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 has been 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 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 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 shifted its focus to events programming as well as two new initiatives: distribution and education.
Esopus features 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 has been 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 28 years’ experience of working in the art, film, and publishing fields of New York City. Our goal has been 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 (such as Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer, and Kerry James Marshall) and emerging figures. Projects take 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 has 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 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 Books. In 2019, following the suspension of publication of Esopus, the Esopus Foundation launched Esopus Books, a new imprint dedicated to publishing artist's books, monographs, catalogs, essay collections, chapbooks and more.
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. Starting in 2014, 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 could allow artists to work in formats beyond the scope of a regular issue of Esopus. Please note: these works are no longer available.
Since 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. will embark 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 will distribute these to 32 branches within its system, and we are in talks with a number of other library systems and distribution networks to place approximately 80% of our back catalog in underserved libraries by the end of 2019. (Please contact the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org with donation requests.)
Starting in 2019, the Esopus Foundation will institute an educational initiative focusing specifically on public high schools students in the five boroughs of New York City. The effort will work in tandem with our distribution program to public schools, and will include 1) lectures and workshops in secondary schools led by editor 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. The Foundation is in the process of securing partnerhips with private and public organizations to establish a beta version of this program in the spring of 2019.
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, White Columns, and the Museum of the Moving Image. These programs have often coincided 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 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).
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, exhibitions, and much more.
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.