I was a camper my entire life. From ages 8 to 20, off I went into the wilderness (or, at least into what I thought was wilderness at the time) for eight weeks every summer. Sadly, most of us can no longer just pick up and go to overnight camp in New England in the summer. However, we can venture a bit out of our comfort zones to really cool, campy-feeling art spaces. Two greats just outside Manhattan are Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Omi International Arts Center in Ghent, New York.
Seriously, Red Hook has been coming up in conversations everywhere I turn lately. Not technically that far from Manhattan, Red Hook has served as a remote haven for great contemporary artists like Pioneer Works founder Dustin Yellin, Carol Bove, Swoon, and Michael Joo for years. In 2013, Yellin converted the former Pioneer Iron Works space into a laboratory for art and innovation. Now, the open, green, camplike property is an amazing destination for creativity, discussion, education, collaborations, and exhibits. Unlike many conventional institutions, the space is constantly evolving. Pioneer Works is the intersection of art, modern tools, out-of-the-box thinkers, and the community at large. Education director David Sheinkopf thinks that, for artist and founder Dustin Yellin, it is like “one huge piece of art.” Housed just next door to his own studio, Yellin created the space to help artists learn to use new tools. Programs include several-month residencies for artists; short- and long-form, nontraditional classes (e.g., Introduction to Pigment and the Alchemy of Light); and a beautiful space for families and schools. The criteria for residents and their work are that they must straddle the line between art and science. And, while 3-D and digital is clearly a part of the dialogue here, “science” refers to everything from digital to electricity to physics and music. It all boils down to the exploration of process. Since I cannot hang out in Maine all summer, you can definitely find me in Red Hook. In addition to the usual “Second Sundays” open artist-studio visits, we can also catch a load of live performances throughout the summer.
159 Pioneer Street
OMI INTERNATIONAL ARTS CENTER
Omi International Arts Center is in Ghent, New York, about two hours outside Manhattan. This incredible place offers seven different arts-education programs as well as professional artists’ residencies. Located in rural New York, the beautiful property also includes a sculpture garden. Featured artists include Alice Aycock, Paula Hayes, Bryan Hunt, and Alison Saar. Aside from the space itself, what makes Omi’s programs unique is that professional artists are often available to guest teach in children’s classes. The residencies themselves are geared toward working, professional arts. Acceptance criteria is competitive. Acclaimed juries review full portfolios in order to choose 30 visual artists to attend a four-week session—free of charge. Artists work in various genres, but they do try to maintain a geographically diverse community with a large portion of international artists. There are also a variety of writer, musician, and dance residencies that function in a similar fashion. Omi has hosted more than 1,800 artists from around the globe. Moreover, anyone can sign up for children’s classes. Education Omi is offered in weekly sessions, and children can attend single or multiple sessions. There are also Saturday-morning sessions during the school year. Overall, Omi seeks to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to interact with contemporary art. They are fortunate to be able to utilize not only talented residents to educate, but also the field sculptures. Even as just a day jaunt, you should take a drive to check out the gorgeous grounds, with views of both the Catskills and the Hudson Valley. The sculpture garden is open to the public.
Omi International Arts Center
1405 County Route 22
Ghent, New York