Zaadock Pratt Museum in Prattsville, NY (Greene County) will open for the season Saturday, May 25 with Zadock Pratt: The Man, The Town & The Nation, an exhibit whose focus is on Zadock Pratt, the private individual.
The exhibit includes 19th century oil paintings and maps, as well as 20th century artworks in oil and pastel, exhibit text and photographic panels, and a hand-out explaining Pratt’s contributions on local, national and artistic levels. Pratt’s story will be told primarily through paintings by Frederick Spencer, Amos Hamlin, and several unsigned artworks. Other paintings, drawings and/or photographs include a Matthew Brady and canvases by several local artists. All artwork is from the Pratt Museum collections. The story of Pratt Rock Park, one of the nation’s earliest 19th century pleasure parks, in the style of Downing, Vaux and others, will also be featured.
“Zadock Pratt has been a folk hero in his home state of New York for almost 200 years. Most know him as the Greene County tanner, but he is so much more than that. Statesman, entrepreneur, innovator, philanthropist, and private citizen, Pratt is one of the most interesting early American figures that time has forgotten. This exhibit focuses on Pratt, the private individual; the founder of Prattsville, one of America’s earliest planned communities; and national leader, pointing the way to such revered American institutions as the Washington Monument, Smithsonian Institution, and Transcontinental Railroad. It’s about time that Zadock Pratt take his place alongside others in his lifetime whose biographies we know like the back of our hand,” says Carolyn Bennett, the museum’s executive director and curator of this exhibit.
Zadock Pratt Museum is located in Pratt’s 19th century Greek Revival home, 14540 Main Street, Prattsville, NY. The museum opened to the public in 1959. This year marks its sixtieth anniversary. Its collections and programs are dedicated to Pratt’s interests and long-lasting influence in the area. Learn more at zadockprattmuseum.org.
The Commons Building has become an important art hub for the communities in and around Middletown in Delaware County. Founded in 2007 as an artist-run cooperative, Longyear Gallery has hosted numerous solo and group shows in a 1,275 sq ft space located on the second floor. In the summer of 2016, the gallery took over a larger and better illuminated 1,425 sq ft space located on the first floor, divided into two separate rooms. Close to a hundred pieces by eighty artists were recently shown in a multi-media art exhibition titled “Artists Choose Artists,” which included works by landscape painters Ellen Wong and Kevin David Palfreyman, both influenced by the Hudson River School of Painting, poet and abstract painter Andrew Tully, ceramicist Peter Yamaoka, and photographers Frank Manzo and Helene Levine-Keating.
In the space left vacant by Longyear Gallery on the second floor, another gallery opened in recent months simply called Upstairs at the Commons. The space is available for rent to individual artists and groups in search of new possibilities to show their works. The space is currently rented by AMR Artists, an artist coalition affiliated with the AMR (Andes-Margaretville-Roxbury) Open Art Studio Tour, which takes place every year the last weekend in July. The group uses as its motto a quote by Albert Einstein: “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.”
The Spring Show hosted by the AMR Artists, which opens on April 19 and remains on view through May 13, will include works by twenty participants working in different disciplines: painting, monotypes, photography, tapestry, installation, and even jewelry.
Urban realist painter and printmaker Lisbeth Firmin, an artist whose studio is in fact located in the Commons Building, will be showing new monotypes produced under the influence of Scuola Internationale di Grafica in Venice where Firmin was a resident in 2017. For over four decades Firmin’s work has been in hundreds of solo and group shows across the country and internationally, and finds itself in numerous private art collections. “My urban landscapes follow in the tradition of earlier realists such as John Sloan and Edward Hopper, depicting today’s modern life in the streets, while reflecting modern themes of isolation and disconnection,” she explains. Firmin, who was the cover artist for the 2008 spring issue of Epoch, Cornell University’s literary magazine, and was the featured artist in the 2008 summer issue of the Gettysburg Review, often shows her work throughout New York State and North Carolina, as well as at Rice Polak Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Hedi Kyle is a book conservator and educator, and co-founder of the Book Preservation Center at the New York Botanical Garden. She is also co-author of Library Materials Preservation Manual, one of the first books on library preservation techniques. As head conservator at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and as an adjunct professor in the Graduate Program for Book Arts and Printmaking at the University of the Arts, Kyle had trained and mentored a generation of conservators and book artists. Since moving to the Catskill Mountains, she continued to experiment with materials and seek beauty in the form of book installations. “My work is usually based on paper which I transform by folding it into book structures and three-dimensional objects. Since my retirement as a book conservator and teacher my move to the Catskills has overwhelmed me with new impressions and motivated me to experiment with other materials such as clay and fabrics,” she says. During the AMR Spring Show, Kyle will be showing a ceramic piece called Fragilo I, as part of a series that she is working on under the guidance of Michael Boyer at the Pine Hill Community Center. She continues to work on drawings and prints as well – these will be exhibited during the monthly member shows at Longyear Gallery.
