Like so many things, the summer benefit season, after a year’s hiatus, has made a somewhat cautious return. There are fewer of them, and some cultural organizations have shuffled the fund-raising deck and lowered the price of admission.
Instead of its traditional evening of cocktails, dinner, and a star-studded art auction, the Watermill Center has opted for “Crossroads,” a week-long festival of performances, art installations, cocktail parties, and film screenings led by the artist Carrie Mae Weems in collaboration with Robert Wilson, the center’s founder. All programs will take place on the center’s grounds.
“This summer is about building community,” said Mr. Wilson. “Engaging the community is vital to the Watermill Center, and ‘Crossroads’ is a new and exciting chance to continue doing so. It will be nothing like what we have done before.”
The festival will kick off Saturday at 6 p.m. with a presentation by Laurie Anderson of “Drones,” a three-hour long sonic experience created by her late husband, Lou Reed, and performed by Stewart Hurwood, Reed’s former guitar technician.
The performance/installation features an array of Reed’s guitars and amps, arranged to create an enveloping drone of partial harmonics colliding, cascading, and changing depending on the audience’s location and the environment. This will be the first outdoor installation of “Drones,” and will include participation by members of the Shinnecock Nation, including Shane Weeks, an artist, traditional dancer and drummer, and educator.
The festival will resume on Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. and Aug. 8 at 5 p.m. with two programs of performances, installations, and film screenings. Participating artists will include Vijay Iyer, an American composer, pianist, and writer; Laura Anderson Barbata, a visual and performance artist; Craig Harris, a jazz trombonist; Nona Hendryx, a singer, songwriter, and actress; David Lang, a composer, and So Percussion, a modern percussion ensemble.
Vernon Reid, a guitarist and songwriter; Carl Hancock Rux, a poet, playwright, actor, and recording artist; Kenyon Adams, a multimedia performance artist; Basil Twist, a puppeteer; Kyle Bass, associate artistic director of Syracuse Stage; Hoesy Corona, a queer Latinx artist of Mexican descent; Marcelle Davies-Lashley, a vocalist; and Kimberly Nichole, a song stylist and songwriter, are also scheduled to perform.
Ms. Weems, a previous resident at the center and recipient of its Inga Maren Otto Fellowship, will document “Crossroads” for a new body of work. She uses photography, text, fabric, audio, digital imagery, installation, performance, and video to explore family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power.
“After a year of reduced activity and inevitable programming shifts, our focus is on bringing the creative community together again,” said Elise Herget, the center’s managing director. “Our highly anticipated annual summer benefit was without exception a major success, yet it has not always told our full story.”
General admission tickets to Saturday’s program are $250. For Aug. 7 the cost is $300, and for Aug. 8, $50. Tickets are available on the center’s website; proceeds will benefit its year-round artist residence and education programs.