Tag Archives: Albany Institute For History and Art

After 25 Years, Albany Instiute Director Leaving

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George R. Hearst III, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Albany Institute of History & Art, announced Tuesday that he has accepted the resignation of Christine M. Miles, who has served as the Institute’s executive director since 1986.

Citing a personal decision to explore new challenges, Miles tendered her resignation at an executive session of the board, held following its regular meeting on Monday, January 24.

“It is with mixed emotions that the board has accepted Chris Miles’ resignation as director of the Albany Institute,” Hearst said in making the announcement. “Chris’s contribution to the arts in the Capital District cannot be overstated. Not only has the Albany Institute enriched, educated, and stimulated our region under her expert direction, the arts community as a whole has benefited immeasurably from her skill, dedication, and experience.”

Throughout her tenure, Hearst noted, Miles has guided the Albany Institute, the oldest museum in New York State, through numerous advancements and challenges. Her long-range and strategic planning has brought the museum into its fourth century of service, Hearst said, and, especially in recent years, through some of the most difficult times the arts have ever faced.

“For almost 25 years, her vision has established the Albany Institute as one of New York’s most respected and distinguished institutions,” Hearst said. “We will continue to depend on Chris’s dynamic and insightful stewardship as we prepare to enter a new and exciting phase for the museum.”

Miles says her decision to resign as executive director of the Albany Institute was one of the most difficult she has made in her career.

”Obviously, this is not a decision that is made lightly,” she said. “The Albany Institute has been the center of my professional career for a major portion of my life. And, like so many other museums and arts institutions, it currently faces substantial financial challenges. However, I believe that the foundation we have worked to build here will help sustain this magnificent institution as it continues to meet these challenges. I look forward to assisting the board and staff in this time of transition.”

Prior to joining the Albany Institute in 1986, Miles was director of the Fraunces Tavern Museum in New York City, and also held positions as director, curator, researcher, and project director at such prestigious institutions as the Octagon Museum of the American Architectural Foundation in Washington D.C.; the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City; the Museum of the City of New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

During Miles’s term as executive director, in 1994, the Institute commenced a major capital campaign to fund a $20 million renovation project that added new buildings and state-of-the-art collections storage facilities, and substantially enhanced the museum’s educational, administrative, and exhibition spaces. The Institute broke ground on the project in 1998 and was closed from 1999 to 2001, when it reopened its new spaces to the public during a Grand Opening Gala.

Miles was also instrumental in helping the Institute gain a number of major grants and awards, according to museum officials, including a $250,000 New Audiences for the Year 2000 Award from the New York State Council on the Arts; a $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge, which enabled the museum to build its first true endowment; a $750,000 NEH Preservation and Access grant to aid in re-cataloging the collection, improving intellectual accessibility, and funding completion of the new collections facility; more than $750,000 raised over four years to fund the recent Hudson River Panorama exhibition, launched in conjunction with the statewide quadricentennial celebration in 2009; and, most recently, a $147,000 Museums for America Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to fund a website redevelopment project entitled, Digital Renaissance.

Under her direction, the museum has expanded its outreach to include classrooms and students in 26 states and 42 New York counties. Educational offerings have grown to include home school programs, weekend Art for All programs, Vacation Art Breaks, and summer programs. A wide range of lectures, gallery talks, demonstrations, and performances are held each year, as well as popular community-wide events such as the Institute’s Free Thanksgiving Weekend and annual Museum Gala.

Additional accomplishments include overseeing publication of the Institute’s first book documenting its collections, 200 Years of Collecting (Hudson Hills Press, 1998); and the mounting of numerous nationally and internationally recognized exhibitions, including Thomas Cole: Drawn to Nature (1993); Matters of Taste: Food and Drink in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and Life (2002); the 350th Anniversary Celebration of the Founding of Albany (2002); Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession (2005); Excavating Egypt (2006), and Hudson River Panorama: 400 Years of History, Art, and Culture (2009).

Miles has also served on the boards of numerous civic and arts groups, including WMHT Public Television; the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, the University at Albany Foundation; and the Albany Local Development Corporation. She is a past president of the Museum Association of New York State and the Gallery Association of New York State.

In 2008, the Albany Roundtable selected Miles to receive its prestigious Good Patroon Award for her commitment to making the museum a broadly accessible cultural and educational resource. Established in 1988, the annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to the community by institutions and individuals. In 1996, she received the Women of Excellence Award from the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce.

“Christine is starting a new chapter in her life,” Hearst said. “We are proud and thankful for the outstanding work she has done to make the Albany Institute of History & Art such a vital and vibrant part of our community, and the board wishes her every success in her future endeavors.”

Hearst said that the Albany Institute Board of Trustees will establish a recruitment committee to begin a national search to replace Miles, who will remain as executive director to oversee the transition during the course of 2011.

Photo: Christine Miles, Executive Director of the Albany Institute of History & Art (R) in conversation at a New York Council for the Humanities Event in 2010. Courtesy NY Council for the Humanities.

