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.
From its inception until 2018, the Foundation was primarily devoted to the publishing of Esopus, an annual publication edited by founder Tod Lippy featuring content from all creative disciplines presented in an unmediated format. Esopus never featured advertisements or commercially driven editorial material, and it employed 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 performance spaces throughout New York City, including Esopus Space, the Greenwich Village venue that was operated by the Foundation from 2009 to 2012. In September 2018, the Foundation suspended the publication of Esopus and has since shifted its focus to book publishing, event programming, and distribution.
Esopus featured a cross-section of creative disciplines presented in a striking visual format with minimal editorial framing and no advertising. This presentation afforded readers the opportunity to access a wide range of cultural expression with the least possible interference and attracted and engaged a general audience that might not have otherwise picked up this kind of publication. Content for Esopus was selected using 1) an open submissions policy; 2) recommendations and suggestions from the publication’s board of advisors—including respected creative professionals from a wide range of disciplines—as well as from other contributors and colleagues; and 3) Lippy's 30 years’ worth of experience of working in the art, film, and publishing fields of New York City. Our goal was 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 included long-form contemporary artists’ projects by established artists (such as Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer, and Kerry James Marshall) and emerging figures. Projects took the form of removable posters, booklets, foldouts, and hand-assembled sculptures, and often utilized complex printing processes, unique paper stocks, and specially formulated inks. Issues also typically presented 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 was 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 contained installments of several regular series, including “Modern Artifacts,” for which undiscovered treasures from the Museum of Modern Art Archives were reproduced in facsimile, “Guarded Opinions,” which featured 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 concluded with a themed audio compilation, for which musicians were invited to contribute a new song based on a particular theme.
Over the course of its 25-issue run, Esopus reached approximately 30,000 readers around the world, with subscribers in all 50 states and 24 countries and extensive distribution to bookstores and newsstands throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, South America, Asia, and the South Pacific. Our readership has included professionals from the art, film, theater, music, design, and publishing fields; public libraries, educational institutions, and arts organizations; and general readers who 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 Books. In 2019, following the suspension of publication of Esopus, the Esopus Foundation launched Esopus Books, an imprint dedicated to publishing artist's books, monographs, catalogs, essay collections, chapbooks and more. Its publications to date include Modern Artifacts, The Esopus Reader, and Neil Goldberg: Other People's Prescriptions.
Artists' Editions. Over the years, the Foundation has regularly invited artists to create limited editions—including prints, books, and multiples—that are offered to our donors in exchange for donations. A handful of these artists' editions are still available.
Fall Limited-Edition Artworks for Premium Subscribers. From 2014 to 2018, Esopus asked artists to created limited-edition artworks for our Premium-level subscribers. The edition size of each artwork always equaled the number of Premium subscribers at the moment the edition was manufactured, and the artwork was not otherwise available for sale. The inspiration for this series came in the fall of 2012, when Esopus invited artist Robert Gober to create a multiple to serve as a placeholder gift to subscribers during a shift in our production schedule. We realized that by continuing to produce these editions we could not only fulfill our mission of providing affordable artworks to our audience but also allow artists to work in formats beyond the scope of a regular issue of Esopus.
From its inception, Esopus was 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. Before suspending publication, we offered 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. Starting in the fall of 2018, the Esopus Foundation Ltd. embarked upon a comprehensive program to donate the bulk of its available back issues to public school, community center, reservation, and prison libraries around the country. The Foundation has already donated complete sets of these issues to the New York Public Library (which distributed these to 32 branches within its network), the Brooklyn Public Library, and the public library systems in the states of Vermont and Mississippi, as well as to individual branches in a number of other states. The goal is to place approximately 80% of our back catalog in underserved libraries. (Please contact the Foundation at email@example.com with donation requests.)
In 2019, the Esopus Foundation instituted an educational initiative focusing specifically on public high schools students in the five boroughs of New York City. The effort works in tandem with our distribution program to public schools, and offers 1) lectures and workshops in secondary schools led by eeditor Tod Lippy; 2) school residencies with Esopus contributors from a range of creative disciplines; and 3) short-term internships for high school students with the Esopus Foundation Ltd. Please note: this program was suspended in early 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Esopus Foundation regularly programs public events at arts venues in New York City such as The Museum of Modern Art, P.S.1/MoMA, The Kitchen, Pioneer Works, National Sawdust, White Columns, and the Museum of the Moving Image. These programs have often coincided with the release of an issue or other Esopus publication and, reflecting the multidisciplinary approach of the magazine, they incorporate poetry readings, musical concerts, film screenings, panel discussions, and theatrical performances from Esopus contributors and others. Editor Tod Lippy is regularly invited to speak to high school, college, and graduate-school students (recent lectures have been given at the Elizabeth Irwin High School; Yale University; New York University; Maryland Institute, College of Art; Rice University; Bennington College; and USC’s Roski Graduate School of Fine Arts).
The Esopus Foundation has had the good fortune of establishing productive and longstanding 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, the Kitchen, PS1/MoMA, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, which have yielded content series in Esopus, lectures, screenings, workshops, and exhibitions.
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.