The Esopus Foundation Ltd. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization incorporated in New York State in 2003. It was formed to provide an unmediated forum through which artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people can make a direct connection with the general public.
In its first nine years, the Foundation has been largely devoted to the publishing of Esopus, a twice-yearly magazine that features content from all creative disciplines presented in an unmediated format. “Unmediated” means that Esopus never features advertisements or commercially driven editorial material, and employs a purposefully neutral editorial voice in order to make the magazine a distributor, rather than interpreter, of its content. From 2009-2012, the Esopus Foundation also ran Esopus Space, an intimately scaled performance and exhibition venue in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood that featured one-person and group shows, performances, lectures, and screenings at no cost to the public.
Twice-yearly Esopus features contributions from a cross-section of creative disciplines presented in a striking visual format with minimal editorial framing and no advertising. This gives our readers the opportunity to access a wide range of cultural expression with minimal interference and attracts and engages general readers who might not otherwise engage with this type of publication. Content for Esopus is selected using 1) an open submissions policy; 2) recommendations and suggestions from the magazine’s board of advisors—which includes respected creative professionals from a wide range of disciplines—as well as from other contributors and colleagues; and 3) the editor’s 20 years’ experience of working in the art, film, and publishing fields of New York City. We take care to invite individuals representing a wide range of cultural, geographic, and aesthetic backgrounds to provide a more complete picture of contemporary creative practices.
Each issue of Esopus includes three long-form contemporary artists’ projects—one by an established artist (past contributors have included Richard Tuttle, Jenny Holzer, and Robert Therrien) and two by emerging figures. Previous projects have taken the form of removable posters, booklets, foldouts, and hand-assembled sculptures, and have often utilized complex printing processes, unique paper stocks, and specially formulated inks. Issues also typically include personal reflections on various creative disciplines by practitioners. So far, these have included film composer Carter Burwell, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton among many others. Also featured in nearly every issue is a portfolio of work by an undiscovered artist, such as the riveting battle drawings of 13-year-old student Alex Brown, the WWII–era gouache portraits of Holocaust survivor Samuel Varkovitsky or the stunning mixed-media collages of the severely autistic 24-year-old Alex Masket. Along with a sampling of short plays, visual essays, film excerpts, poetry, and fiction by never-before-published authors, issues contain new installments of two regular series: “Modern Artifacts,” for which undiscovered treasures from the Museum of Modern Art Archives are reproduced in facsimile, and “Guarded Opinions,” which features museum guards’ commentaries on the art they oversee. Each issue concludes with a themed audio CD, for which musicians are invited to contribute a new song based on a particular subject.
Esopus currently reaches 30,000 readers around the world. The magazine counts subscribers in 49 states and 27 countries and is distributed extensively to bookstores and newsstands throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, South America, Asia, and the South Pacific. Our readership includes professionals from the art, film, theater, music, design, and publishing fields; public libraries, educational institutions, and arts organizations; and general readers who have learned about the publication through features in The New York Times, Print, The New Yorker, New York magazine, Harper’s, The Village Voice, Toronto’s National Post, China Business News, Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Utne Reader, NPR, and many other mainstream venues.
Esopus is offered at the deeply subsidized cover price of $14 (significantly less than its production cost) to make it available to people who would otherwise not be able to afford it, as well as attractive to a readership unfamiliar with higher-priced specialty arts publications. In addition, we offer free copies of each issue to public, school, and alternative libraries in rural and inner-city areas through the Distribution to Underserved Communities (DUC) Library Program of New York City’s Art Resources Transfer Ltd.
In June 2009, a capacity-building grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts enabled the Esopus Foundation to move from its original 250-square-foot office to a substantially larger combined office and exhibition space in downtown New York. Exhibitions in the space, which was open from June 2009 to June 2012, showcased work from Esopus contributors as well as from both emerging and established figures in the contemporary art world. The schedule featured both one-person exhibitions and group shows, including those conceived by guest curators. Esopus Space, which seated approximately 50 people, also programmed a series of readings, musical and theatrical performances, panel discussions, lectures, and screenings of film and video.
In addition to having its own facilities, the Esopus Foundation occasionally programs well-attended events at arts venues in New York City such as P.S.1/MoMA,The Kitchen, and the Museum of the Moving Image. These programs, called “Evenings with Esopus,” generally coincide with the release of an issue and, reflecting the multidisciplinary approach of the magazine, incorporate poetry readings, musical concerts, film screenings, panel discussions, and theatrical performances from magazine contributors. Editor Tod Lippy is regularly invited to speak about the magazine to high school, college, and graduate-school students (recent lectures have been given at New York’s Nightingale-Bamford School for Girls, the Elizabeth Irwin High School, the School of Visual Arts, the Hunter College M.F.A. program, Rice University in Houston, Texas, and USC’s Roski School of Fine Arts in Los Angeles).