Hervey White Maverick Festival
August 24, 1915
I have blogged about the many festivals of 1969 with the Woodstock Music and Art Fair as the keystone. It continues to confuse people that that iconic event was not in Woodstock, but Bethel, NY. Woodstock was the obvious choice. By 1969, Woodstock, NY had become a magnet for Boomer artists. It had been that magnet for nearly a century. Today's blog is about an actual festival that took place in Woodstock, NY. Not in 1969, but in 1915.
Hervey white was born on a Iowan farm in 1866. He began his college education at the University of Kansas and later transferred to Harvard University, and completed his degree there in 1894. He traveled to Europe and the social reform movements he observed there influenced him for the rest of his life. Back in the United States, White began work at the Hull House in Chicago. Jane Addams had founded Hull House as a place to educate poor immigrants. She also encouraged them to express themselves through the arts.
While working at the Hull House, Hervey met others who shared his views of helping talented young people become artists despite economic poverty. Carl Eric-Lindin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead were three of these fellow travelers.
Byrdcliffe Arts Colony
Whitehead invited White to the Catskills to help him establish an artist colony. In 1902, Whitehead purchased 1500 acres in the Catskills near Overlook Mountain and Woodstock, NY The group built houses, studios, and workshops. Established artists became teachers to young aspiring artists. Hervey married Vivian Bevans in 1903. She was a printmaker and one of the Colony's students. As an interesting aside, in 1965 a Mr Bob Dylan moved to a home that was once part of Byrdcliffe.
Maverick Art Colony
Many artists have a wide perspective, but are short-tempered. In 1905 Hervey White left Byrdcliff and with Frits van der Loo purchased a farm near Ohayo Mountain, also near Woodstock. He hoped it would be a place of creative freedom, a freedom he felt Byrdcliff's strictures limited. By 1910 the farm had become a year-round residence for the Whites and several other artists. Art can be a full-time preoccupation and Vivian White left the colony with their two sons. She never returned.
Hervey White Maverick Festival
In 1915, resident musicians suggested to White that the colony organize a festival to help pay for a needed well. The Maverick Festival was born. The festival became an annual one and became the primary way the colony supported itself. The festival continued until 1931 when the Great Depression forced its cancellation. The colony continued but struggled, never again to be the vibrant artist residence it had been.
White, as many before and more since, found the Catskill winters too much of a challenge and he purchased a farm in Georgia. His heart remained at the Maverick Colony and her returned every spring. He died on October 20, 1944.
25 years later, another Woodstock resident had an artistic idea: build a recording studio there for the many young musicians who had discovered the area's beauty and serenity. Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts, and Joel Rosenman formed Woodstock Ventures the spring of 1969 for that purchase. You might be familiar with the rest of their story. The funny part is that Woodstock, NY continues to be famous for their festival despite the fact that the event occurred much farther away in Bethel, NY. If you'd like to read more, here's a 2006 article from Harvard magazine.
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