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The Museum at Bethel Woods: ‘A Tale of Two Posters’

Subtle differences on these original tickets, like venue and line up, help propel the story at the Museum at Bethel Woods.


April 5, 2012

There are many early signs of spring that tug at my heart strings: the first robin scrounging for worms in the warming soil, the forsythia blooming with sunshine-yellow buds, even the overturned trash cans that waking bears rummaged through during the night. I scan the woods surrounding my home at this time of year and quietly celebrate each of these tiny triumphs, just before the Museum at Bethel Woods opens it’s doors for the season, welcoming locals and visitors to experience the rich history of the land on which it resides—the world-famous Woodstock Music Festival that took place on the now hallowed grounds, back in 1969.

Having received an invitation for a pre-opening “sneak peek” and walking tour with museum curator Wade Lawrence, I joined some fellow journalists on a blustery day last week, prepared to see a few posters, maybe an artifact or two and scribble some notes for this column before rushing out to something more interesting. Wrong.

Fascinating, stunning and stimulating are but three of the superlatives that spring forth as I review the experience in my mind. I was peripherally aware of artist David Edward Byrds’ early poster contribution to the “Aquarian Exposition,” slated for Wallkill, NY, and his ornate, intricately detailed Grecian water-pouring nude was familiar, but not the image that one immediately thinks of when pondering the three-day concert that shaped a generation.

Instead, it’s Arnold Skolnicks’ bold red-and-white paper-cut graphic proclaiming “Three Days of Peace & Music” (by then moved to White Lake, NY), adorned with a white dove perched on it’s “olive branch” guitar neck, that is (IMHO) arguably the most recognizable concert poster in the world. The story of these two artists, and the subsequent legend that surrounds the iconic festival that still reverberates today, is at the heart of this exhibit; and curator Lawrence’s excitement, conveyed while explaining how the show came to life, was contagious.

Just prior to strolling through the gallery, Lawrence took a few moments to invite us to explore the center’s web site (www.bethelwoodscenter.org), which is chock-full of info, including the concert schedule for 2012, Event Gallery functions and the organization’s ever-growing community outreach program. As we neared our destination, he drew our attention to the new “Corridor Gallery,” which showcases original photographic images, contributed by Woodstock Festival attendees.