Cultural Crossings with Art, Poetry and Music
CENTRAL BOOKING’s Sandstone Steps project
in collaboration with Hugh Bryden and Roncadora Press
Scotland: May – September 2024
New York: Early 2025
2023 Events – Scotland
Annan History Town Festival
August 12th to 13th
The Smithy 113-115 High St. Dumfries
August 16th to 18th
Kirkcudbright Galleries, Mitchell Gallery
August 26th to September 24th
Sandstone Steps is an ambitious collaborative project that explores and celebrates the historical cultural flux that crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic between the coasts of New York and Dumfries and Galloway. It all began with the voyage of sandstone and craftsmen from Scotland in the nineteenth century- and still continues today.
This cultural exchange fosters collaborations between visual artists, musicians and poets from Dumfries and Galloway and New York, producing a prestigious limited edition artist’s book, commissioned music, poetry pamphlets and artists print portfolios – along with exhibitions and performances on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sandstone Steps is a multi-disciplinary cultural event in a box, an artist’s book in three parts: with a musical element, a literary element and a visual art element. The box, in a shape of a staircase with drawers, will contain specially commissioned music, poetry and relief prints in each of its three “steps.” From April-September 2024, it forms the center of a programme of exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings and related events in Dumfries and Galloway, then moves to New York for celebrations in 2025.
The Three Artistic Components
Visual Art –The Scottish stone carvers left their legacy in not just Albany, the Capitol of New York, but in the carved details on stoops throughout New York City where brownstones were faced with sandstone. Even the original iconic Manhattan skyline was shaped by Scottish architects.
Inspired by the buildings and carved details in sandstone on both sides of the Atlantic, Hugh Bryden and Maddy Rosenberg spearhead the project. During a residency at the Gracefield Art Centre, they will produce the Sandstone Steps, a limited edition series of collaborative artist’s books (with poets and musicians), with original visual content along the theme, including suites of block prints/mixed media prints. Additionally, they have organized artists from both sides of the Atlantic to participate in numerous events in conjunction with the project.
Poetry – A huge part of the cultural fabric of New York and Dumfries & Galloway, poetry forms major links in the project, with the poems inspiring lyrics and ideas in the music and the words incorporated in the artwork. Wigtown Book Town and its festival nurtures poetry events, and our participation includes an exhibition in the library to coincide with the Book Festival.
Our two prominent poets, Hugh McMillan from Dumfries & Galloway and JoAnne McFarland from New York, collaborate on a poetry collection plus an illustrated poetry performance about the people who travelled with the sandstone and back. They also give voice to the Unknowns of the Million Dollar Staircase in Albany and the stories of immigrants sitting on sandstone stoops throughout New York.
Music –There are the obvious links of Scottish immigrants taking their traditional music with them to the USA, keeping them alive while merging them with the new music they encountered. But there was also the huge influence of jazz crossing the Atlantic on the ocean liners. The reciprocal journeys of jazz across the Atlantic, the influence of jazz on British musical culture and the impact of dance bands, a British response to jazz, all contributed to the adoption of the music elsewhere.
Ben Bryden bridges both New York and Scotland as he is born and bred in Dumfries, but now based in New York, while continuing to perform in both places. He and Rohin Khemani, his New York musical collaborator, are heavily steeped in jazz, though not limited by it. Working with the project poets, they will produce a record, two CDs, and various digital forms as a component of the artist’s book, as well as perform concerts of the new work.
EVENTS – Scotland 2024
Dumfries – April-September
Maddy Rosenberg in residence in Dumfries with talks and events, including mentoring at The Stove (Dumfries) and events in Annan History Town
Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries – May 18-June 22
At the Foot of the Sandstone Steps – CENTRAL BOOKING artist’s book exhibition of New York artists with selected Scottish book artists.
Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival – May
Launch of music component
Annan History Town Festival – August
Exhibition and related events
Kirkcudbright Galleries, Mitchell Gallery – August – September
Exhibition around entire Sandstone Steps artist’s book– Prints, books, music and installations with events
Wigtown Library – book art exhibition
Wigtown Book Festival – book launch
Continues in New York in 2025…
Sandstone Steps is sponsored, in part, by The American Trust for the British Library (ATBL).