Woodstock: How simple art belied seismic event

by Cassaundra Thomas

3-days-209x300 Woodstock: How simple art belied seismic eventA catbird sits perched atop the neck of a guitar. With warm bright colors and bubble writing, this poster might not be out of place showcasing a garden fete in middle England or a children’s event. That is until you pay attention to the text and the iconic status this event now lives in becomes apparent. Woodstock.

Promoting Woodstock Prior to Digital Age

The youth of today will perhaps not appreciate nor identify with how much the older generation relied on paper and print. In an internet age where we are constantly updated and informed, marketing thrives in a digital setting. Musical festivals and events are promoted today in an endless flurry of social media posts. Music promoters have never had a better choice of channels to communicate through.

But in 1969, life was very different indeed.

A New York-based artist/graphic designer at the time, Arnold Skolnick was contacted by Woodstock’s organizers woodstock-300x145 Woodstock: How simple art belied seismic eventto redesign the music festival’s original poster. Psychedelic posters were quite popular at the time but the design was not sitting well with organizers so they got in touch with Skolnick. The brief was simple.

Capitalizing on the ‘peace and love’ movement of the day, the festival was billed as a 3-day event centered around arts, crafts, and music.

Skolnick got to work. He later admitted that he started and completed the poster on the day it was due. He believed that a poster should instantly capture a reader’s attention but not in an elaborate over the top fashion. Simplicity was the order of the day.

Woodstock’s impact

woodstockfromair-300x200 Woodstock: How simple art belied seismic event

The ensuing weekend was history in motion. A cultural and musical cornerstone attracting a crowd of more than 400,000 people in driving rain. A figure the music promoters and industry scions of today could only dream of. 

Skolnick himself attended day one of the festivals. An anonymous face in a heaving crowd. People unaware of the pivotal role his artwork had played.

As for what became of the original copy, an auction in 2017 saw the signed piece sell for an impressive $10,625. Other Woodstock memorabilia which fetched thousands included the effects pedal used by Jimi Hendrix and the original peace flag flown from the stage.


The magic of 3 special days in a dairy farm in Bethel, New York can be summed up in the words of Skolnick himself. ”That festival. They’ll never have one like it again.”



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Blog Author Stacy Kearney, of Ireland, has a keen interest in all things music, history, and memorabilia.

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