Installation & Dedication honoring Pete & Toshi
Songs of the Hudson
Nestor Madalengoitia, 2007
12′ x 8′ | Acrylic on MDO Board
Installation: August 6, 2014 | Dedication: August 9, 2014
Many thanks to Ed Benavente, George Mansfield, David & Peggy Ross, Nelson Conde, Ori Brachfield, Kamel Jamal & Diana of the Beacon Bread Company, Gina Samardge, Lydia Adams-Davis, Dan Einbender and The City of Beacon.
This is a small gesture for a big presence we miss in this community. For 60 years, Pete and Toshi Seeger lent their name and their fame to this little city on the river through the good times and the bad times. Pete played uncountable events to raise our city’s spirits even when our regional neighbors may have looked down on our past struggles. As another Beacon neighbor, David Rees, recently reminded us in the New Yorker, Pete and Toshi were first and foremost our neighbors – shopping, eating and getting their haircut on Main Street, and waiting in line like everyone else to by stamps at our WPA era post office.
As we all know, Pete seemed to do everything he could to keep from taking credit for things he did. He’d tell us his best music was when everyone sang together, not just him singing alone. This, of course, makes paying tribute to Pete a great challenge.
When Nestor Madelengoitia sent his idea to BeaconArts we were thrilled. Here was a tribute without his image, focused on his words, lyrics of Pete’s songs set on a view of the Hudson River he so dearly loved and for decades fought to clean. Further, the piece itself was executed not by a single person, but by a group of Beacon children attending a community center named after another passionate fighter for freedom and justice, Martin Luther King. I don’t need to tell anyone who participated in Pete’s planned march for MLK, Pete’s last gift to Beacon, how strongly he felt about Dr. King and his legacy. Nor do I need to remind any parent or even grown Beacon citizen who ever participated in the Calico Ball or heard Pete sing in their classroom how strongly Pete and Toshi felt for our city’s schoolchildren.
Today we try to give back by paying tribute to the people we can never truly repay. This is not the first tribute, nor should it be the last. Today is just a day we dedicate a painting to honor a simple banjo player and his wife – a painting made by children placed on a brick wall on a Main Street building in a small Hudson River town with a very big heart. Pete and Toshi will always be a part of that big heart. We miss them dearly and we salute their spirit which continues to inspire us. On behalf of BeaconArts and all of our members who help make Beacon’s big heart bigger, we proudly present this piece of our hearts to the City of Beacon.
– Dan Rigney, President, BeaconArts