The community is aflutter with the 50th year anniversary of the iconic Woodstock music festival. To define the arts and cultural side of the celebration, there are a quite few projects in the works. …
The community is aflutter with the 50th year anniversary of the iconic Woodstock music festival. To define the arts and cultural side of the celebration, there are a quite few projects in the works. One of these projects involves more than five-foot-tall, seven-foot-wide dove sculptures to be painted and displayed in towns and businesses all across the region. So far, Michael “Mikey” Randels is responsible for two doves: one for Callicoon and the other for Resorts World Catskills Casino. “They’re not hesitant to let me do as many as I want, so I might do a whole flock of them,” he said.
Rendals is a local artist who moved into the area in 2001 after spending years traveling the country, touching up signs as a means to survive:
“Basically bartering, yeah. I started off washing windows, just to get around... turned into touching up signs, which is how I learned to paint signs, from touching up other people’s work.” He began making his mark in the county by opening up a workshop in Jeffersonville that doubled as an art gallery/vintage clothing shop, which he eventually closed to focus on rebuilding his house, a decade-long project he accomplished by himself.
Randels was approached by the Gerry Foundation to restore its monument to the original Woodstock festival, a gig that he’s been asked to come back for every year since 2002. This project segued into his involvement with Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, after it opened in 2006. Bethel Woods gave him various projects over the years, including signage for the annual harvest festival, but Randels admits, “I’ve been bugging them for other stuff to do!”
This year’s landmark anniversary has opened up opportunities for many new creative endeavors. The original Woodstock Music and Art Festival featured what was dubbed “the Bindy Bazaar,” a network of wooded trails where vendors set up their shops. To find their way around, festival attendees could reference a 30-foot-tall map sign, something Randels is ecstatic about recreating (view the original here: www.bit.ly/originalmapsign).
Wade Lawrence, the Director of the Museum at Bethel Woods, approached Randels with this project. For the past seven months, Randels has tackled the signage work of the “Bindy Woods” installation and said of it, “I’m really enjoying this, [it] has such historical significance. It’s an important piece.” Set to be completed by the end of May, the project includes 10 signs: the towering map and nine trail markers, some of which read “Groovy Way,” “Gentle Path” and “High Way.” After 50 years, thanks to some diligent detective and archeological work, the signs will be replaced on their original trees, and the original trails will be recreated, true to history, for wanderers to roam.
Before becoming Bethel Woods’ go-to handyman, Randels was already involved with Woodstock’s legacy. Randels is one of 12 artists who painted the three-mile-long “Wall of Peace” featured, and then destroyed, in the infamously violent Woodstock 1999 celebration. While much of the fence was destroyed, many pieces of it were loaded into and on top of cars. Putting a positive spin on the unfortunate mess for the disappointed artists, he said, “All the love that we put into this project just got dispersed all over the place. Everyone wanted a piece of that to take home with them.”
Randels remembers that project fondly, noting his love for working with other artists. Last month, Randels partnered with a fellow local artist to form Bethel Brushworks over a shared dedication to bringing artwork into the community. Randels met Keith Phillips, the other half of the growing collective, when Bethel Woods celebrated the museum’s 10th anniversary with the outdoor art installation, “Doors to Originality.” Still in its infancy, Bethel Brushworks hopes to grow in size and spread out into the area. After the chaos of the upcoming Woodstock anniversary settles, they hope to do more for neighboring towns, including painting murals or creating welcome signs.
Along with growing Bethel Brushworks, Randels has plenty of projects in the works. “They’re all fun,” he said, after listing a handful. “That’s what it’s all about.” One of his current projects is an idea he presented to the clothing company Free People involving his work with denim restoration and patchwork. The accepted project has yet to be revealed by the fashion company, but he offered TRR a sneak peek through his pile of denim pants, vests and jackets heavily adorned with patches and embroidery. Space exploration was the theme of a pair of bell-bottomed jeans, with constellations stitched onto the bottom flares and planetary patches all over the pockets. “I’ve been saving [the patches] for over 30 years, and I still grab up on ‘em when I see them.” One of the jackets featured multiple doves on patches and a large sketch in chalk as a map for embroidering. “Yeah,” he laughed. “Just call me the Dove Dude.”
You can learn more about Bethel Brushworks at their website: www.bethelbrushworks.com.