Albany Institute’s Spring Exhibition Schedule

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The following is a listing of current and upcoming exhibitions appearing at the Albany Institute of History & Art from January through May 2011. Dates, times, and details are subject to change. Call (518) 463-4478 or visit www.albanyinstitute.org for more information.

Current Exhibits


Highlighting the museum’s shoe collection, Old Soles includes an amazing variety of shoes and pattens, shoe lasts, designer shoes, and silver buckles, from shoes worn by people from all walks of life throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.


Born in Albany, George William Warren was a well-known composer of both popular and religious music during the late 19th century. Warren became the organist and choir director at St. Paul’s Church in Albany in 1858, where he became an admired and respected teacher, mentor, performer, and concert organizer. Albanians were treated to Warren’s popular music through a number of concerts at various concert halls and churches around Albany. This bookcase exhibition highlights the composer’s career with a selection of sheet music, broadsides, illustrations, and photographs. A newly published book, George William Warren: Bridging the Sacred and Secular in Nineteenth-Century American Music, is now available for purchase in the Museum Shop. Researched and written by Thomas Nelson, Exhibitions and Graphics Designer at the Albany Institute of History & Art, the lavishly illustrated 60-page paperback relies on primary source material, some of which has never been reviewed before by scholars, as it chronicles Warren’s remarkable life and career. The book includes recent discoveries of his material from the Albany Institute’s collection, as well as three years of additional collecting and research, and incorporates more than 75 images—most never published before—of Warren’s sheet music, photographs, broadsides, and maps, documenting the life and career of the composer, renowned in his time yet little known today. Call the Museum Shop at (518) 463-4478, ext. 459, for more information.

Upcoming Exhibitions


The term “Hudson River School” is used to describe paintings made by two generations of artists beginning in 1825 with Thomas Cole and flourishing for about 50 years. These artists are best known for their large panoramic views of landscapes throughout North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Their subject matter ranges from the sublime views of the wilderness, to beautiful pastoral scenes influenced by man, to allegorical pictures with moral messages. The Albany Institute of History & Art has been collecting materials related to the Hudson River School artists for more than 150 years. The museum’s collection includes 60 paintings, sketchbooks, photographs, paint boxes, and manuscript materials related to all of the major artists associated with this movement, recognized as the first school of American painting. This exhibition includes 25 paintings and complements an additional 20 works in the adjacent Lansing Gallery.

Square, Round and Lansing galleries


The Albany Institute of History & Art will highlight a number of its latest acquisitions in the museum’s Entry Gallery. Among the items to be displayed are two pieces of Chinese ceramics that Albany artist Walter Launt Palmer (1854–1932) depicted in his 1878 painting, Interior of the Learned House, 298 State Street, Albany. The pieces were donated in 2009 by Phillip Kerr of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The house, which still stands on the corner of Dove and State streets, was designed by New York architect Russell Sturgis for Judge William Law Learned. The interior of the Gothic revival townhouse is lavishly furnished with art and decorative arts typical of the period. The painting itself will also be on view, as will the library table designed by Sturgis, also depicted in the painting.

Curator’s Choice: Recent Acquisitions also includes a spectacular 12-piece silver serving set presented to Thomas Schuyler (1811–1866) in January 1859. Helen Hill (a direct descendent), of Bellingham, Washington, donated the materials. The well-known Albany philanthropist, business leader, ship captain, and owner of the Schuyler Tow Boat Company, Schuyler received the silver presentation set from a group of friends and business associates. The large tray, engraved with a variety of images of trains, docks, and boats, includes a large image of the towboat, America, owned by Schuyler’s company. The engraving is taken directly from a painting of the towboat painted by James Bard (1815–1897) in 1852, which is in the museum’s collection. The silver, painting, and other manuscript materials will be on view, along with a history of the towboat company started by Thomas’s father, Captain Samuel Schuyler (1781–1842), who was one of Albany’s most successful businessmen of African heritage.

Also on display in Curator’s Choice: Recent Acquisitions will be the archive of the Women’s Seal and Stamp Club of Albany, including a framed portrait the club’s logo, “Elm Tree Corner,” made entirely of clipped stamps. The items were donated by Karen and Gilbert Conrad of Eustis, Florida. The club, formed in 1936, met at the Albany Institute of History & Art for many years. Elm Tree Corner, located on the northwest corner of State and Pearl streets, is an iconic historic Albany landmark whose history based on the story that Phillip Livingston, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, built his house and planted an elm tree there in 1735.

Also featured in the exhibition will be the painting, Crabapple (Fall), by Jeri Eisenberg of East Greenbush, New York, the Albany Institute Purchase Prize winner from the 2010 Artists of the Mohawk-Hudson Region competition. The 2010 regional is on display at The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, New York, through January 2, 2011.


