Four high profile artists settling in Ellenville is certainly a sign of the times. The tidal wave of change that has slowly rolled across the region over the past two decades is finally touching Ellenville, after a path has been cleared from the village’s longtime lonely cultural bastion, Shadowland Stages, and tended by members of the local community who look forward to it are to reach their city forge new glory days.
In June, singer-songwriter Eleanor Friedberger and visual artists Michael Berryhill, Milton Carter and Hally Erickson opened The Weird in a mid-century building in the middle of town that was once an annex to the historic Wayside Inn, the remains of which burned down below in the 60s. More recently, the space was the showroom for the Nevele in its brief but energetic campaign for one of New York’s casino licenses. Asking around has mixed opinions on the subject of the failed bid, but what is certain is that the space’s current tenants point to a new direction for the city and a future free of slots and roulette.
Friedberger, who is known both as a solo artist and as one half of Fiery Furnaces, relocated to Ellenville in 2019. She has been friends with artist and designer Milton Carter for a long time. The two both lived in Greenpoint for many years, where Carter ran a lifestyle brand called M. Carter, and both relocated to Kerhonkson in 2013. Along with their respective couples, the creatives turned to creating and experimenting just as the pandemic sent ass over the teapot.
“It started with a few casual gatherings with the group of us where we were experimenting with making stuff,” Friedberger explains the origin of Weird. “We are all artists in some way. A couple of times after dinner we got together to try things that might be outside of our specific mediums or disciplines.”
When the Canal Street shop became available, it provided a place to display and sell all the goods the group had manufactured. In a rejection of the sober neutral palettes and black-stained modern farmhouse aesthetic that’s taken hold in the backcountry in recent years, Weird is an explosion of color. “The four of us have a sense of humor,” says Friedberger. “Hopefully the playfulness comes through.”
The shop’s Instagram profile is a fun, funky, vibrant moodboard for the shop itself, vibrant with colorful sculptures, furniture, ceramics, wall art, lighting, and crocheted garments from Friedberger’s mom. There are also posters, hand-tie t-shirts, pillows and more, all made by the four owners.
“It was a big boost to open it and we’re still figuring out what we want to achieve,” says Carter. “I think overall the project is an art project. We try to create an experience space for the visitor, but we make the things to sell and adjust the sound. How do we create a salesroom and then operate it? It’s a learning process. We will continue to expand as we continue to experiment, and hopefully continue to grow throughout its lifetime.”
There’s a chance other artist friends will come on board to sell their wares in the shop, and Weird could even host live music and other events later in the summer if they get the go. But for now the focus is on the production of the objects and the space itself as a four-dimensional interactive work. Everything from the display shelves to the tables was custom made by the group for the space. “When we originally met, it was an opportunity to experiment outside of our mediums and disciplines,” says Carter. “So for me, how do I apply the things that I’m interested in right now to designing a space and all the things that we’ve built for space? How can we apply thinking to textiles, sculpture and lighting? It’s a bit like a lab to see how we can apply our craftsmanship to different things.”
While Carter and Berryhill have worked in 2D visual art and design in the past, the pair now devote themselves to lighting and furniture, while Friedberger, a musician by trade, has begun exploring painting. “I have lived with a painter for many years. It’s embarrassingly contagious,” she says with a modest chuckle. “So that’s been my journey for the past few months: trying to do things on paper and canvas that are personal to me.”
The group draws inspiration from nostalgic reference points in the region’s not-so-distant past. Describing the atmosphere, Carter said: “This is how we imagine the Upstate if we go back in time – think of the band hanging out in Woodstock. They look like peasants.” Friedberger points to the Fallsview Hotel in Ellenville (now Honor’s Haven), whose main hall was a Tropicana riot in fuchsia and red. “We present an alternative narrative of creative life in the area,” says Carter.
The retail aspect of the endeavor doesn’t cheapen artistic exploration for the group—it’s another facet to work with. To this end, every detail is thought of, right down to the garment labels. “Everything we do in space is accounted for,” says Carter. “That’s part of the experiment and art project aspect. How should people react to what they see and hear in order to create an overall environment? How do you attach the price tag to the object? How do you want people to feel when they pick it up?”
This Saturday, July 2nd, Weird is hosting a Bizarre Bazaar Vintage Sale featuring clothing, posters, and more goodies. The shop is open Friday from 1pm to 7pm, Saturday from 12pm to 6pm and by appointment.