by W.B. King
In the fall of 2015, David Lyons had a vision—a mission—to create an environment where various forms of art could be learned, produced, shared and celebrated. His goal came to fruition in January 2018 when the Bethany Arts Community (BAC) made its debut.
“Because we only recently opened our doors, the people and artists who find us—it has been a very organic process,” said Lyons, a Sleepy Hollow resident and BAC’s founder, chairman of the board and executive director.
Lyons, who wears many hats—from running the coat check to washing dishes—noted that artists of all ages and levels of experience are “welcome to explore and create art that the community can experience and be engaged in.” BAC, he added, was designed “to inspire sharing, connection and collaboration” that benefits the local community and beyond.
BAC to the Future
Situated on 25 acres in Ossining, the not-for-profit BAC’s campus consists of one building that encompasses 44,000 square feet. Originally owned by the Maryknoll Foreign Mission Sisters of St. Dominic, who built the original convent structure (Bethany Rest House) in 1925, a three-story dormitory, dining wing and chapel were added in 1951.
“Maryknoll had two campuses in Ossining, and this was the much smaller of the two—not the more famous one with the Asian architecture,” said Lyons, who noted that the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers took over the property in 1958. By 1979, the building was designated for the lay missionary program.
The former chapel now serves as a 99-seat performance space. BAC has 27 individual art studios and can accommodate up to 27 people overnight. Along with teaching spaces, workshops and galleries, there is a commercial kitchen and cafeteria as well as a 1,560-square-foot rehearsal and performance space with a sprung floor. Additionally, the grounds, which include a fruit orchard and expansive lawns, are home to a growing sculpture garden.
“Bethany is a special place and a very much needed asset to the community as a whole. We have the ability to provide so much to artists of all levels and in all disciplines,” said Tarrytown resident Laurie Birrittella, a financial executive who is on BAC’s board and serves as its treasurer.
“Bethany has the feel of a real retreat, a place to get away from the normal day-to-day bustle of life and experience a peaceful setting, which helps inspire those who come to learn and create art,” added Birrittella.
Programs in June and July include a performance of “The Sting,” and the Summer Solstice Concert will be performed by the Cassatt String Quartet that will delight the audience with renditions of Borodin String Quartet No. 2 in D major and Haydn String Quartet Op 76 No 4 Sunrise.
“I am excited about everything we are doing, but very much looking forward to the very first of our summer camp programs and seeing the space filled with the youngest of artists,” said Birrittella.
BAC, she explained, will feature two summer camp programs: Theater O’s Camp of Witchcraft and Wizardry that will run three one-week sessions in July for ages eight and older and Scribble Art Workshop out of Dobbs Ferry, which will run three one-week sessions in August for ages kindergarten to fifth grade.
“Bethany arriving in Ossining is a game-changer for an already artistic community. Not only will Bethany serve as inspiration, but also as an art making home to so many artists at so many points in their artistic lives,” noted Theater O’s Artistic Director Jessica Irons. “I can’t wait to see the conversations, collaborations and artistic growth that Bethany will be home to.”
For more information on the Bethany Arts Community and upcoming programs and events, visit www.bethanyarts.org.