The Hudson Valley and the art world lost one of their finest artists last fall when Bill Sullivan passed away at the age of 68. In 2006, the Albany Institute of History & Art presented a major retrospective on the work of the internationally known painter and printmaker. The exhibition and fully illustrated catalog, The Autobiography of Bill Sullivan: A Landscape Retrospective, featured 50 landscape paintings ranging from his iconic views of New York State, including New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Niagara Falls, as well as the mountains, volcanoes, and waterfalls of the equatorial Andes in South America. In addition to the Albany Institute of History & Art, Sullivan’s works are part of collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, and the New York Public Library. His work has been displayed in countless group exhibitions. To honor Sullivan’s life and work, the museum will present five major canvases from the museum’s collection, including a recently promised painting titled, View of Albany from Route 9J.


Graphic design, the carefully planned arrangement of visual images and printed text, can convey both meaning and message. As they tempt consumers, communicate political messages, and reflect social concerns, these boldly crafted, iconic images have been among mankind’s most effective forms of communication.

In the late 18th century the use of printed text and images to deliver messages and ideas proliferated as literacy rates began to rise, paper became more available, and printing technologies improved. Two forces—one political, the other commercial—particularly influenced the increasing prevalence of graphic design. As political revolutions in the late 18th and 19th centuries brought greater freedoms of expression to many parts of the world, communicators expressed their opinions and sentiments on paper in the forms of broadsides and posters that could be widely distributed. Social unrest, military confrontations, and reform movements added to the increasing use and display of visual communication throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

The explosive use of advertising in the 19th and 20th centuries also stimulated the use of graphic design to convey messages. Manufacturers and merchants, buoyed by industrial and commercial growth, realized the need to advertise products in order to dominate an increasingly competitive marketplace. Marketing goods on paper translated into selling goods in the marketplace. By the early 20th century, professionalization of the graphic designer resulted from growing demands for well-conceived, well-designed visual messages. Since that time, professional designers have been responsible for the print ads, package designs, and commercials that have shaped our society and represented its cultural movements. No longer a static medium, graphic design in the 21st century has become a sophisticated means of communication, due in large part to the Internet, which has transformed texts and images through movement and interactivity. Technology once again has been a driving force for change.

Graphic Design—Get the Message! looks at graphic design from four themed areas: typography and early printing; commerce and graphic design; political and social messages; and the creative process. Through the use of posters, broadsides, package designs, paintings, decorative arts, historical photographs, and computer interactives, these four themes will address topics such as technology and innovation; manufacturing and commercial growth; changing aesthetics; typography; designers and the growth of the design profession; and social and political expression in graphic work. Graphic designs, objects, and the history of design work from the Albany area will be used to address broader issues of national and international significance. As it examines technological, commercial, aesthetic, and social factors, Graphic Design—Get the Message! will reveal not only how the field has changed over the years, but also how it has changed us.

Throughout its run, the exhibition will also feature a number of lectures and demonstrations by graphic designers and scholars in the field.


Hans-Joachim Richard Christoph (1903–1992), known familiarly as Hajo, lived through most of the 20th century and witnessed firsthand its high points and low moments. Born in Berlin, Germany, in 1903, he trained at the Reimann Schule following World War I, a time of artistic experiment and expression. When he immigrated to the United States in 1925, he brought training and skill that served him well as a graphic designer, first at the New York office of Lucien Bernhard and later at the Fort Orange Paper Company in Castleton, New York. Hajo created fresh, bold designs for Kenwood Mills, the Embossing Company, and other manufactures, all meant to captivate and entice modern American consumers. In his spare time Hajo painted quiet landscapes that reflect the peaceful, small-town charms of the upper Hudson Valley. Hajo: An Artist’s Journey, tells the story of an immigrant artist, his journey from Europe to the Hudson Valley, and his artistic explorations. Sketchbooks, drawings, paintings, graphic designs, and photographs span the breadth of Hajo’s world and the art he created to capture it.

Albany Institute Celebrates Mummy Collection

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They may be thousands of years old, but they don’t look a day over 101. In 1908, Samuel W. Brown, a prominent citizen of Albany and member of the Albany Institute of History & Art’s board of directors, was traveling through Cairo, Egypt, where he bought two mummies that he donated to the Institute. Since the day they arrived in Albany in 1909, the mummies and their coffins have become part of Albany history, seen by generations. More than 100 years later they remain objects of ongoing international study, slowly unveiling clues about the ancient world in which they once lived.

On Sunday, November 21, the Albany Institute will celebrate the 101th anniversary of the arrival of the famous Albany Mummies with art activities, stories, tours, and refreshments, all devoted to Albany’s oldest residents.

Children can bring a toy to mummify it in our studios from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Tours of the Ancient Egypt exhibit will be held at 1:00 and 3:00 pm. Storytelling by Jeannine Laverty will take place at 2:00 pm. Yummy mummy treats will be provided by Gigi’s Treats. All activities are free with museum admission.

For more information contact Barbara Collins, Education Coordinator at collinsb@albanyinstitute.org, or call (518) 463-4478, ext. 405.

