WCP – Woodstock Centre for Photography
WCP is situated in Woodstock’s main artery – Tinker Street. It was founded in 1977 as a not-for-profit artist-centered organization and its initial mission continues to support artists working in photography and engaging audiences through exhibitions, talks, events and production facilities. At present they are about to select their Fellowship for 2011 – in addition to this they support 7 residencies throughout the year by providing workspace and support of new projects. It is an idyllic setting in which to concentrate on making new work, but obviously a tourist haven for hippies and hippie watchers, old and young alike (the town, not WCP I should emphasize!).
We arrived to see the exhibition of work in their 2011 Benefit Gala, Vision Awards Ceremony (honoring Fred Baldwin & Wendy Watriss, who founded Houston PhotoFest) and the 33rd Annual Auction of Contemporary and Classic Photographs. The auction includes work from renowned historic masters to some of the outstanding work from emerging and mid-career artists. This year it includes such photographers as Stephen Shore and Robert Mapplethorpe! As well being an important fundraising event for WCP, the exhibition/auction attracts new collectors as well as discerning new buyers. It is never known however just how much it will raise.
The range of agencies who fund WCP are wide and some are displayed on a banner outside the venue. These include –
Milton & Sally Avery Foundation, the Honickman Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts a State Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, the San Francisco Community Foundation, the Town of Woodstock, Ulster County, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Adobe Systems, B&H Photo Video, Blurb, Bostick & Sullivan, Canon USA, Kodak, Dyna-Lite, GTI, Light Impressions, MAC Group, Mamiya, Museo Fine Art Papers, Pocket Wizard, Sekonic, Toyo, Wacom, X-Rite, and from individuals, & our members
The ‘side’ gallery – which is dedicated to putting on small to medium sized solo shows is currently exhibiting work by Carla Shapiro – was sponsored by Kodak and there is a plaque commemorating that. Canon supply their printers and also sponsor them through this, and Adobe have also supplied essential software. They don’t go to companies with a begging bowl or under the pretext of being ‘not-for-profit’ – Ariel Shanberg, their Director of the past 12 years, is quite clear that what WCP offer companies is the direct contact with hundreds of potential customers through their programme, a large percentage of which will probably buy equipment to set up their own domestic digital facility. They lease their Apple computers, but a major asset is that they own the building which was bought in the early days of setting up. Their digital facility is run by Phil Mansfield, himself a noted freelance photographer, and akin to the other centres visited, gives artists one-to-one help in production and mentoring – to accentuate the homely feel of the place, their facility called The Digital Kitchen.
1. Phil Mansfield – Digital Lab Manager 2. Lindsay Stern – Education Coordinator 3. Deborah Mans field – Development Director
The main gallery was used as a café at one point (1999) – Ariel tells us that his predecessor had hoped that a cafe would generate income but with 6 other cafés in the street, it never really worked. WCP also thought that this was not really its core purpose. We manage to have a quick chat with their Development Manager, Deborah Mansfield, who works part-time at WCP – she was formerly coordinator of major ‘gives’ at New York’s International Centre for Photography.
They also offer paid internships in arts administration – a unique opportunity for people in the Woodstock and Hudson Bay Area (a population of 6000). Through that they Interns learn business practices and fundraising strategies associated with an artists’ space dedicated to serving contemporary photographers. Candidates have to have an interest in photography and the visual arts, of course, and also consideration is given to how they will contribute to the work of CPW and its projects. Credits for college entry are also available through this, though how this works I am not sure.
WCP have a substantial collection of work of over 1,500 photographs and considering they don’t have an acquisitions budget this has been done through artists donating prints who work there or have received support – it is not discretionary but artists are asked if they will donate a work to support WCP. This has knock on profile for the artists in terms of pr and WCP’s annual auction. Their collection is kept at the Dorsky museum. Some of their collection is currently on show as part of the auction. Buying companies will often purchase as a tax write-off (but I presume they also like the work and decide to buy art instead of something else).
Ariel is modest about his role and thinks that the curatorial role should be in the background when artists publicly present their work in exhibitions. They have had a comprehensive lecture series running for some time and recently received a grant to get that up online as a way of connecting with audiences far and wide, without distance being an issue. We agree to exchange online links and also to see in what ways we can promote each other respectively.
PQ (aka Photography Quarerly) is produced twice a year and is a glossy A4 publication with colour reproductions, including articles and artists profiles with one page devoted to reproducing their work. Issue 99 is guest edited by Debra Klomp Ching, co-owner and Director of Brooklyn bases gallery KlompChing, who we will be visiting this week. The broad theme of this issue is ‘photography’s ontology’ and includes a profile of Helen Sear by curator Addie Vassie (she wrote the short essay in Street Level’s opening Trongate 103 exhibition by John Hoppy Hopkins), who looks at the body of work ‘Inside the View’ and her technique of layering negatives in an analogue way to it’s current migration to digital imaging. It is one of a few key photography magazines dedicated to art and photography in the USA – Blind Spot, Aperture, Contact Sheet are three of the others. It is a high cost commitment, and with a $13,000 reduction in their funding this year they may have to look at alternatives to the print version, through Print on Demand, or in having available as pdf downloads. Getting the back issues up online is also in the pipelilne, similar to Light Work’s archive for Contact Sheet – front covers and contents can be currently viewed. PQ is an essential distributor of their work as well as a way of tracking their history, and in keeping conversations alive. We talk of the essential need for that social space through the page and the gallery space, of the value of bringing people together. Think of it this way – would you rather sit on the toilet with a book or an Ipad?
We discuss with Lindsay Stern, their Education Coordinator, the possibilities of a dialogue with Street Level’s RRCS Coordinator. In conclusion, I agree with Ariel to be in touch in a few weeks time to arrange a day when we can have a dialogue and where we can write up their ‘case study’. I feels like the beginning of a relationship with Street Level that have some tangible outcome and ripple effects – through the exchange of work and expertise.