouse had been abandoned and had graffiti scrawled inside. The place slowly developed over a couple of years as we began hosting annual performance and exhibition parties.
Then in 2008 we made the jump to a seven-week summer festival, becoming a nonprofit, and hosting year-round artist residencies. We began with what we knew best, dance and photography. Yet our intention from the beginning was to build a multidisciplinary space that could bring together a diversity of elements and artists: the environment of the Catskills, the vegetable gardens and meals, in addition to ideas of fiscal sustainability and its relationship to local economies.
We sought to create a total environment where intellectual curiosity is fostered. We like to say that we curate the festival based on people we would like to have dinner with. Our first season was composed of friends and artists we knew personally, many we had gone to school with. It included a performance by Jonah Bokaer with the poet Anne Carson, jill sigman/thinkdance, Hilary Easton, Liz Sargent, and a photography show with Stephen Shore and Bard colleagues of Mathew’s such as Tim Davis, Lisa Kereszi, Matthew Porter, and Matthew Spiegelman.
As the festival developed, we realized we were widely interested in diverse types of work and processes, so very naturally we started branching out. This year is actually our most multidisciplinary summer, with, among others, new music programming by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the fabulous Young Jean Lee in theater, Tere O’Connor Dance, and a week in partnership with the Brooklyn Rail. That weekend features a resident group of poets who are also art critics, an evening of language as performance, and a night of “Pork and Poetry!”—one of our signature food-art events.
Our core mission is to support artists. We don’t typically ask our residents to perform a specific work; we curate artists, not works of art. When we approach someone we always ask what would be the best work to present for their process at that time, whether that is a work they made a year ago or whether it means coming here and creating a new piece to debut in progress. It is really an open platform.