Photo: Partially unwrapped mummy, male, Late Dynastic to Early Ptolemaic Period, (525-200 BC). Courtesy Albany Institute of History and Art.

Lectures: Albany’s Political, Landscape History

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The Albany Institute of History & Art will host two free lectures and book signings in November which look at the city’s past from different perspectives. On Sunday, November 7, 2010, at 2:00 pm Warren Roberts will present “A Place in History: Albany in the Age of Revolution” Then, on Sunday November 14, 2010, at 2:00 pm Robert M. Toole will present “Landscape Gardens on the Hudson, A History”

These lectures are free and open to the public. Admission to the lectures does not include admission to the museum.

In 1998, Warren Roberts took a bicycle ride into the heart of the city in which he had lived for 35 years, beginning a 10-year journey into the history of Albany. Reading about the city’s past, poring over old maps, and returning again and again to the city’s historic sites with a camera, Roberts found that the more he delved into Albany’s history, the more he uncovered about the city’s important role in three larger historical narratives: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the construction of the Erie Canal. A Place in History examines how the events that unfolded along the Hudson River between 1775 and 1825 saved one revolution, caused another, and transformed Albany and the state of New York.

Landscape gardening is a hidden but unequaled historic resource along the Hudson River, exhibiting some of the most significant designed 19th-century landscapes in America—a legacy that continues today with the design of America’s urban parks and nearly every rural or suburban home. The first comprehensive study of the development of these landscapes, and the important role they played in the cultural underpinnings of the young United States, Landscape Gardens on the Hudson explores the Hudson Valley’s role as the birthplace of American landscape architecture.

Lecture to Focus on Albany’s Railroad History

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Although Albany remains a vital railroad junction, New York’s capital city was once a major hub of the railway industry. Can it become one again? On Sunday, October 24, at 2:00 p.m., the Albany Institute of History & Art welcomes Harvard University Professor John Stilgoe, who will give a lecture entitled, Albany’s Railroads: A Once and Future Hub.

Professor Stilgoe recalls the bustling railroad lines that once converged on Albany, examines how curtailment of passenger and freight service has affected our region, and imagines a visionary railway revitalization that transcends the now-dominant interstate highway network. He holds joint appointments to the Harvard faculties of Design and Arts and Sciences. He is the winner of the Francis Parkman, George Hilton, and Bradford Williams medals, the AIA award for collaborative research, and the Charles C. Eldredge prize for art history research.

This lecture is free and open to the public, and is made possible by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities. Admission to the lecture does not include museum admission.

Albany Institute Offers Shoe Exhibits

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The Albany Institute of History & Art has announced two related upcoming exhibitions: “The Perfect Fit: Shoes Tell Stories” and “Old Soles: Three Centuries of Shoes from the Albany Institute’s Collection.” The exhibitions open on October 16, 2010, and close on January 2, 2011.

Since the invention of protective foot coverings by early societies thousands of years ago, shoes have become not only an essential element of our clothing, but also symbols of status, utility, amusement, and art. “The Perfect Fit” features more than 100 examples of fanciful footwear created by contemporary American artists between 2004 and 2008. The shoes are made of materials ranging from clay, metal, fabric, wood, glass, and paper, and transcend everyday style and function to illustrate various themes pertaining to issues of gender, history, sexuality, class, race, and culture.

The exhibition, curated by Wendy Tarlow Kaplan, is organized by the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA. An illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition and will be on sale in the Albany Institute’s Museum Shop for $10.00.

Accompanying “The Perfect Fit” will be a complementary exhibition entitled “Old Soles: Three Centuries of Shoes from the Albany Institute’s Collection.” The selection includes a variety of shoes ranging from a pair of brocaded silk women’s wedding shoes from the early 18th century to modern men’s and women’s footwear from the 20th century. The collection also includes protective over-shoes, pattens, slippers, jeweled buckles, work shoes, boots, and more. The Old Soles exhibition will be located in the museum’s Lansing Gallery, in proximity to many historic paintings in which the subjects are wearing shoes similar to those that will be on display.

Photo: Red riding shoes awarded to Miss Catherine Fitch for “Best Equestrian Rider” at the Albany Agricultural Society Fair, September, 1856, Wool felt and leather, 1856,
Gift of Margaret Boom, 1941.45, from Old Soles.

Albany Institute Awarded Big Grant For Website

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The Albany Institute of History & Art has been selected to receive a 2010 Museums for America grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The grant is specifically designated to help fund a website redevelopment project entitled, Digital Renaissance, which will evaluate, design, and repurpose the museum’s website so that virtual visitors can experience the rich history and cultural heritage of Albany and the Hudson Valley through the museum’s collections, education programs, and exhibits. The IMLS grant award of $147,904 will provide approximately 40 percent of the total estimated project cost of $369,914.

