Founded by Elizabeth Reese in 2000, the Warwick Summer Arts Festival has brought crowds to underused parks, created a performance venue on a farm in the middle of the black dirt and established an annual Main St. storefront art exhibit. As Orange Country’s premiere arts festival, Warwick Summer Arts Festival has continued to bring great music to the region as well as commissioning and presenting original work. WSAF continues to expand and honor its tradition under the directorship of Melissa Padham-Maass beginning in 2014.
We look to present original work that is both challenging and inspiring. Our mission is to bring the arts out to every part of the community: the parks, the storefronts, and the farms. We enjoy collaborating with local, national, and global artists to create site specific works as well as main stage performances Through our program of master classes and community workshops, in addition to presenting work in several locations, we reach audiences of all ages.
The Warwick Arts Festival was founded in 2000 with incentive funding from the New York State Council on the Arts as a way to bring more performing artists to Orange County. The Council gradually reduced its funding in the hope that local foundations, businesses and individuals would step in to support the Festival and see its value to the community.
In fourteen years, we have presented hundreds of concerts at various locations around Warwick. The main stage concerts draw audiences of 500 to 1,000 people. We have sponsored workshops at the Community Center, Warwick Valley High School, The Bookstore, Albert Wisner Library, Blackdirt Dance, Wisner Studios and the Moving Company Dance Studio.
Highlights of past festivals include Eileen Ivers/Immigrant Soul; Tom Chapin; The Roches; Dierdre Murrey’s String Ensemble; and the renowned experimental violinist Leroy Jenkin. Celebration of the Drum set with Newman Taylor Baker was highlighted in the prestigious Drummers World Magazine as one of the best concerts of the summer season.
The Mannequin Project in 2006 drew audiences from throughout the East Coast and several of the pieces are still being displayed around Orange County.
In 2010, the Festival sponsored playwright/director Will MacAdams creation of Water and Stone, performed in the orchards of Pennings Farm Market. Mr. MacAdams spent a year in Warwick gathering stories of local residents, from farm workers to merchants to historians, and wove them together creating a moving and beautiful performance work.
In 2014, the Festival premiered the first Warwick Summer Film Festival at the Warwick Drive-in featuring works of various independent filmmakers and the first Warwick Summer Dance Festival at the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center featuring renowned NYC dance companies including Darrah Carr Dance and Forces of Nature Dance Theater.