The Esopus Foundation Ltd. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization incorporated in New York State in 2003 with the mission of providing an unmediated forum through which artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people can make a direct connection with the general public.
Since its inception, the Foundation has been largely devoted to the publishing of Esopus, an annual publication edited by founder Tod Lippy that features content from all creative disciplines presented in an unmediated format. “Unmediated” means that Esopus never features advertisements or commercially driven editorial material, and employs a purposefully neutral editorial voice in order to make the magazine a distributor, rather than interpreter, of its content. The Foundation also regularly programs public events at museums, galleries, bookstores, and performances spaces throughout New York City, including Esopus Space, the Greenwich Village venue that was operated by the Foundation from 2009 to 2012.
Esopus presents contributions from a cross-section of creative disciplines presented in a striking visual format with minimal editorial framing and no advertising. This presentation gives our readers the opportunity to access a wide range of cultural expression with the least possible interference and attracts and engages general readers who might not otherwise pick up this kind of publication. Content for Esopus is selected using 1) an open submissions policy; 2) recommendations and suggestions from the magazine’s board of advisors—which includes respected creative professionals from a wide range of disciplines—as well as from other contributors and colleagues; and 3) Lippy's 27 years’ experience of working in the art, film, and publishing fields of New York City. We take care to invite individuals representing a wide range of cultural, geographic, and aesthetic backgrounds to provide a more comprehensive picture of contemporary creative expression.
Each issue of Esopus includes long-form contemporary artists’ projects by established artists (past contributors have included Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer, and Kerry James Marshall) and emerging figures. Previous projects have taken the form of removable posters, booklets, foldouts, and hand-assembled sculptures, and have often utilized complex printing processes, unique paper stocks, and specially formulated inks. Issues also typically present personal reflections on various creative disciplines by practitioners, including film composer Carter Burwell, novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard, lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, among many others. Also featured in nearly every issue is a portfolio of undiscovered work, from the riveting photographs of Mark Hogancamp to the WWII–era gouache portraits of Holocaust survivor Samuel Varkovitsky. Along with a sampling of short plays, visual essays, film excerpts, poetry, and fiction by never-before-published authors, issues contain installments of several regular series, including “Modern Artifacts,” for which undiscovered treasures from the Museum of Modern Art Archives are reproduced in facsimile, “Guarded Opinions,” which features museum guards’ commentaries on the art they oversee; and “Public Access,” co-presented with the New York Public Library and showcasing never-before-seen items from the Library’s storied collections. Each issue of Esopus concludes with a themed audio compilation, for which musicians are invited to contribute a new song based on a particular theme.
Esopus currently reaches 30,000 readers around the world. The publication counts subscribers in all 50 states and 24 countries and is distributed extensively to bookstores and newsstands throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, South America, Asia, and the South Pacific. Our readership includes professionals from the art, film, theater, music, design, and publishing fields; public libraries, educational institutions, and arts organizations; and general readers who have learned about Esopus through reviews and features in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, NPR, and many other mainstream venues.
Esopus is offered at subsidized cover and subscription prices (significantly less than its production cost) to make it available to people who would otherwise not be able to afford it, as well as attractive to a readership unfamiliar with higher-priced specialty arts publications. In addition, we offer 500 free copies of each issue to public, school, and alternative libraries in rural and inner-city areas through the Distribution to Underserved Communities (DUC) Library Program of New York City’s Art Resources Transfer Ltd., and donate copies of Esopus to all 82 branches of the New York Public Library.
The Esopus Foundation regularly programs public events at arts venues in New York City such as P.S.1/MoMA, The Kitchen, Pioneer Works, National Sawdust, and the Museum of the Moving Image. These programs generally coincide with the release of an issue and, reflecting the multidisciplinary approach of the magazine, incorporate poetry readings, musical concerts, film screenings, panel discussions, and theatrical performances from Esopus contributors. Editor Tod Lippy is regularly invited to speak about the magazine to high school, college, and graduate-school students (recent lectures have been given at New York’s Nightingale-Bamford School for Girls; the Elizabeth Irwin High School; New York University; Maryland Institute, College of Art; Rice University; Bennington College; and USC’s Roski Graduate School of Fine Arts).
In June 2009, a capacity-building grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts enabled the Esopus Foundation to move from its original 250-square-foot office to a substantially larger combined office and exhibition space in downtown New York. Exhibitions in the space, which was open from June 2009 to June 2012, showcased work from Esopus contributors as well as from both emerging and established figures in the contemporary art world. The schedule featured both one-person exhibitions and group shows, including those conceived by guest curators. Esopus Space, which seated approximately 50 people, also programmed a series of readings, musical and theatrical performances, panel discussions, lectures, and screenings of film and video.
The Esopus Foundation has had the good fortune of establishing productive partnerships with a number of institutions in the New York area, including the Museum of Modern Art Archives, the New York Public Library, the Magnum Photos Archive, the Museum of the Moving Image, Pioneer Works, and the Kitchen, which have led to contributions in Esopus as well as to exhibitions, performances, and other events throughout the five boroughs.
The Esopus Foundation has received significant insitutional support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York Council for the Humanities, the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, VIA Art Fund, the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation, the Coby Foundation, the Fifth Floor Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Milton and Sally Avery Foundation, the Mondriaan Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, the Fleishhacker Foundation, and numerous other public and private entities. The Foundation is enormously grateful to the more than 500 individual donors who have provided crucial support for its mission over the past 14 years. See a comprehensive list of Esopus Foundation donors here.
Please contact us with any other questions about the Foundation or its activities.