There’s a question that fascinates Peter Leue: How large does a utilitarian object have to be before it’s considered art?
He’s been exploring the answer through a series of projects he deems “Maxiatures” — not “miniatures,” he noted with a laugh. His latest larger-than-life creation will come together, appropriately enough, at MoHu, a festival meant to spotlight the artistic offerings of the Capital District.
Stretching over a week and a half, from Friday, Oct. 5, to Sunday, Oct. 14, the festival kicked off with an interactive arts party at Albany International Airport on Thursday, Oct. 4. Guests had a chance to help Leue put the finishing touches on his massive recreation of a Hudson River train bridge.
It will be the fourth installation of Leue’s Maxiatures series, coming on the heels of an exhibition at the Marion Royael Gallery in Beacon. The exhibit in Beacon was extended a month, so Leue didn’t have much time to put together the MoHu piece. He broke down the Beacon exhibit and drove back to Albany with its plywood, stainless steel and homemade nuts and bolts. Then he and his brother, Bill (well known locally for his intrinsic Capital District Lego recreations), got to work in the hangar where the kickoff party will be held.
Called Crossroads of Imagination, the installation will have four towers representing the four points of the MoHu compass (Schenectady, Saratoga, Troy and Albany). There will be four truss bridges connecting the towers to the center tower, which Leue calls “kind of the pinnacle” of the piece, standing 25 feet high.
“I figured, in a hangar, I might as well go huge,” he said.
Leue and his brother didn’t complete the whole piece. They left one bridge undone, and in the spirit of MoHu’s aim of bringing the region’s art scene together, Leue will invite people at the kickoff party to help assemble the bridge.
Leue took part in the inaugural MoHu Festival last year as well, opening his studio to visitors. That’s what Sharon Crute is doing this year, showcasing her paintings at her gallery on Beekman Street in Saratoga Springs.
“It’s a nice way to be able to enjoy interacting with customers,” Crute said.
She does plenty of that over the summer, when she sets up shop at Saratoga Racecourse as part of the Artist’s Village. Crute married a horse trainer, and she fell in love with the animals as well.
“Thoroughbreds, and racing in particular, are beautiful,” Crute said. “They are extreme athletes.”
Though she worked for many years as an assistant to her husband, he always encouraged her to paint, renting a tack room where she could work. Crute eventually turned to painting full time, and horses are her chief subjects. She said she tries to capture the animals’ “beauty and power” by working movement and direction into her paintings. There’s no bigger compliment than when people tell her they have to step to the side when looking at her pictures because it’s as if the horses are coming right at them.
Formerly of Florida, Crute and her husband have long been coming to the area for track season. Last year, they decided to see how they liked living here full time. They decided to give it one year.
“It’s been wonderful,” Crute said. “We’re both very happy here. We’re definitely going to stay.”
Like Crute, Kat Koppett is a transplant to the Capital District, arriving after stints in San Francisco and New York City, both of which have very cohesive arts communities. This area, she felt, was different.
“There’s so much here, but it’s not integrated,” she said. “It isn’t really maximizing the value of everything.”
Her husband, Michael Burns, who, with Koppett cofounded the Mop and Bucket Company, had noticed the same thing. So when MoHu launched last year, both were enthusiastic participants. MopCo teamed up with Capital Repertory Theater, putting on free shows in the theater’s cafe area before the curtain lifted on the evening’s play.
It was a “very successful experiment,” Burns said, so much so that MopCo is repeating it this year. MoHu will also include two of the Mop and Bucket Co.’s regularly scheduled shows at Proctors, called Underground at Proctors. On Friday, Oct. 12, MopCo will do both a Capital Repertory show and a Proctors show.
It continues MopCo’s busy year. During track season, MopCo offered shows at the Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga, another experiment that went so well that MopCo would like to duplicate it.
“We filled the ballroom,” Burns said. “We had a wonderful time. Saratoga is just so much fun in the summer.”
Nothing is set in stone as far as a return engagement, but MopCo has plenty on its plate. In addition to MoHu and the Proctors show, Koppett and Burns have seen an uptick in local businesses that want to integrate improv into their training, and it’s being taught at area colleges such as Skidmore and RPI.
Improv’s popularity is “a long time coming,” Burns said, and it’s something he and Koppett embrace, even though competing improv groups may pop up. It probably sounds strange, Burns acknowledged; it’s kind of like a Sunoco station owner being excited that a Mobil is opening down the street.
“But it really is the more, the merrier,” he said. “More and more, what we’re looking to do is develop a scene.”
MopCo will perform Underground at Proctors on Friday, Oct. 5 and 12, during the MoHu Festival, as part of its regular Friday night performances. It will stage roughly 45-minute shows at Capital Rep on Tuesday, Oct. 9; Thursday, Oct. 11; Friday, Oct. 12; and Saturday, Oct. 13. For more information, visit mopco.org.
Crute’s studio will be open Monday, Oct. 8, from noon to 7 p.m. It’s at 70-B Beekman St. For more information, visit sharoncrute.com.
Leue will be at MoHu’s kickoff party, MoHu Takes Flight, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4, before breaking down his piece and bringing it back to his studio to work on its next incarnation. For more information on his work, visit peterleuedesignercraftsman.com.
For more information on MoHu, including a full schedule of events, visit www.mohufest.com.