Ten Minutes With The Five Senses Festival Organizers
Stephanie Ingrassia & Itamar Kubovy share about the creative process
Photo by Ryan Lavine
Stephanie Ingrassia & Itamar Kubovy are two of the motivating forces behind the Five Senses Festival held this summer in Washington. A multi-arts and ideas festival held on a field in the woods, the seven-day festival featured world-class performances, interactive art and classes, and delicious local food. We spoke with Itamar Kubovy, the executive producer of Pilobolus, and Stephanie Ingrassia, vice chair of the Brooklyn Museum and, along with her husband Tim, long-time supporters of Pilobolus and owners of the festival property.
How did the concept for an arts festival in Washington evolve?
Stephanie: Tim and I have been talking with Pilobolus for a number of years about how to provide a platform for the creative community of Northwest Connecticut by creating something world-class, yet true to the rural identity. When we acquired the field on Bee Brook Road, we decided to dedicate its use to culture and art. It made perfect sense that Pilobolus would partner with us on this creative collaboration. With our vision for the land—an open-air farm piazza in the middle of a field—and Pilobolus’s love of collaborating with artists from all over the world, we created seven days of passionate community using art, food, and the five senses.
Why is it called the Five Senses Festival?
Itamar: We live in a time of interruption to our direct physical experience. In that noise it becomes hard to fully experience the full spectrum of our senses and feelings. This reduces people’s ability to really experience culture, art, and nature. The hope was that over the summer people could unplug and separate from all of those interruptions and there would be an opportunity to “come to their senses”—to reset the bar of what it really means to taste, to feel, to find beauty in a piece of music. So we said we’d call it the Five Senses Festival.
Stephanie, what was the vision behind the design of the land?
We wanted to create an outdoor art park that had an ambient state most of the day, as well as two stages and other spots to present specific performances. I looked at elements of rural life—an old train car. a giant grain silo—and treated them as art objects. We asked Mark Mennin to create an outdoor granite amphitheater on the wooded hill above the field. The idea is to find some sort of surprise every time you visit.
What sparked the festival’s interest in showcasing all types of performance artists as well as moderated talks?
Itamar: Pilobolus has always been interested in expanding the definition of dance beyond what is traditionally accepted. We wanted to share a diversity of talent with our local community.
How did you find the amazing line-up of artists?
Itamar: We went to our network of friends and came across a number of gems, such as the singer/songwriter/cellist Ben Sollee, Bela Fleck, Jeremy Denk, Kimbra, Laurie Santos, Dani Shapiro, and Bruce Mau.
What are your future hopes for the festival?
Stephanie: We would love the Five Senses Festival to become a cultural tradition in Northwest Connecticut. We hope for it to bring in new ideas that allow us to feel we are experiencing new stuff every year.