Deborah Ruggerio, a new artist affiliated with the group, has been in the area for about three years. In 2018 she built her studio in Roxbury’s Historic District, and opened it to the public for the first time as part of the AMR Open Art Studio Tour last summer. Ruggerio, who also serves on the Planning Committee for the tour and had taught art in New Jersey for decades, has painted all her life, but has been particularly moved by the Catskill Mountains’ scenery and the ephemerality of all things in nature ever since she moved to the area. As a landscape painter, she often sketches in nature, but finishes the work in the studio. “Color creates emotions,” Ruggerio says, as she always tries to select a color palette that she believes captures the essence of the environment in the moment, whether be a fall or a winter scenery. In the Spring Show, Ruggerio will exhibit two recent pieces: “Rock Bridge on Lower Meeker” (oil on canvas, 18” x 24”, 2018), and “View from the Johansson’s Bridge” (watercolor, 9” x 12”, 2018); the second one was part of the Greene County Council on the Arts Holiday Show this past winter.
Another new artist affiliated with the group, Charlene McLaughlin, has moved to the area full-time four years ago, after being a second homeowner for decades. McLaughlin is an accomplished still life and nature photographer and designer who has exhibited in numerous group shows and has done event photography. Her favorite subject matter are tulips, which she says are extremely evocative. She likes to capture them either in nature or in compositions re-created in the studio.
McLaughlin bought her first camera, a Nikon EM, when she was 18-year-old, and never stopped photographing. She first learned to work on film, mastering the exposure and the demands of high-quality printing. Later on, she transitioned to digital, which she says offers instant gratification but can also lead to overshooting, conducive to spending more time to discern what is worth keeping. Although for the most part she is self-taught, McLaughlin did take classes at the International Center of Photography in New York City. Her favorite photographers are Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson; Adams is known for his spectacular nature photographs, particularly taken at the Yosemite National Park, while Cartier-Bresson is known for pioneering street photography, and has been labeled a humanist photographer.
In the Spring Show, McLaughlin will be showing two landscape photographs: “Road to Windham” and “Spring Snow”, both 13” x 19”, taken with a Nikon D700 camera.
Textile artist and artisan Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes is a founding member of the AMR Art Tour, and has served as a tour coordinator until recently. Trained at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and the Center for Tapestry Arts in New York City, Gilmore-Barnes designs both functional and aesthetic products using traditional American patterns. Her work can be seen in museums and gallery exhibits, and at various arts and crafts fairs throughout the region. “Weaving is one of the oldest forms of a blend of art and function. The techniques of twisting fibers to make them stronger and durable started out probably in the earliest times of mankind history. From those twisted fibers men and women learned to do basketry, learned to create fabric, and also to use it for decoration.” In the Spring Show, she will exhibit four pieces which include “Maple Tree & Stone Wall” (a/k/a The Catskills), a woodblock print done at SUNY New Platz’s Printmaking Design Class, and “Snow Scene,” a tapestry that won the Fence Art Show Award from the Brooklyn Museum in 1980.
An opening reception will be hosted on April 27 from 3 to 6 pm. The Commons Building is located at 785 Main Street, Margaretville, NY.
A lot has been written about the role of museums in the 21st century when collections can be seen and learned about in virtual galleries rather than taking the trip.
