A Spirited Community: Celebrate Halloween in Woodstock with The Secret City
Chris Wells is the co-founder and artistic director of The Secret City, a high-energy happening that takes place once a month in New York City, Los Angeles, and right here in Woodstock. The Secret City was born in 2007 when Chris Wells and his partner, the artist Robert Lucy, gathered with a small group of friends in New York City with the vision of creating a haven for artists and creative people, building community, and celebrating art and artists in a joyful, commercial-free setting. What emerged was part-salon, part-ceremony, and a pure celebration. The group won an Obie Award for Service to The Creative Community in 2010, and expanded the concept first to LA and then to Woodstock in 2015 after the couple moved up to the heart of the Catskills.
A major event on the yearly calendar is the Secret City Art Revival held each summer in Woodstock, celebrating the arts with food, music, dancing, and hidden performances all steeped in the town’s history. The culmination of the weekend-long festival is the processional and service on Sunday, complete with costumed participants making their way through the town. So who better to partner with the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce to produce this year’s Halloween celebration?
Inside + Out: What inspired you to start The Secret City?
Chris Wells: I love artists and believe in art’s power to bring meaning to people’s lives. I wanted to create a place that celebrated those ideas and gave people a place to connect around the arts in a commercial-free space. The Secret City celebrates the arts, promotes individual artists, and creates community through the arts.
Inside + Out: Why is it important to have creative outlets?
Chris Wells: The arts are the key to our humanity. Woodstock is a great example of an arts-based community where music, craft, visual art, and the rest give people’s lives deeper meaning and impact the feel and values of the town. My hope with The Secret City’s work in Woodstock is to keep that creative spirit alive, especially in this time of such change.
Inside + Out: What is significant to you about the Byrdcliffe location?
Chris Wells: Byrdcliffe is so special. I knew nothing about it until my husband and I moved there. We’ve been very fortunate to be in our historic arts and crafts cottage for eight years and it definitely feels like we are being held by all who’ve come before. I salute the founders’ intention to create a place for artists to live and make work in this extraordinary setting.
Inside+ Out: Tell me about the Halloween celebration – what was the idea behind getting involved in it?
Chris Wells: I moved to Woodstock on October 1st, 2013, and was feeling sort of disoriented after living in big cities for over two decades. I heard about the Halloween celebration and that sounded interesting–I do love to dress up–so Bobby and I got some funky outfits together and went into town. It was AMAZING. I remember it as the first real HIT I got of Woodstock. The Secret City is thrilled to partner with the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Arts to bring the annual celebration to life.
Inside + Out: What can we look forward to this year?
Chris Wells: We are very much in keeping with Renee’s vision (Renee Englander ran the Halloween celebration for many years until her retirement last year) so it will be very similar to previous years with a few special treats. In addition to the costume parade and participating merchants handing out candy, the Rock Academy drumline will be leading the parade. And Drew Andrews and the CCE Energy Dance Company will be leading a Thriller flashmob at 5:30.
This Saturday we’ll be learning the choreography for the Thriller Flashmob–Drew will be teaching us! If you want to practice or learn join us at 1 PM at Utopia Soundstage, 293 Tinker Street, in the Bearsville Complex. And, here’s a link to the choreo to the Thriller dance so you can practice on your own! Then at 2 PM in the same space, we’ll be making decorations for the Halloween Parade. Please join us, all are welcome!
Inside + Out: What’s next for you?
Chris Wells: We are making plans for a Winter Solstice celebration in Woodstock–stay tuned for details about that. The Secret City Daily continues at 12 noon every weekday on our Facebook and Instagram channels. And, I am just finishing my first novel.
Speaking of Halloween Traditions in Woodstock, New York, don’t forget to stop by CPW’s Halloween Photo Booth!
Calling all scary ghosts & ghoulish goblins, daring superheroes, and dastardly villains…it’s that time of the year again! Stop by the Center of Photography at Woodstock (CPW) on Sunday, October 31 from 4-6 pm for family and Halloween portraits photographed by Dion Ogust during Woodstock Halloween Parade.
For a $20 donation, your spooky likeness will be emailed to you as a high-resolution digital file or for a $35 donation, you’ll receive a digital file by email and an 8×10″ inkjet print by snail mail! This event will take place on CPW’s front porch, spots are first-come, first-serve. Covid-19 safety guidelines apply. Can you Say Boo?!
All photos courtesy of The Secret City; header photo by Dion Ogust (@dionogust).