A big, splashy painting is taking shape in downtown Woodstock – the four acre canvas of Elm Street is being painted right before our eyes. The outlines of FOUR new developments are being laid down on the site at this writing. So this virtual walk through the campus will give you a bird’s eye view of what’s coming to this “painting.” Consider this your tour into this future work of art – Elm Street’s campus!
Restrooms from Re-purposed Shipping Containers
We’ll start at the trailhead of Greenprints on Market Street. Imagine here a bold stroke of color – it’s a bright mural, painted on the surface of a big industrial shipping container sitting right on the lawn. It’s one of a pair which will frame the east edge of the Elm Street Event Green. The two containers are transformed into industrial works of art and re-purposed at the same time as… public restrooms! The brightly painted structures will serve the vibrant crowds that gather here every weekend for Lantern series concerts and artist markets, and daily for trail walks and play.
Continue your “tour” with a stroll down Market Street to Woodstock’s signature sculpture, a mosaic guitar as tall as a human, sparkling with a thousand tiny facets of color. From this vista, you can look down today into a shaded hollow to see a bobcat tractor. It crawls across the wooded ground, sculpting glowing red clay into new shapes and contours.
A Natural Playground
What’s being “painted” here? It’s a natural playground! Picture an assemblage of climbing structures, walkways, and human-size tunnels begging to be explored. In your mind’s eye, you can see a crowd of children laughing, running into tunnels, climbing up the tall “jungle dome” of sturdy wood. A long curving ramp lures them down into a circular landing, where natural building elements like wood and rocks, as well as primitive musical “instruments,” cry out for experimentation, imaginative schemes and creative music-making.
Now turn away from Market Street to the right, looking into the center of this four-acre “canvas.” As you walk west down the sidewalk toward the small house behind the stage, envision a parade of people emerging from the doorway, carrying freshly fired pots. These are pottery students leaving a weekend workshop at the house, the Mary F. Kish Center for Ceramics and Pottery. Inside, glowing with heat, a large kiln fires another round of creations. Shelves of raw clay pots and sculptures wait their turn on the shelves against the walls in this new pottery studio and classroom.
Reeves Visual Arts Center
Finally, just past the Kish Center, you will reach the heart of the painting: the Reeves house, now re-constructed and transformed into the Elm Street Visual Arts Center. You’ll see people gathered on the porch, sharing a coffee or a beer. As they enter the front door, they are greeted with a free art exhibit on their way to the coffee bar. On the far wall is the Juanita Hughes History Room, beckoning from across the room with black and white photos and the promise of a story – the history of this re-constructed house. Intrigued, the visitor crosses the room to read the account of Sam Reeves, who grew up on a 14 acre farm sited here a century ago on the edge of this little railroad town called Woodstock.
The visitor is now thoroughly engaged and continues to explore, discovering in the adjacent artist studio a whole classroom of artists watching a live painting demo – apparently from a visiting national artist. The room simmers with quiet energy as paintbrushes blaze trails of color across the canvases at each easel.
The larger painting is taking shape right now on Elm Street’s four acres. With the the rough outlines sketched here, you can picture the broad brushstrokes that will come soon to this Elm Street creation in Woodstock – creating a vibrant and glowing canvas for all of us to explore, enjoy and share!
Ann Litrel is a co-founder of Elm Street Cultural Arts Village. She is a visual artist and serves on Elm Street’s Board of Directors.