“It is difficult to overstate the importance of this grant for our museum right now,” said Christine Miles, executive director of the Albany Institute. “In the Information Age, with electronic communication technologies advancing exponentially every day, websites have become an indispensible tool for nonprofit organizations who need to reach much wider and more diverse audiences. This grant will enable us to make the virtual Albany Institute experience as enjoyable and enriching as the on-site experience of visiting the galleries, classrooms, and shop. It will also enhance efforts already underway to digitize our vast collection.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Museums for America is IMLS’s largest grant program for museums, providing more than $19 million to support the role of museums in sustaining cultural heritage, supporting lifelong learning; and serving as centers of community engagement. Museums for America grants strengthen a museum’s ability to serve the public more effectively by supporting high-priority activities that advance the institution’s mission and strategic goals.

“This year’s MFA grant recipients are truly an exciting and diverse group of museums, representing the remarkable ways that large and small institutions are serving communities,” said Marsha L. Semmel, IMLS’s acting director, in announcing the award. “Funded projects support digitization and collections management plans, enhanced accessibility, environmental literacy, and much more. The work of these institutions will educate and inspire citizens of all ages. IMLS is pleased to support museums as they engage their communities through programming tailored to their specific needs, and this round of MFA grants furthers this work.”

The Albany Institute’s Digital Renaissance project was one of 178 awards chosen from 510 applications to the 2010 Museums for America program. In total, the program awarded $19.5 million. To learn more about IMLS, visit www.imls.gov.

As part of Digital Renaissance’s evaluation process, the Albany Institute has partnered with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Language, Literature, and Communication. RPI Professor Patricia Search is the principal investigator for the research project and, along with RPI student Natt Phenjati, began formative evaluation phase of the project earlier this year. Launch of the Albany Institute’s new website is scheduled for early 2012.

“This research will help the museum create a dynamic, interactive website that will extend and enrich the total museum experience, particularly in the areas of personal engagement and community involvement,” said Search. “Museums have an opportunity to reach a wide audience with creative, engaging websites. With digital technology it is possible to display additional artifacts from the museum collections that add to the overall understanding of special and permanent exhibits. However, in order to create an effective website, it is necessary to carefully evaluate the demographics, interests, and needs of the people who use the website. The research we’ll be doing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will evaluate how diverse groups of people will use the new website design to access information about the Albany Institute, including their collections, exhibitions, and educational programs.”

One of America’s oldest museums, the Albany Institute of History & Art was founded in 1791, during the presidency of George Washington, making it older than the Louvre, the Smithsonian, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Albany Institute Lecture on Clark’s Picasso Exhibit

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This Thursday, July 15, at 6:00 pm, the Albany Institute of History & Art will host a free lecture by Sarah Lees, Associate Curator of European Art at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Lees will discuss The Clark’s current exhibition, Picasso Looks at Degas, which opened on June 13 and will close on September 12.

Picasso Looks at Degas is a fascinating exhibition including work from both artists. The first of its kind to explore the relationship between the two masters, the exhibition mainly focuses on Pablo Picasso’s work made in response to or inspired by the work of Edgar Degas, who was his Parisian neighbor in the early 20th century. Picasso admired Degas, though it is not clear whether the two ever met. The exhibition illustrates how Picasso’s work often echoes imagery and devices typical of Degas without blatantly imitating him. Picasso Looks at Degas traces the development of both artists and includes a broad array of mediums, including paintings, sculptures, and etchings.

The lecture will take place at the Albany Institute, 125 Washington Ave., Albany, and is free and open to the public. Call (518) 463-4478 for more information.

Illustration: Nude Wringing her Hair, 1952, Pablo Picasso, oil on plywood, 154 x 120 cm, private collection, Acquavella Gallery, New York. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Albany Institute’s Free, Discount Admission Days

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The Albany Institute of History & Art has announced that it will offer a special discount admission program on Fridays and Saturdays in July and August 2010, as part of an ongoing effort to reach out to members of the Capital District community.

On each Friday in July and August, the Albany Institute will offer free admission to all visitors during regular museum hours, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There will be no charge for any visitors to enter the museum and see the galleries on these dates: July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, and August 6, 13, 20, and 27. Additionally, the Institute will offer buy-one-get-one-free admission on Saturdays during July and August during regular museum hours from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Any adult or child visitor purchasing one admission will be entitled to one free admission of equal or lesser value. Buy-one-get-one-free Saturday dates are: July 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 and August 7, 14, 21, and 28.

“We understand, especially in difficult economic times like these, that not everyone is able to include a visit to the Albany Institute in their entertainment and education budgets,” said Chris Miles, Executive Director of the Albany Institute. “However, economic ability should never be a barrier to learning. That’s why we’re thrilled to offer this opportunity for people who might not otherwise be able to see all that the Institute has to offer.”

This program is not available in combination with any other discount or coupon offers and does not apply to group tours, facilities rentals, or special events. For more information about the summer discount admission program, call (518) 463-4478. To learn more about current exhibitions and events, visit www.albanyinstitute.org.

