The Town

The town is famous for lending its name to the 1969 Woodstock Festival. It was actually held 50 miles away at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York. People still come from all over the world looking for the location of the famed rock concert. While they’re far from where it happened, it’s a great place to find where it all began.

The Byrdcliffe art colony is the nation’s oldest Arts & Crafts colony begun in 1903. It brought the first artists to Woodstock to teach and produce furniture, metal works, ceramics, weaving and established Woodstock’s first painting school. Byrdcliffe forever changed the landscape of the Town of Woodstock from a farming community to a cultural center.

In 1916, utopian philosopher and poet Hervey White built a “music hall” in the woods. It was the Maverick Concert Series, the beginning of what is now the oldest, continuous chamber music festival in America. Early in it’s inception, it became a wild bacchanal. Participants dressed in outrageous attire and danced with a freedom of expression unheard of in the 1920’s Much later in it’s history, The Maveric became more tame and conservative. Composers such as Henry Cowell, John Cage, Robert Starrer and Peter Schickele created works that were premiered there. Today, this hand-built concert hall with perfect acoustics, is a multi-starred attraction on the National Register of Historic Places with world-class musicians playing there from June to September.

The town is home to the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum (WAAM), one of the oldest artists organizations. The WAAM Permanent Collection features work by important American artists associated with the region, including Milton Avery, George Bellows, Edward Leigh Chase, Frank Swift Chase, Arnold Blanch, Doris Lee, Marion Greenwood, Philip Guston, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Paul Meltsner, and many others. WAAM founders were John Carlson, Frank Swift Chase, Andrew Dasburg, Carl Lindin, and Henry Lee McFee. The Woodstock School of Art has been operating since 1980.

The Woodstock Guild, also founded by Byrdcliffe artists in 1939 is now the steward of the 350-acre Byrdcliffe Colony. It is a multicultural organization which sponsors exhibitions, classes, concerts, dance and theatre events and runs the oldest craft shop in Woodstock, the Fleur de Lis Gallery, which features over 60 artists. Byrdcliffe is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a haven for today’s artists.

In 1981, the town hosted the Woodstock Jazz Festival, a celebration of the Creative Music Studio, an organization founded in 1971 by Karl Berger and Ornette Coleman. The show featured Jack Dejohnette, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Anthony Braxton, Lee Konitz, and Miroslav Vitouš, among others.

Today many well known and developing artists, writers and musicians continue to find creative inspiration in Woodstock. Many art and recording studios dot the landscape disguised as barns and garages.