Contributed by Sharon Butler and Jonathan Stevenson / Some artists go upstate to get away from the art world in the summer, and others gather an art world around them wherever they go. We went up to the Adirondacks recently to visit the summer outpost of Norte Maar for Collaborative Projects in the Arts in Jay, New York, where founders Jason Andrew and Julia Gleich were hosting the weekend-long Jay Invitational of Clay, which they started, as well as an evening of performances to benefit the Ausable River Association, and an Ausable River Valley Studio Tour.
Located nearly five hours from the city, Jay is nestled along the Ausable River just south of Lake Placid and west of Lake Champlain. Norte Maar’s property features a small farmhouse, a big barn, and several flat acres of lawn perfect for setting up exhibition tents and stages. As we arrived, the artists had just completed installing the Annual Jay Invitational of Clay in two tents–one for exhibition work and the other for demonstrations and workshops. In the barn, three artists in residence–Emily Berger, Rob De Oude, and Norman Jabaut–were participating in the Ausable River Valley Studio Tour, which included artists working in Keene Valley, Keene, Upper Jay, Jay, Wilmington and Ausable Forks.
The 4th Annual Jay Invitational of Clay featured more than thirty artists from the Adirondack Region, as well as ceramic artists from Brooklyn, North Carolina, Georgia, and Boston, and a memorial exhibition celebrating potter Paul Z. Nowicki, who died in 2015. The opening on the evening of Friday, July 14, involved a generous potluck dinner (including excellent beer from the Keeseville-based Ausable Brewing Company) under a tent that survived spectacular but mercifully fitful thunderstorms and an evocatively earthy dance performance deftly wedged between two of the downpours. Later, on a tent-covered stage in the corner of the compound, the sublime Plattsburgh-based band Famous Letter Writer–guitar, keys, and drums–played for a couple of hours. Like the other aspects of the event, their performance was an extremely agreeable revelation. While they have a compelling and extraordinary sound that’s thoroughly their own, we very fondly deciphered traces of Elvis Costello, the Talking Heads, and 1970s Memphis legend Big Star (led by Alex Chilton, whom The Replacements duly immortalized) in their densely nuanced lineage.
On Saturday we made a few studio visits, including a trip to Asgaard Farm and Dairy, which was originally owned by artist and architect Rockwell Kent. The farm specializes in artisanal meat production–grass-fed beef, historic swine breeds, pastured broiler chickens–as well as eggs, goat cheese, and firewood. Kent’s purpose-built studio, nestled towards the back of the property, is still outfitted with his equipment–woodstove, tools for building stretchers, drying racks, brushes, palette, and so forth..
On the way back to the city we drove through the Lake George region where we had heard that artists decamped for the summer months. Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe and their cohort spent time in the 1920s at Lake George, and David Smith holed up at a big farm in Bolton Landing, back when Modern sculptors needed massive acreage to make, store, and display their work. For Jason, Julia, and Norte Maar, summer in Jay isn’t simply for relaxing and hosting city friends; it’s a time when they can get to know the local community of artists, invite collaboration from artists farther afield, and generously create opportunities–just as they do in Brooklyn.