Four high-profile artists opening a shop in Ellenville are definitely a sign of the times. The wave of change that has slowly swept through the region over the past two decades is finally hitting Ellenville in the wake of a path cleared from the village’s long-standing lonely cultural bastion, Shadowland Stages, and nurtured by local community members eager for their town. forge new days of glory.
In June, singer-songwriter Eleanor Friedberger and visual artists Michael Berryhill, Milton Carter and Hally Erickson opened Weird in a mid-century space in the city center that had once been an annex to the historic Wayside Inn, the rest of which was burned down in the 60’s. More recently, the space served as Nevele’s showroom in its brief but vigorous campaign for one of New York’s casino licenses. If you ask around, opinions are mixed on the subject of the failed offer, but what is certain is that the current tenants of the space are pointing in a new direction for the city and a future that does not involve slot machines and roulette.
Friedberger, known as both a solo artist and half of Fiery Furnaces, moved to Ellenville in 2019. She has long been friends with artist and designer Milton Carter. The two lived for many years in Greenpoint, where Carter ran a lifestyle brand called M. Carter and both moved to Kerhonkson in 2013. Together with their respective couples, the creatives turned to creating artwork and experimentation when the pandemic gave birth to the tea kettle.
“It started with some random encounters with the group of us, experimenting with creating things,” explains Friedberger of the Weird seed. “We are all artists of some kind. Sometimes after dinner, we would meet to try things that were perhaps beyond our means or specific disciplines ”.
When the Canal Street storefront became available, it provided a place to display and sell all the goods the group had created. In a rejection of the sober neutral palettes and the modern black-stained farmhouse aesthetic that has proliferated in the northern area of the state in recent years, Weird is an explosion of color. “The four of us have a sense of humor about things,” says Friedberger. “Let’s hope the playfulness is coming.”
The store’s Instagram is a fun, distant and lively mood board for the store itself, pulsing with brightly colored sculptures, furniture, ceramics, wall art, lighting, and crocheted garments made by Friedberger’s mom. There are also posters, hand-dyed t-shirts, pillows and more, all made by the four owners.
“It was a big push to open it and we’re still trying to figure out what we’re trying to achieve,” says Carter. “I think overall the project is an art project. We are trying to create an experiential space for the visitor, but making things to sell, adapting the sound. How do we create a retail space and then manage it? It is a learning process. We will continue to add this as we continue to experiment and hopefully continue to grow throughout the life span.
There’s a chance other artist friends will come aboard to sell their products in-store, and Weird may even host live music and other events later in the summer if they can get approved. But for now the focus is on the production of objects and of space itself as a four-dimensional interactive work. Everything, from the display shelving to the tables, was tailor-made by the group for the space. “When we were originally meeting, it was an opportunity to experiment outside of our mediums and disciplines,” says Carter. “So for me, wondering how I can apply the things that interest me right now to design a space and all the things we have built for the space? How can we apply thinking to textiles, sculpture and lighting? It’s a bit of a workshop to see how we can apply our level of craftsmanship to different things. ”
While Carter and Berryhill have historically worked in 2D visual art and design, the two are now applying themselves to lighting and furniture, while Friedberger, a musician by profession, has begun dabbling in painting. “I have lived with a painter in the past for many years. He’s embarrassingly contagious, ”he says with a frank chuckle. “So this has been my journey over the last few months: trying to create things on paper and canvas that are personal to me.”
The group draws inspiration from nostalgic landmarks from the region’s not-distant past. Describing the atmosphere, Carter says, “It’s how we imagine the north of the state to be if we go back in time: think of the band that meets in Woodstock. They look like peasants ». Friedberger points to the Fallsview Hotel in Ellenville (now Honor’s Haven), whose main hall was a tropical riot of fuchsia and red. “We are presenting an alternative narrative of creative life in the area,” says Carter.
The commercial aspect of the company does not detract from the artistic exploration for the group: it is another aspect to work with. To this end, thought is put into every detail, right down to the labels of the garments. “Everything we do in space is considered,” says Carter. “This is part of the experimental aspect and the artistic project. How do you want people to respond to what they see and what they hear to create an overall environment? How do you put the price tag on the item? How do you want people to feel when they pick it up? ”
This Saturday, July 2nd, Weird will host a vintage sale of clothing, posters and other goodies from the Bizarre Bazaar. The shop is open on Fridays from 13:00 to 19:00, on Saturdays from 12:00 to 18:00 and by appointment.