Typewriter and Letter Arts Festival to continue in hybrid format in Greenville

A scene from a past QWERTY: Typewriter and Letter Arts Festival in Greenville, about 25 minutes south of Albany.

A scene from a past QWERTY: Typewriter and Letter Arts Festival in Greenville, about 25 minutes south of Albany.

Categories: Entertainment

There will still be music, a movie and plenty of typing next week at the Greenville Drive-In 32 for its QWERTY: Typewriter and Letter Arts Festival.

It’s just going to look a little different than planned.

“It was supposed to originally be in May, right at the beginning of the drive-in season. We’ve had to sort of reinvent it,” said Leigh Van Swall, co-owner of the drive-in.

She and her husband Dwight Grimm have been organizing the annual Typewriter and Letter Arts festival since 2016. Traditionally, it takes place throughout a weekend, with a live performance, a movie screening and a “type-in” where people bring their typewriters and get to try out some others.

This time around, thanks to a grant from the Greene County Council on the Arts, there will be free virtual workshops all next week from letter artists near and far.


Starting off the festival on Monday, Maya Stein will conduct a workshop titled “Connecting with Words,” from 10-11 a.m. Other workshops include collage and mixed media art with Amy Tingle, letter writing, and a gratitude workshop led by children’s book author Lu Ann Schnable Kaldor, among others. Each person who registers will receive a kit in the mail with the materials needed to complete the workshop.

However, the festival won’t only be a virtual one.

On Saturday, Sept. 19, starting at 4:30 p.m., the drive-in will host the type-in featuring the typewriter collection of Erik Molbach, as well as a screened performance by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, and a showing of Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail.”

There will also be a Mail Art exhibit, which includes works done on postcards, stamps, or anything one can send in the mail. Swall put out a call for artwork for earlier this month and she’ll be taking submissions via social media and mail through Monday.

“We also have Gail Marowitz and Ruby Silvious who are two local artists who are going to be doing a collaborative piece. Gail has been doing a lot of work with stamps during COVID and Ruby has started doing a lot of work with envelopes lately . . . They’re going to do something for us and I’m excited to see what they create,” Swall said.

To hold the event, the drive-in will be taking safety precautions and ensuring that everyone wears masks; something they’ve had to do all summer, according to Swall.

“To be honest, the drive-in has been so busy this summer. We’ve had a phenomenal summer,” Swall said.

That could be because the drive-in allows for more flexible means of social distancing.

“People can explore the social distancing to whatever extent they’re comfortable with,” Swall said, “We do have some guests who come, they show us their tickets through the window [and] they don’t get out of their car at all through the whole movie. We have other guests who, with a mask, come into the snack bar or come to the beer garden.”

When it comes to the type-in portion of the festival, where people can view and test out the typewriters from Molbach’s collection and others, there will be a few more rules than usual.

“In the past, we’ve had all the typewriters next to each other. This year instead we’ll be setting up tables with distance between them and then you have to sign up for a time slot so that then we can sanitize between people,” Swall said.

While there are several different elements to the festival this year, Swall said what remains one of the best parts is seeing people connect with the typewriters.

“Especially with the younger folks, to watch them experience a typewriter for the first time is really fun because it is very experiential in terms of the sound, in terms of just watching it come to life,” Swall said, “One of my favorite parts of it is reintroducing our older folks who maybe went to school and only wrote their papers on a typewriter and also [introducing] the experience to younger kids as well.”

To register for any of the virtual workshops, which will be held via Zoom, visit drivein32.com. 

For tickets to the drive-in event visit greenvilledrivein.simpletix.com. Attending the festival is free for those who use code TYPE when securing tickets. The Greenville Drive-In 32 is located at 10700 NY-32. For more information visit drivein32.com. 

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