Ransoming Mathew Brady:Re-Imagining the Civil War

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This Saturday June 19th the Albany Institute of History & Art welcomes a new exhibit entitled, Ransoming Mathew Brady: Re-Imagining the Civil War, Recent Paintings by John Ransom Phillips. The exhibit will be on display through Sunday, October 3, 2010.

In a series of 25 vibrant oils and watercolors, Phillips portrays the paradoxes and complexity of the famed 19th-century photographer. Born around 1823 in Warren County, New York, Mathew Brady visited Albany as a young man to seek medical attention for an inflammation of his eyes. While in Albany, he met the portrait painter William Page, who befriended him and encouraged him to become a painter. However, Brady demonstrated great talent in the new medium of photography, and quickly became a sought-after auteur. His iconic portraits of illustrious giants like Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman replaced paintings as the standard means of documenting the image of notable public figures. Lincoln and Whitman figure prominently into Phillips’s paintings.

“Whitman, who served in a hospital as a nurse for the war wounded, said the Civil War could never be portrayed because it was just too horrible; it was beyond human capacity to understand,” Phillips says. “Yet Whitman, like Brady, attempted to do so.”

At the peak of his success, Brady chose to move his profession to the field of war, a decision that would ultimately cost him, psychologically and financially. At the Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, Brady was lost in the woods for three days and was nearly captured by Confederate troops. Although his images of the battle would become legendary as the first photographic depictions of war, Brady was badly shaken by the death, destruction, and violence he encountered in the field. Thereafter, he hired teams of photographers to work under his direction, unable to stomach the carnage that would be wrought in the years of fighting to come. As a result, many of the famous Civil War images attributed to Brady were actually taken by his employees.

“Brady in many ways reminds me of Andy Warhol,” Phillips said. “There are a lot of interesting parallels between the two artists. Both had huge studios in New York, on Union Square, not too far from each other. They occupied a similar geography. They also each hired about 50 to 60 people who would prepare the sitter or scene for a depiction. Both were uncomfortable with human feelings and poured their passion into celebrities,” Phillips said.

Plagued by vision problems throughout his life, Brady wore dark blue glasses to protect his eyes, and also employed blue-tinted skylights in his studios, for effect in his portraits but possibly to provide additional protection for his eyes. Many of the paintings in the Ransoming Mathew Brady series reflect this condition through the prominent use of the color blue. Heavily in debt when the post-war government declined to purchase his Civil War images, Brady died broke and virtually blind in the charity ward of a New York City hospital in 1896.

Phillips says he was inspired by Brady’s ability to reinvent himself, at a time when doing so was unorthodox. “Today, a lot of artists, and in fact people in all aspects of life, are very interested in reinventing themselves,” he says. “Mathew Brady was very much ahead of his time in this regard. He was an accomplished celebrity photographer in the studio, who then became known for battlefield photography.”

In his book-length essay in the illustrated 244-page catalog that accompanies the exhibit—Ransoming Mathew Brady (Hudson Hills Press, 2010)—photography expert and Yale professor Alan Trachtenberg writes, “Ransoming Mathew Brady tells a story at once sensuous and cerebral, esoteric yet enticing. An intellectual discourse in paint and words, this extraordinary cumulative work by John Ransom Phillips fits no existing genre (history painting may come closest). It’s an essay on history, on vision and blindness, on violence, on color and space, on death and rebirth. It asks from its viewers/readers not only eyes wide open but a heart willing to take on such immensity.” The catalog will be on sale in the Albany Institute’s Museum Shop.

John Ransom Phillips’s work has been exhibited internationally at the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art in Chicago, the Museo de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires, and the Heidi Cho Gallery in New York. He has been a faculty member of the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He has a Ph.D. in the history of culture from the University of Chicago.

The Albany Institute exhibition will be complemented by a concurrent exhibition of Phillips’s work, entitled, Ransoming Mathew Brady: Searching for Celebrity, at the Opalka Gallery of the Sage Colleges in Albany. For more information about the Opalka exhibit, visit www.sage.edu/opalka or call (518) 292-7742.

Illustration: Photographing You, John Ransom Phillips, 2006, oil on canvas, 28 in. x 26 in.

Albany Institute Announces Summer Family Programs

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The Albany Institute of History & Art has announced its summer art programming schedule for children and families. Programs are designed to offer children and their adult companions an opportunity to experience a wide range of artistic workshops and creativity-based lessons, experienced in combination with the museum’s current exhibits and collections. Programs to be offered are as follows:


9:00 a.m.–noon (ages 6–8), 1:00–4:00 p.m. (ages 9–11)
Students will deepen their engagement in the artistic process and share their creations on the third day of the workshop at a show of the students’ work. Classes are taught by a NYS certified art educator. Program fee of $60 for non-members and $45 for members includes materials and museum admission for all three days.
June 29, 30, and July 1: Masterpiece Puppet Theater—Create an original puppet show with your own marionettes.

August 31, September 1 and 2: Art That Goes—Use art and objects related to transportation as inspiration for your own work.


