CoSM Plans New Sanctuary of Visionary Art in Wappinger
Alex and Allyson Grey
This summer will bring big changes for Chapel of Sacred Mirrors—known as CoSM—a church and events center dedicated to contemplation and encouraging the creative spirit. Inspired by and built around The Sacred Mirrors, a series of artworks by Alex Grey, CoSM has moved much of its operations out of Chelsea in NYC, where it began, to a pastoral setting in Wappinger, NY. Now, Alex and Allyson Grey are set to begin building Entheon, a new sanctuary of visionary art.
We talked to the Greys in May, as engineering drawings were being completed. “Right now, Entheon is what’s on our minds,” Alex told us. “We’ll initiate the first stages of building this summer, and, Goddess willing, the exhibition will open on the autumnal equinox 2015, and the exterior sculptures will be placed by the end of 2016 or sooner.”
Why did you move CoSM out of NYC, and what was your vision in creating the Wappinger location?
CoSM’s mission is to build a sanctuary of visionary art to inspire and evolve the creative spirit. We knew we couldn’t build an enduring sanctuary in a New York City rental—our lease was up in five years—and so we looked for a permanent location. The move to Wappinger fulfilled our vision of an inspiring, permanent offering to share—a spiritual, interfaith pilgrimage site for generations to come.
Your new location is 40 acres—quite a change from the city. What’s it like there?
CoSM in Wappinger is a more tranquil setting than the club and gallery district of Chelsea.
The Wappinger native people lived on the CoSM site long ago, and so the first thing we did was create a special cairn to honor the Wappinger. The primary building on the site is a 10-bedroom, Victorian-style country house erected in 1862. In 1959, the property was gifted to the United Church of Christ, and it became a retreat center and summer Bible camp for many churches and school groups. Since CoSM moved to Wappinger in September 2008, we’ve restored three buildings: an office, a guest house for ceremonies and guests, and a studio where, as ministers of the church, we hold a residence, office and studio to serve CoSM. The town approved CoSM’s plan to transform the 1882 carriage house into a sanctuary of visionary art—CoSM’s first temple and fourth restored building.
So that’s Entheon. Tell us about the name and the temple.
Entheon means “a place to discover the God within.” At CoSM, Entheon will be a sanctuary of visionary art. We’re scheduled to break ground this year. The ornamental architecture of Entheon points to the transcendent unity of all sacred paths. A continuous band of identical godheads will surround the building, with symbols of 30 world wisdom traditions above each cosmic eye. The many eyes on the roof represent consciousness. DNA dragons, symbolizing consciousness evolution, emerge from the Angels of the Four Directions and ascend to the One, represented as the steeple head.
Describe your artist retreats.
When artists come to CoSM for a retreat, we spend an hour in consultation with them, focusing on their work and future. Consultations are open to visual artists, dancers, musicians or performance artists. We can also consult on life and career development.
This summer we will co-lead three workshops open to serious artists at any level of experience. The Body & Soul Drawing Intensive focuses on the figure and the invisible energy that we imagine in and around the body. The Painting Intensive is seven days of painting immersion. Participants will begin two pieces, a self-portrait and a work in their own style and design. Each day includes lectures, presentations by class members, and group critiques. The Anatomy Intensive is taught according to the e’corche method that Alex taught for ten years at New York University’s art department. Participants can expect to draw and sculpt a figure—the skeleton and all muscle groups.
All our summer intensives—small classes with personal attention—were filled by mid-December. However, registration is still open for our 24th annual five-day Visionary Art Intensive, which will be held in June at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. This workshop focuses on accessing visions and turning those visions into images, and it includes discussions on how art can be a spiritual practice and how to become a great artist. You can sign up online at EOmega.org.
What other types of events and courses can people sign up for?
For 11 years, CoSM has held an unbroken chain of Full Moon ceremonies, where artists, philosophers, musicians, poets, dancers, performance artists and many creative friends introduce their particular creative ability in 10 minutes or less.
We also host Art Church one Sunday afternoon each month. We treat art as a spiritual practice that includes music, learning and art making. Participants bring their own art supplies. Art Church is CoSM’s most intimate event. We encourage people to try it even if they haven’t made art since kindergarten.
One Friday or Saturday night each month, we host Visionary Salons, which feature a variety of special guests who share their work in interviews, workshops, screenings and concerts. Our most heavily attended events are our Celestial Celebrations, held on the Saturday closest to an equinox or solstice. These are full-scale events including electronic and ambient music, a fire circle, a laser light show, tarot reading, body painting and ecstatic dance.
This summer we’ll begin our new Friday night dinners featuring a chef from the culinary institute. We’ll post details soon at CoSM.org/events.
How can people visit or shop at CoSM?
CoSM is open to the public Friday through Monday from noon until 6 p.m., when the Mushroom Café and CoSM Shop are open for snacks and visionary products. Sometimes special events and rentals preclude visits from guests, so check the website before you come. Rooms in the CoSM guest house are available 365 nights a year. For information, go to CoSM.org/stay.
Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) is located at 46 Deer Hill Rd. (off Wheeler Hill Road), Wappingers Falls, NY. For more info, call 845.297.2323 or visit [email protected].