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History of Bethel Woods

The story of Bethel Woods begins with the entrepreneurial spirit and vision of its founder and Chairman, Alan Gerry.

A lifelong resident of Liberty, New York, Alan Gerry is a cable television pioneer and philanthropist who founded Cablevision Industries Corporation (“CVI”) in the early 1970s.  Following the sale of CVI to Time Warner in 1996, Mr. Gerry created the Gerry Foundation, a not-for-profit organization established to improve the quality of life and revitalize the economy in his native Sullivan County, which experienced severe economic hardships after the collapse of the Catskill tourism industry that boomed through much of the twentieth century.

After a careful review of the possible opportunities for implementing this vision, and with the encouragement of his daughter, Robyn, the Gerry Foundation acquired the 37-acre field that was once the site of the original Woodstock festival, along with hundreds of surrounding acres, and explored the idea of creating a world-class performing arts center.

Two years later, the Gerry Foundation produced the three-day “Day in the Garden” festival, reawakening the fabled site. Four more days of music followed in 1999, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the historic 1969 event.

Design and Construction

In 2002, the architectural firm Westlake Reed Leskosky was hired to plan and design Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Two years later, Suffolk Construction was selected as general contractor and broke ground on the $150 million multi-venue project in 2004. In recognition of its historical legacy and in keeping with its core values and beautiful surroundings, the design and construction of Bethel Woods was completed using local and regional materials and renewable resources to the greatest extent possible.

Inaugural Season

The Pavilion amphitheater at Bethel Woods opened to the public on July 4, 2006 with a performance by the New York Philharmonic. Since then, Bethel Woods has presented a wide variety of musical genres and performers including  Bob Dylan, Elton John, Phish, The Eagles, Zac Brown Band, and James Taylor, Jimmy Buffett, and Luke Bryan among countless others.

The Museum at Bethel Woods

The Museum at Bethel Woods, chartered by the Regents of the State of New York, opened to the public in June 2008. It is an immersive and captivating multi-media experience that combines film and interactive displays, text panels and artifacts to tell the story of the Sixties, housed in a beautiful LED-certified green building set back from the top of the Woodstock festival hillside. The Museum continues to expand programming and learning opportunities each year with changing special exhibits and moving film and lecture series.

Continuing a Legacy

In 2012, Bethel Woods transitioned from a project of the Gerry Foundation to its own 501(c) (3) public charity governed by an independent board of trustees with Mr. Gerry serving as the Chairman of the Board.

Over the past ten seasons, Bethel Woods has continued to expand as a cultural center, growing in its service to the community and to the region. In 2013, the organization opened a Conservatory, close to but separate from the Museum and performing arts buildings, to accommodate planned growth of youth and teen educational and outreach programming.

Today, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts utilizes the arts and humanities to inspire, educate and empower individuals.  The center continues to recapture the magic of the legendary site it occupies, providing artists the opportunity to perform on its stages and offering guests the occasion to enjoy concerts in an historic and extraordinarily beautiful setting.  Its commitment to providing the region with the highest quality entertainment, educational, and cultural experiences possible is at the forefront of its work.