Wednesdays through July and August, 10:00–11:30 am (ages 3–5)

An inspiring setting gives preschool children and their adult companions a chance to become familiar with the museum and explore and grow through art. Gallery visits are followed by an art activity in our studio. Workshops last one-and-a-half hours and are taught by a NYS certified art educator. Program fee: $5 per person for non-members or $4 per person for members.

July 7–Fishy Drawings

July 14–Resist Painting

July 21–Textures and Shapes

July 28–Funny Faces Sculptures

August 4–Popsicle Stick Buildings.

August 11–Animal Collage

August 18–Vegetable Growth Cycles Book

August 25–Landscape Collage


Wednesdays through July and August, 1:00–4:00 p.m. (ages 12–15)

Experience the art of Albany. Instructors will lead neighborhood walks to examine shape, color, pattern, texture, and architecture. Use a variety of materials to create a collage inspired by the landscape design of Washington Park. Classes are taught by a NYS certified art educator. A fee of $20 per class for non-members and $15 for members per class includes materials and museum admission. Great for home school students.

July 7–One-Point Perspective Drawings

July 14–Watercolor Facades

July 21–Collagraph Building Prints

July 28–Ceramic Gargoyle Faces

August 4–Tunnel Book Cities

August 11–One Picture, Many Media

August 18–Botanical Brown Bag Books

August 25–Landscape Collage


Through July and August, 9:00 a.m.–noon (ages 6–8); 1:00–4:00 p.m. (ages 9–11)

Emphasizing fine art techniques, materials and vocabulary, children will experience inspiration and the many ways in which artists work. Classes are taught by a NYS certified art educator. A fee of $20 per class for non-members and $15 for members per class includes materials and museum admission.

July 8–Creating Mystery Creatures

July 15–Still-Life

July 22–Fabric Collage Totes

July 29–Textured Tessellations

August 5–My Fantastic Room

August 12–Photography: Making the New Old

August 19–Botanical Brown Bag Books

August 26–Narrative Collage

More information and online registration is available through the Albany Institute’s website at www.albanyinstitute.org. Public requests for additional information should be addressed to Barbara Collins, Education Coordinator, (518) 463-4478, ext. 405; collinsb@albanyinstitute.org.

Albany Institute Honors Family, Artist at 2010 Gala

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This Friday, June 11, 2010, the Albany Institute of History & Art will honor two longtime supporters at the 2010 Museum Gala: The John D. Picotte Family/Equinox Foundation and renowned artist Stephen Hannock.

Stephen Hannock is renowned for his atmospheric landscapes: compositions of flooded rivers, nocturnes, and large vistas that often incorporate text inscriptions that relate to family, friends, or events of daily life. One of Hannock’s masterpieces employing this technique is “The River Keeper,” which is currently on view in the Albany Institute’s galleries. “Many critics have compared Hannock’s paintings to Thomas Cole, Frederic Edwin Church, and other 19th-century masters,” Miles said. “It is an honor to include Stephen Hannock’s work in exhibitions like Hudson River Panorama.”

Hannock’s paintings are represented in many private and public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Museum of American Art; Smith College Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, and the Albany Institute of History & Art. In 1998, Hannock’s work won an Academy Award for “Special Visual Effects” in the motion picture, What Dreams May Come. Hannock divides his time between his studios in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and New York City.

Also being honored at the 2010 Museum Gala is the John D. Picotte Family/Equinox Foundation, who have been a generous supporter of the Albany Institute. The 2010 Museum Gala recognizes them for their courage and vision in supporting the three-year planning, research, and design phases of the Institute’s landmark exhibition, Hudson River Panorama: 400 Years of History, Art, and Culture, now on display through January 2011.

“Few foundations support the planning and research phase of projects because tangible evidence is not obvious in a short period of time,” said Christine Miles, Executive Director of the Albany Institute. “However, it is impossible to create a multidimensional product without this essential support. Thanks to the Equinox Foundation, the Albany Institute has been able to advance our community’s understanding of our regional culture and heritage while working to build the area’s self-esteem.” The multi-pronged project included the involvement of renowned history and science scholars, community groups, teachers, parents, students, and other audiences throughout the design phase, which ultimately resulted in the most successful exhibition and programming in the Albany Institute’s 219-year history.

Tickets for the 2010 Museum Gala are still on sale, and may be purchased online by visiting www.albanyinstitute.org/gala.htm. For more information about the gala, its honorees, or donors, please contact Michael Weidrich, Director of Corporate Development, (518) 463-4478, ext. 414, or weidrichm@albanyinstitute.org.

Albany Institute to Host Free Exibition Preview

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Tomorrow, Friday, June 4, 2010, the Albany Institute of History & Art will host a free reception and preview of the Tomorrow’s Masters Today exhibition, and will name a Master Class of 10 artists. Recently, the Art Auction Committee of the Albany Institute selected 50 original works of art from Capital Region artists to be included in Tomorrow’s Masters Today, an art exhibit and silent auction which will be a feature of the Institute’s 2010 Museum Gala on Friday, June 11, 2010. Tomorrow’s Master Today is part of an effort to promote up-and-coming artists of the Capital Region and highlight the growing artistic wealth of this area. Proceeds from the June 11 auction and gala will support the ongoing programming of the Albany Institute.