Traditionally, museums have played the role of research and educational institutions, not just as mere collectors and guardians of cultural artifacts. They have also been economic engines, strengthening local business climates through cultural tourism. The museum giftshops are amongst the most meaningful and artful shopping experiences that can capture wider and wider audiences. In recent years museums have begun playing a social and community function as well by offering services otherwise outside the scope of their mission, such as hosting training programs and other events. By visiting MoMA nowadays you can enjoy not just modern art, but also culinary art at its finest: the museum’s restaurant The Modern, which overlooks The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, has gotten a great review in The New York Times, Art on the Walls and on the Plates, as well as in the New York Magazine, Modern Love. At the Corning Museum of Glass you will not only explore thousands of years of glass history, but you will also learn to make glass yourself. At the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, upstate New York, you will be taught to print holiday cards, make lavender and rose water, and other 19th century activities, not just be told about them. Actors enacting different periods of time may also be on site, making it a “living” history experience to remember. In recent years holograms have emerged as a new way of experiencing a visit to a museum, understanding its artifacts, and be part of something you will never forget, as exemplified in an article for Gizmodo magazine.
Museums are community assets, and an integral part of the social fabric of our communities. According to Ford W. Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums from 2007 to 2015, as quoted in a 2013 interview with CNN, “Museums hold more than 1 billion objects, and together these constitute our shared heritages cultural, historic, scientific, natural. As the keepers, protectors, interpreters and exhibitors of these heritages, museums play an essential role. In recent years, museums are playing perhaps an even more essential role, but one that is less tangible. In an increasingly virtual world, museums are among the last bastions of authenticity.”
How do museums remain relevant in the 21st century? In 2013 Linda Norris and Rainey Tisdale, two scholars and museum professionals, published a book titled Creativity in Museum Practice, replete with creativity exercises and stories from the field as a guide to developing an internal culture of creative learning in museums, and delivering an increased value to museum visitors. Creative leaders are looking for interactive programs, love to improvise, engage the community in conversations, and take risks.
There is a project underway called #FutureMuseum Project which explores this very question: how will museums of the future look like? According to Oliver Vicars-Harris, director at Connecting Culture, a museum consultancy based in London, “Museum curatorship will have evolved beyond preoccupation with preserving and presenting collections, to propensity for encouraging connections. A genuine two-way relationship will exist, with the audience given agency to drive the agenda. The distance between past and present will be reduced, with history providing meaning. The division between high and low art will be dissolved, with heritage providing contrast to popular culture.” The museums of the future will provide context to contemporary events. This is just one point of view. You can add your voice to the conversation by submitting your opinion to email@example.com.
Some of the best museum experiences are the ones we go to not just to learn, but also to socialize and converse. A visit to a museum will not only satisfy our curiosity, but it will also benefit our social life. It is by far more stimulating to gaze at a work of art with a friend, and muse over its meaning or aesthetic value, rather than doing it alone (although that has its own merit, especially for researchers and critics). Younger generations are increasingly driven by experiences rather than purchasing tangible goods: they prefer “collecting” memorable moments to physical objects. Museums, large and small, can benefit from this trend by offering “instagrammable” experiences to engage millennials, and making it part of their brand.
Among innovators, one can certainly name Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which has recently introduced a program called The Art Hive that brings together art and well-being. The aim of the project is to form “a creative studio supervised by an art therapist, with art materials provided free of charge.” This will be a space “where participants can meet to discuss, participate or exhibit.” As a step further, as outlined in an article for Quartz magazine, doctors in Montreal will prescribe visits to the art museum.
You may be accustomed to visiting art, history and science museums, but in recent years museology has expanded to include for instance a National Language Museum, which opened in Washington DC in 2008, and currently operates only as a virtual museum, although some of its exhibits are available for loans; or the National Museum of Mathematics, which opened in New York City in 2012, and whose exhibits include seeing math as everyday experiences, news from the world of mathematics, but also more fun and playful activities such as using math symbols to create quirky logos, and other math inspired games.
It will be fascinating to see what the future brings in museum practice, and how the makers, collectors, curators, preservationists, and educators will transform visitor experience in the years to come.