A Catskill Crossroads…
By way of maple-lined country roads and picturesque dairy farms, road signs guide you to the landmark West Kortright Centre in the western part of New York’s Catskill mountains between the towns of Oneonta, Stamford, and Delhi. For 164 years now, residents have come together in this building in the heart of a beautiful, historic valley.
The Scots-Irish who farmed this rich land built their church at a natural meeting place, the convergence of three roads with the old Catskill Turnpike. The elegant classic structure, built in 1850, served them for 121 years. In 1971, the church closed its doors, its congregants leaving behind a rich legacy of spiritual and social service to the community.
A New Life
In 1975, the valley’s residents vowed to save the building, with its beautiful stained glass windows, kerosene chandeliers, and rich woodwork and the church began its second life of service. Now a Historic Landmark, the Greek Revival structure became home to The West Kortright Centre, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to excellence in arts programming and presentation — a renewed commitment to community.
An Arts Mosaic
A dedicated staff and board provide only the finest programming in our acoustically excellent and intimate auditorium space. Each season we bring in gifted artists and performers from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds, from around the world, across the country, and this region. The Centre has enticed hundreds of musicians, actors, writers and other performers from as far away as Ireland, Italy, Zaire, Ukraine, Jamaica, Angola, Palestine, Uganda, Cuba, Haiti, Peru, Zimbabwe, Mali, Sweden, Morocco, South Africa, and Brazil
Artists presented at The West Kortright Centre include composers John Cage, Meredith Monk, Peter Schickele, and Virgil Thomson; poets Allen Ginsberg, Sekou Sundiata, and Hayden Carruth; bluegrass, country, and roots musicians Rhonda Vincent, J.D. Crowe, The Cox Family, Claire Lynch, Rail Road Earth, Mary Gauthier, and Linda & Robin Williams; traditional musicians Queen Ida and her Zydeco Band, Solas, Fairfield Four, Vässen, Johnny Cunningham, Susan McKeown, Karan Casey, and Barachois; Naumburg Chamber Music award winners; jazz virtuosos Jack DeJohnette, Teddy Wilson, Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Burrell, Jacky Terrasson, Steve Lacy, Sonny Fortune, and Dakota Staton; folk musicians Greg Brown, Leo Kottke, Amos Lee, Odetta, The Roches, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, and Richie Havens; blues standouts Mose Allison, Henry Butler, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, John Hammond, The Holmes Brothers, James Cotton, Olu Dara, Pinetop Perkins, and Junior Wells; monologists Paul Zaloom, David Cale, and Reno. Artists from distant places and traditions, including Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Hassan Hakmoun, Bhundu Boys, Luciana Souza, Kanda Bongo Man, The Skatalites, Susana Baca, Oregon, and Vocal Sampling, have brought the world to our remote farm valley.
Committed to enriching the region’s youth we showcase our children’s talents as part of each season with Opening Acts and Shakespeare in the Valley, and provide workshops for all ages with professional artists. We also make The Centre available for public use through community programming and low-cost rentals.
Together, We Make It Happen
Saving and improving the former church have been accomplished through the combined efforts of hundreds of members. Together, we have provided major renovations such as installing electricity, plumbing, and heat, refurbishing interior walls, repairing stained glass windows, and renovating the stage. Significant improvements have included the creation of gallery space, construction of a permanent outdoor dance floor and stone walls, addition of theatrical sound and lighting systems, restoration of the kerosene chandeliers, and the purchase of a grand piano.
The West Kortright Centre has thrived because of the involvement and financial support of our members, area businesses, local foundations, and the New York State Council on the Arts. Admissions, workshop fees, and grants cover a significant portion of The Centre’s programs and operating costs, but we still must rely on contributions to make up the difference. The continued support of those we serve allows us to maintain our programs and facilities at levels we’ve all come to expect.
Check out this lovely video chronicling the first 25 years of The Centre: In the Heart of the Valley by JDM Productions (21:11).
Thank you so much to everyone who has helped make The West Kortright Centre such a special place over the past forty years!