Story and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson
More than 50 organizations and 50,000 attendees participated in last year’s inaugural MoHu Fest, a multi-day arts festival showcasing theatre, dance, music and visual art from around the Capital Region – with a title inspired by the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers.
“At its heart, MoHu is a collective marketing effort. We think MoHu is successful if it can demonstrate the reach of our cultural institutions,” said WMHT president Robert Altman on Tuesday morning (September 18) at a press conference held at the public broadcaster’s studios in North Greenbush.
WMHT serves as a “convener” for the MoHu effort, Altman said, which this year runs from Friday, October 5 to Sunday, October 14 with performances, workshops, gallery exhibits, lectures and other arts events at venues throughout Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties.
“This year we decided to invent an opening event,” said press conference panelist Phillip Morris, CEO of Proctors in Schenectady, describing the MoHu kick-off party on Thursday, October 4. Called “MoHu Takes Flight,” the event (at $50 a ticket) will transform an empty terminal at Albany International Airport into a fundraiser featuring food from local farmers and an installation from Albany artist and craftsman Peter Leue.
Leue took the podium to describe the piece he’s assembling for the MoHu opening: an “art of scale project” and reconfiguration of his Deus ex Machina installation currently showing at the Marion Royael Gallery in Beacon. Inspired by Erector Set inventor A.C. Gilbert, Leue’s piece will take the form of a wooden, super-sized Erector Set design – with each handmade beam, screw and nut crafted to be 12 times larger than the toy version.
“[The installation] is symbolic of this collaborative and cooperative event, where artists can work together to make the arts grow,” said Leue after the press event.
His piece’s series of towers and bridges will also represent the “MoHu compass” – the festival’s symbol for the four Capital Region counties, which will be highlighted in a series of public arts events held on Monday, October 8 in “MoHu West” (Schenectady County) and in “MoHu East” (Rensselaer County) on Tuesday, October 9.
The following day (Wednesday, October 10) in “MoHu South,” a party-trolley will transport patrons to different venues in downtown Albany for a pub-crawl for the arts, and on Thursday, October 11, “MoHu North” will spotlight events at Skidmore College’s Arthur Zankel Music Center, where Skidmore College a cappella group Drastic Measures and the Chosen – a children’s song and dance troupe from Uganda – will perform a charity concert.
“This event is both arts appreciation, and it’s a benefit to help people in Africa who are in desperate circumstances,” said Robert Kimmerle, Skidmore College’s director of community relations, after the press event.
The MoHu festival concludes this year with “Drums Along the MoHu,” a free closing celebration at The Egg in Albany on Sunday, October 14 featuring prominent Capital Region percussionists including Zarkie Nelson, Brian Melick and Devesh Chandra.
“It’s exciting to see all these folks in the same room, working toward a singular goal,” said EMPAC at RPI public relations manager Jason Steven Murphy after the press event, which drew together representatives from prominent local arts and music venues. “Because the perception is we’re all fighting over the same audience. But it’s not like that. We are all trying to bring a diversity and quality of arts to the Capital Region. That is really on display here.”
Go here for more information on MoHu Fest and a schedule of MoHu events.