The June 4 reception and preview will be held at the Institute, 125 Washington Ave., Albany, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Additionally, on Friday, June 4, the Institute will remain open until 8:00 p.m., and admission to the galleries will be free as part of 1st Fridays, the downtown arts walk that showcases the thriving and lively art scene in downtown Albany. Live music by The Next Station will also be featured.

The Tomorrow’s Masters Today exhibition will be on display at the Albany Institute from June 4 through June 27. To view any of the 50 selected works online, visit www.albanyinstitute.org/tmt.htm. For more information about, or to purchase tickets online for the 2010 Museum Gala on June 11—honoring philanthropists John D. Picotte Family/Equinox Foundation and renowned artist, Stephen Hannock, visit www.albanyinstitute.org/gala.htm.

Albany Institute’s 50 ‘Tomorrows Artists Today’

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The Albany Institute of History & Art is pleased to announce the 50 artists selected for its Tomorrow’s Masters Today Exhibition and Silent Auction. Selected from more than 120 entries, these 50 artists represent some of the Capital Region’s most promising new artists. Tomorrow’s Master Today is part of an effort to promote local artists and highlight the area’s growing artistic wealth.

The exhibition will be a highlight of the Albany Institute’s 2010 Museum Gala on Friday, June 11, and the works will be available for purchase in a silent auction to benefit the Albany Institute. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Friday, June 4, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Ten of the exhibiting artists will be named to a “Master Class,” which will be announced at the reception. The exhibition will be on view at the museum throughout the month of June.

The 50 artists selected for the Tomorrow’s Masters Today Exhibition and Silent Auction are: David Arsenault, Gabrielle Becker, David Brickman, Joleen Button, Lorraine Chesin, Peter Combe, John Connors, Kristin DeFontes, Paul Deyss, Scott Donohue, Chip Fasciana, Raymond Felix, Jim Florsdorf, Mark Gregory, Audrey Grendahl Kuhn, Robin Guthridge, Theresa Hayes, Brian Hofmeister, Stephen Honicki, Tony Iadicicco, Sylvie Kantorovitz, Jenny Kemp, Chloe Kettlewell, David Kvam, Christopher Lislio, Stacy Livingston, Patricia Loonan Testo, Jason Blue Lake Hawk Martinez, Sarah Martinez, Gary Masline, Jessy Montrose, Gail Nadeau, Clifford Oliver, Dorothea Osborn, Wren Panzella, Bill Pettit III, Laurie Searl, Amy Shafer, Scott M. Smith, Susan Sommer, Susan Stuart, Marie Triller, Carl Voegtling, Catherine Wagner Minnery, Eileen Rice Walker, Sarah Walroth, Tommy Watkins, Michael Weidrich, John W.Yost, and Leif Zurmuhlen.

The selected works may be viewed online.

Len Tantillo on Painting The Hudson Valley: History and Process

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Len Tantillo, an artist born and raised in upstate New York, will speak on “Painting the Valley: History and Process,” this Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 2pm at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Tantillo is New York’s premiere painter of historical subjects.

In 1980, Tantillo was commissioned to depict a series of 19th-century structures from
archeological artifacts and historic documents. Similar projects followed, many of which were located along the banks of the Hudson River near Albany. In 1984, Tantillo left commercial art and began the full-time pursuit of fine art. He has spent the last 25 years creating numerous historical and marine paintings, which have continued to draw a wide audience. Tantillo’s work shows the combined influence of the luminists of the 19th century and the great marine artists of the past.

You can see much of his work on the web here.

Tammis Groft and Museum and History Advocacy

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One of New York’s museum leading lights, Tammis Groft, was recently mentioned over at Suzanne Fischer’s Public Historian blog in a post calling for more blogging about museum and history advocacy:

Among AAM’s projects is museum advocacy on a national level. Recently, they sent Tammis K. Groft, deputy director of collections and exhibits at the Albany Institute of History and Art [above], to Washington as a “citizen-lobbyist” to speak to a committee about the importance of NEH Preservation and Access Grants. She wrote a few blog posts on the subject on the AAM’s advocacy blog. PAG grants are a major way museums of all sizes fund collections stewardship projects, and the funding for the program is slated to be cut by 50% next year. Contact your elected officials to advocate for NEH conservation programs!

The Humanities Advocacy Network is also a great resource for humanities advocacy, including preservation and history programs. You can sign up to get action alerts and email your representatives from the page.

I’d love to see more blogging from AAM or other organizations on museum and history advocacy issues. The wrangling over appropriations can be very opaque, and a human voice really helps to clarify issues and make advocacy work seem much more possible for small museum professionals and those without much lobbying practice. (My occasional posts about Minnesota cultural legislation don’t cut it.)