Four big name artists moving to Ellenville is definitely a sign of the times. The tidal wave of change that has slowly washed over the region over the past two decades is finally touching Ellenville in the wake of a path cleared by the village’s longstanding solitary cultural stronghold, Shadowlands Stagesand nurtured by members of the local community eager to see their city see 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 middle of town that had once been an annex of the historic Wayside Inn, the remains of which burned down in the 1960s. More recently, the space was the Nevele’s showroom in his brief but vigorous campaign for one of New York’s casino licenses. If you ask around, opinions are mixed about the failed bid, but what’s for sure is that the space’s current tenants point to a new direction for the city and a future that doesn’t involve not slot machines and roulettes.
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 in Greenpoint for many years where Carter ran a lifestyle brand called Mr. Carter and both moved to Kerhonkson in 2013. Along with their respective couples, the creatives turned to artistic creation and experimentation when the pandemic sent life on the kettle.
“It started with informal get-togethers with the group of us, experimenting with making things,” Friedberger says of the Weird seed. “We are all artists in a way. A few times after dinner we would get together to try things that were perhaps outside of our specific mediums or disciplines.
When the Canal Street storefront became available, it provided a place to display and sell all the merchandise the band had created. In a rejection of the understated neutral palettes and black-tinged modern farmhouse aesthetic that has proliferated upstate in recent years, Weird is an explosion of color. “All four of us have a sense of humor about things,” Friedberger says. “Let’s hope the playful side passes.”
The store’s Instagram is a fun, distant and lively mood board for the store itself, which vibrates with colorful sculptures, furniture, ceramics, wall art, lighting and crochet clothing. brights made by Friedberger’s mother. 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 up and we’re still figuring out what we’re trying to accomplish,” Carter says. “I think overall the project is an art project. We try to create an experiential space for the visitor, but by making the things to sell, by adapting the sound. How do you create a retail space and then manage it? It is a learning process. We will continue to add to it as we experiment and hopefully continue to grow throughout life.
It’s possible other artist friends will come aboard to sell their wares at the showcase, and Weird may even be hosting live music and other events later in the summer if they can get approval. But for now, the focus is on producing the objects and the space itself as an interactive four-dimensional work. Everything from the shelves to the tables was custom made by the group for the space. “When we originally came together, it was an opportunity to experiment outside of our mediums and disciplines,” Carter explains. “So for me to ask how can I apply the things that I’m interested in right now to the design of a space and all the things that we’ve built for the space? How do we apply thinking to the textiles, sculpture and lighting – it’s a bit of a laboratory to see how we can apply our level of know-how to different things.
While Carter and Berryhill have historically worked in visual art and 2D design, both now dabble in lighting and furniture, while Friedberger, a musician by trade, has begun to dabble in painting. “I have lived with a painter for many years. It’s embarrassingly contagious,” she said with a small, suppressed laugh. “So that’s been my journey for the past few months: trying to create things on paper and on canvas that are personal to me.”
The band is inspired by nostalgic landmarks from the region’s not-so-distant past. Describing the vibe, Carter says, “This is what we imagine upstate is if we go back in time – think of the band hanging out in Woodstock. They look like farmers. Friedberger points to the Fallsview Hotel in Ellenville (now Honor’s Haven), whose main lobby was a tropicana riot of fuchsia and red. “We present an alternative narrative of creative life in the region,” says Carter.
The business side of the business doesn’t devalue artistic exploration for the band – it’s another side to work with. To this end, every detail is thought out, right down to the labels of the clothes. “Everything we do in space counts,” Carter says. “It’s part of the experimentation and artistic project aspect. How do you want people to react to what they see and hear to create an overall environment? How to put the price tag on the object? How do you want people to feel when they take it?
This Saturday, July 2, Weird will be hosting a Bizarre Bazaar vintage sale of clothing, posters, and other goodies. The shop is open Friday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment.