Tag Archives: Olana State Historic Site

Spring Walk at Olana Features Landscape, Wildlife


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Craig Thompson, director of Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, will host an outdoor foray to search for bluebirds, robin redbreast, white trillium and other colorful signs of spring on Sunday, April 1. An Olana educator will join the group to discuss the history of the landscape and carriage drives designed by Frederic Church.

Craig Thompson has been an environmental educator in NYS DEC’s Division of Public Affairs for over 30 years. Five Rivers, one of the state’s environmental education facilities, is a 445-acre “living museum” offering a comprehensive program of interpretive, education and information services year ‘round.

The Spring Walk will take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, and is free and open to all ages. Meet at the Wagon House Education Center and dress for casual trail walking. Binoculars are helpful but not necessary. Space is limited, so please register by calling (518) 828-1872 ext. 109. In the event of inclement weather, the program may be canceled. (If in doubt, call (518) 828-1872 x 109 to confirm.) A vehicle use fee will be charged at the entrance to the site.

Forum: 1979 Hudson Valley Nuclear Decision


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In 1979, a nuclear power plant was nearly built on the Hudson River in plain view of Olana State Historic Site. The Olana Partnership is presenting a panel discussion on Saturday, February 25, about this little-known incident in Hudson Valley history.

For the first time ever, three key players in this debate will unite and recount this game-changing episode, and how each played an important role. The panelists, Carl Petrich, J. Winthrop Aldrich, and Richard Benas, will discuss the unprecedented and nationally significant approach of considering the visual impact of a nuclear power plant in a region. Dorothy Heyl, a member of Olana’s Landscape/Viewshed Committee, will moderate.

In 1977, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Power Authority of the State of New York held hearings on siting a nuclear power plant just south of Catskill in Cementon. The cooling tower, at a height of 450 feet, would have been visible for many miles. Thirty-five stories tall, it would have been 250 feet in diameter at its highest point and discharged a prominent plume. On some days, the plume would have obscured views of the Catskill Mountains from many locations, including Olana.

In the late 1970s, Carl Petrich, one of the panelists, worked as a landscape architect on the research staff of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Through an agreement with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Oak Ridge produced an Environmental Impact Statement for this project. Petrich immersed himself in Hudson River School history and the designed landscape of Frederic Church’s Olana. His conclusion—that the viewshed from Olana was of national importance and warranted protection—changed history. The resulting Environmental Impact Statement caused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff to recommended denial of a construction license for the proposed nuclear power plant. This was the first and only time that such a recommendation had been made on any grounds—let alone environmental or aesthetic.

J. Winthrop Aldrich, a Hudson Valley resident and long-time public servant, worked with counsel for local groups opposing the siting of the plant in Cementon. He was a proponent of assuring that the impact of the project on historic and scenic resources would be formally weighed in the decision making.

Richard Benas, then at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, testified in hearings on the proposed plant. Based on this experience, Benas later developed visual impact guidelines which are now used to insure compliance with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, SEQRA.

Testimony at the hearings on the significance of the Olana Viewshed included some by David Huntington, who had earlier led the successful preservation effort that saved Olana in 1967. More than 30 years ago, Huntington testified, “Olana is a monument and site whose significance will be increasingly appreciated by the American people.”

The three panelists, Petrich, Aldrich and Benas, will share their memories of a crucial, but mostly forgotten chapter in the preservation of a national historic landmark and its spectacular viewshed. “It’s surprising how few people know about this episode in this region,” noted Mark Prezorski, Landscape Curator for The Olana Partnership. “In some ways, it’s similar to the Storm King Mountain preservation effort, with far reaching effects.”

“This discussion, while it addresses the prospect of a nuclear power plant, is not about nuclear energy,” commented Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership. “It is the story of how the importance of the Olana Viewshed factored into the siting of a plant, and how this mattered on a national and regional level.”

“Olana is famous for its breath-taking panoramic views that draw thousands of visitors to this magnificent historic site every year,” said Kimberly Flook, Site Manager of Olana Historic Site. “It was Frederic Church’s vision that actively shaped his landscape to frame the Hudson Valley’s unique natural beauty.”

The panel discussion will begin at 3:00 PM on Saturday, February 25 in Hudson, NY, at Stair Galleries (549 Warren Street). A suggested donation of $10 can be paid at the door, and admission is free for all members of The Olana Partnership. A reception will follow. More information is available online at olana.org or by phoning The Olana Partnership at 518.828.1872. RSVPs appreciated.

Photo: View from Olana with Superimposed Simulated Nuclear Cooling Towers (detail), 1979, photograph #4363-77, Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Dept. of Energy.

Olana Partnership Elects New Trustee


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Richard Sharp, Chairman of The Olana Partnership, has announced the election of Joseph A. Pierson to the board of trustees.

“We are delighted that Joseph has joined our board. He brings to the Partnership a keen visual sense and creative eye, along with a track record of commitment to historic preservation,” said Chairman Sharp. “Joseph continues the tradition of his family’s longstanding support of Olana.”

Pierson is president of Cypress Films, Inc., a successful, independent, New York-based film, theater and television production company. Most recently, he produced and directed EvenHand, an independent feature film shot on location in San Antonio, Texas. Currently in pre-production is a filmed adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s A Suspension of Mercy and an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man for the Broadway stage.

Pierson majored in Studio Art at Middlebury College, graduating with departmental honors. He has an avid interest in historic preservation, serving as a member of the Director’s Council of the Historic House Trust of New York City, the Trustees’ Council of the Preservation League of New York State, and as chair of the Fort Tryon Park Trust. In addition, Mr. Pierson serves on the board of the Greenrock Corporation and as president of Abeyton Lodge, Inc.

In 1994, Pierson was elected a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. He is a member of the Fund’s Pocantico Center and nominating committees. He and his family have a local residence in Columbia County, New York.

“From the first time Joseph came for a visit to Olana, we could tell that he noticed and appreciated everything, and with his strong background in historic preservation, had insights that we knew would be of great value to us,” said Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership. “The fact that his grandfather Nelson Rockefeller had been responsible for saving Olana from the auction block in the early 1960s made it all the more fitting that Joseph might join the board.”

At Olana, The End of a Season and an Era


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On Sunday, October 30, 2011, Olana State Historic Site ended its 43rd visitor season, and changed over to its winter schedule (Friday through Sunday). Over 132,000 guests visited Olana in the past year, one beset with an abundance of rain, gasoline prices that threatened to hit $5 during peak travel season, two hurricanes and an October nor’easter. In December of this year Olana will mark another milestone as Linda E. McLean closes her last year as director at Olana State Historic Site, ending an almost 40-year museum career with New York State.

McLean completed a master’s thesis on the photograph collection at Olana, working with then director Richard Slavin, and her abiding interest in Olana and American art developed from that point on. She joined the staff at Olana as Director of Education, stepping up to acting director when Slavin left to accept a post in Cooperstown. In 1980 McLean was offered and accepted a position of Director in her own right at the John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Westchester County, and remained there until 2000, when she returned as Director at Olana State Historic Site, filling the position vacated by the late James Ryan.

When asked why she was retiring at this point she answered without hesitation. “We have completed all the major parts of the comprehensive plan that was adopted when I first arrived. We have restored the full exterior of the building from the brilliant stencils around the cornices to the bricks and stone of the walls; the roof will be completed this coming summer. We have opened the second floor for touring, restored wall papers, opened a very successful gallery space, restored carpets, textiles, making rooms come alive with the color and beauty that until now had only been known to Olana’s first residents. There are now six restored buildings in use on the property with plans for the restoration of the rest of the barn complex. Overall we have leveraged several millions of dollars in the restoration of the site, the WHOLE site; collections, buildings, and the landscape. And if the years and work at John Jay Homestead are included, the list gets richer, better and longer. It has been a wonderful journey and I have met and had the privilege of working with some amazing people. With the completion of the comprehensive plan, a new Commissioner in Albany and new plans for the whole system of parks and historic sites, it is time to turn the page and turn the site over to a new director, someone who can harness the technology of the 21st century to take Olana through its next round of planning and beyond.”

“And,” McLean added,“it is now time for me to explore the world much as Church did as he gathered ideas for his great works. This is my time to “follow the road less traveled” and see where this next journey takes me. I have been very lucky to have been part of two spectacular historic sites and worked with the people who made them what they are. I have been most fortunate to complete my career at Olana, working to restore it to the grandeur that it knew as the home of artist Frederic Edwin Church. But more important to do this work in the community where I grew up, for the people of a community that nurtured me in my youth and gave me the foundation that allowed me to experience a 40-year career in a field I have loved from the beginning. Now it is time to move on, Church once said, about an hour south of Albany is the center of the world, and I own it, well, I can say, about an hour south of Albany is the center of the world and, for a while, I too, could call it my own.”

Linda is the fourth director for Olana State Historic Site. A successor has yet to be named. At this time all efforts in her office and at the historic site are focused on wrapping up the 2011 season and preparing for what will be a new chapter at Olana State Historic Site. “On behalf of the board and staff of The Olana Partnership, I want to thank Linda for her dedicated service to Olana,” stated Sara Griffen, president of The Olana Partnership. “She has been a true partner these last several years, a trusted colleague and supportive collaborator. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”

Photo: Main house at Olana. Courtesy Linda McLean.

Walking Tours of Olana Landscape


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The weekend of September 24 and 25 offers two unique opportunities to enjoy the landscape at Olana State Historic Site. On Saturday, September 24, author and geologist Bob Titus will lead a Hudson Valley Ramble Walk at Olana starting at 2 p.m. On Sunday, September 25, Lin Fagan will lead a walk starting at 9 a.m. Both groups will meet at the Olana Visitor Center at the top of the hill and continue their respective walks from that location. The tour on Saturday has a $5 vehicle fee per car as the cost of admission; the tour on Sunday is free of charge.

Professor Robert Titus has held several very popular Hudson Valley Ramble Walks at Olana. This year his walk entitled “Unplanned Views” will circle Olana looking at the dramatic views that artist Frederic Church took advantage of as he laid out his landscape. Titus will point out the views and then describe their geologic histories with a series of dramatic readings describing moments of time in the geological past that brought these views into being for Mr. Church. Reservations are required for this walk and it is limited to 20 persons; plan for two hours in the landscape with easy to moderate walking. Please wear clothing and shoes suitable for walking outside on shale paths and woodland areas.

On Sunday, Lin Fagan will conduct a tour with a focus on the landscape and the wildlife, particularly the bird populations. Fagan, an Olana volunteer for over 20 years, is a long-time member of the Audubon Society, an avid hiker and birder who has travelled all over the United States. She will bring to bear her particular expertise in looking at the landscape and enjoying all that surrounds you. When not travelling or volunteering at Olana, Lin can most often be found hiking and birding in the Shawangunks in Ulster County. Her tour will include the landscape, the gardens, and Ridge Road. A loop around the lake can be added to the walk for those who are interested. Wear clothing and shoes appropriate for walking outside.

For both walks, bring cameras, binoculars, sketch pads, water, and a pure joy for the landscape of the Hudson Valley. Reservations are required for both tours; please call 518-828-0135 between 9 AM and 5 PM Tuesday – Sunday to reserve a spot on one or both of these walks in the landscape.

Landscape Photography Workshop at Olana


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The Olana Partnership will host a two-day landscape photography workshop, Growing your skills beyond the snapshot phase, on Saturday, September 17 and Sunday, September 18 from 1-7:30 pm at the Wagon House Education Center at Olana. Photographer Greg Miller will teach participants how to blossom from a snapshot shooter to a photographer who makes compelling photos that elicit strong emotional reactions. Participants will learn about proper lighting, technical vs. artistic skills, composition, equipment, and technique, and will have an opportunity to shoot intimate scenes and vistas in Olana’s picturesque landscape.

Cost of the workshop is $75 for Saturday only or $125 for both days for non-members, and $50 for Saturday only and $100 for both days for members of The Olana Partnership. An additional $5.00 entry fee per vehicle will be charged (waived for members of The Olana Partnership). This fee may be credited toward a house tour as long as tickets are available. Register now while space is available. Contact Sarah Hasbrook, education coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or call (518) 828-1872 x 109.

Greg Miller’s books include The Hudson River: A Great American Treasure (Rizzoli, 2008) which was selected for the “2008 Editors’ Favorite Books of the Year” list by The Bloomsbury Review. Miller’s second book, Panorama of the Hudson River (SUNY Press, 2009), was commissioned by Open Space Institute and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz. His selected permanent collections include the Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, Colorado, Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington D.C. (five prints), and Catskill Regional Medical Center (eighteen prints), to name a few. Miller was selected to be a 2009 “Artist in Residence” for Acadia National Park and was a finalist for the “2003 Photography Now” award from The Center of Photography at Woodstock. In addition, Miller is a workshop leader for the Center of Photography at Woodstock, and photography tour leader for the Adirondack Photography Institute. More information and photographs can be found on Greg Miller’s website

Wagon House Education Center programming is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation; the Educational Foundation of America; the John Wilmerding Education Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

Photo: Hudson Valley by Greg Miller.

Olana Offers Painting Workshop Aug 17-19


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The Olana Partnership will offer an adult workshop Mixed Media Painting with the Impressionists this Wednesday, August 17 through Friday, August 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Wagon House Education Center. Learn the basics of watercolor, oil pastels and acrylic paint with artist Patty Tyrol. Discover how to layer and build up surfaces through mixed media. Participants will be inspired by Olana’s picturesque views as they work in the landscape.



Patty Tyrol is an artist who received her BFA and MA in printmaking from SUNY New Paltz. Tyrol has taught adults and children at Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY and in public school settings. Tyrol has been making prints and teaching for 30 years. Most recently, she was the artist in residence at the National Seashore in Provincetown, Cape Cod where she worked and produced a body of cyanotype work that will be shown in November at Unison’s Water Street Market Gallery in New Paltz.

Cost of the workshop is $15 per class, or all three classes for $40 for members of The Olana Partnership, or $20 per class or all three classes for $50 for non-members. Register by contacting Sarah Hasbrook, Education Coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or call (518) 828-1872 x 109.

Olana State Historic Site is located at 5720 State Route 9G in Hudson, NY 12534.

Wagon House Education Center programming is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation; the Educational Foundation of America; the John Wilmerding Education Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

The eminent Hudson River School painter Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) designed Olana, his family home, studio, and estate as an integrated environment embracing architecture, art, and landscape. Considered one of the most important artistic residences in the United States, Olana is a landmark of Picturesque landscape gardening with a Persian-inspired house at its summit, embracing unrivaled panoramic views of the vast Hudson Valley.

Olana State Historic Site, a historic site administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Taconic Region, is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the most visited sites in the state. The Olana Partnership, a private not-for-profit education corporation, works cooperatively with New York State to support the restoration, development and improvement of Olana State Historic Site. To learn more about Olana, please visit www.olana.org.

Olana Civil War Event: Rally ‘Round the Flag


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The 77th New York Regimental Balladeers will present a free concert of music popular during the Civil War along with letters and commentary from and about the war. The music starts at 2 PM on the East Lawn at Olana State Historic Site on Saturday, August 13, 2011. There is a $5 per car fee at the entrance to the park; bring your own blankets and chairs; the concert is from 2 – 4 PM.

The 77th New York has appeared many times at Olana, each time to an enthusiastic response. This year, their performance is part of the Sesquicentennial observances of the Civil War taking place throughout the country. The 77th New York will provide a look at the war from a musical perspective. Dressed in authentic reproductions of historic uniforms and costumes, the 77th New York provides a musical and narrative story of both sides in the painful and bloody conflict

The Civil War is of importance to Olana because of its relevance to Frederic Church, his art, and his family. While Church did not fight in the Civil War, he supported it financially; some of his greatest works, like Icebergs and Cotopaxi, were produced during this time. He and his family, like so many in this country, suffered the deaths of dear friends in the conflict. Long time friend and author Theodore Winthrop was lost in one of the first battles of the war; later friend and fellow Connecticut artist John Jameson died at the infamous Andersonville prison camp.

Currently, an exhibit, Rally ‘round the Flag: Frederic Edwin Church and the Civil War, is featured in the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery. The exhibit explores the Civil War connection to the artist and the country; it also provides a look at the paintings and a career cut short by the conflict, the works of Church’s young friend and artist, John Jamison.

Olana Third Thursdays Curator Tours


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The Olana Partnership and the Olana State Historic Site have announced the remaining Third Thursdays Curator Tour Series. The Curator Tour Series provides an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes opportunity to experience Olana under the guide of its curatorial staff. Tours will showcase Olana’s latest exhibition in the Evelyn & Maurice Sharp Gallery and include a component that focuses on Olana’s artist-designed landscape.

These tours are held on the Third Thursday of each month from 5:30-7pm. Each tour will feature its own unique theme and explore many of the various influences that impacted Frederic Church and his design of Olana.

Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership explains that the tour series evolved out of an interest from the community to have more one-on-one time with our curatorial staff: “We have inaugurated this series in response to frequent requests that we offer more in-depth tours, whereby visitors can study the landscape, objects, and architecture in a more leisurely fashion – we hope this provides a new opportunity for the public to enjoy the riches of this magnificent site.”

The series also features wine tastings from some of the regions that had the deepest influence on Frederic Church and his work.

The remaining 2011 tour schedule is as follows:

August 18: Creating a Composition: Frederic Church applied his artistic talent to so much more than his monumental paintings. Olana can be seen as a three-dimensional artistic composition – a living landscape painting he spent decades perfecting. Olana’s curators will lead visitors through the property sharing the many artistic compositions created by Church, from the careful artistic arrangement of objects in the home’s interiors, to the painterly scenes he created outdoors through his own landscaping efforts.

September 15: Influences on Design: The development of the Persian-inspired house grew out of the artist’s experiences in the Near East and the inspirations found in the many books and photographs that he collected during his travels. The artist was also impacted by contemporary trends in American architecture and landscape design. Both these influences permeate the work he continued outside his home in the development of the outbuildings and the landscape. The curators will explain how these sources combined with Church’s own intensely personal artistic expression at Olana.

Space is limited. Tickets are $40 for members of The Olana Partnership, $50 for non-members. To reserve, please call (518) 828-1872 x 103 by the preceding Wednesday. Tours are subject to cancellation without minimum registration. The Behind-the-Scenes Curator Tour is also available for private functions upon special request and availability.

Olana State Historic Site is located at 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12534.

Olana Presenting The Life of Emily Dickinson


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The Olana Partnership will present “To See a Summer Sky,” a one-woman theatrical performance based on the life of Emily Dickinson. Excerpted from William Luce’s play “The Belle of Amherst,” on Saturday, July 2 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. The performance will take place at Cosy Cottage, the first home of Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church located in the historic farm complex at Olana State Historic Site.

The production, performed by Triple Shadow actress Mari Andrejco as Emily Dickinson, and directed by Beth Skinner, focuses on Dickinson’s quiet life of transcendent reflection. Dickinson’s poems were inspired by a circumscribed world of home, garden, and village of Amherst. Andrejco says the play is “created for family audiences and allows them to learn about Emily Dickinson as if they were living at that time period (1830-1886).”

Triple Shadow creates visual theater challenging artistic boundaries, revealing the interconnectedness between human cultures and nature. The collaborative process is intercultural and interdisciplinary, affecting audiences in sensory and subconscious ways creating new perceptions of time and memory.

Mari Andrejco trained with Sanford Meiser at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. She has performed in Europe, Mexico, Egypt, and the United States. Andrejco has done stage acting, television, and video including appearing as Queen Elizabeth I and Susan B. Anthony for PBS. She has worked with Shakespeare and Company, Triple Shadow, and the Pleiades Company and has taught at the Institute for Arts in Education in the Albany schools.

Beth Skinner has premiered ten productions at La Mama E.T.C. in New York City with support from the theater programs of National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts and Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as grants from NEA Opera and NEA Presenting Program. The company has toured in Egypt, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Canada, and Indonesia and collaborated with artists from Japan, China, Korea, Hungary, Romania, Indonesia, Mexico, and Russia.

The performance will take place at Olana State Historic Site 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY.

Cost of the play is $5.00 per person for non-members and free for members of The Olana Partnership. A $5.00 entry fee per vehicle will be charged (fee is waived for members of The Olana Partnership). This fee may be credited toward a house tour as long as house tour tickets are available. Please bring blankets and lawn chairs for seating. For more information contact Sarah Hasbrook, Education Coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or call (518) 828-1872 x 109.

This program is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation; the Educational Foundation of America; the John Wilmerding Educational Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

Hudson Valley Farm Photo Exhibit at Olana


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Olana has announced the opening of a new exhibition by photographer Brandt Bolding entitled FARM: Agricultural Life of the Hudson Valley. The exhibit in the recently restored Coachman’s House Gallery at Olana State Historic Site.

In 1860, Frederic Church purchased approximately 126 acres of farmland and immediately set out to build a new “farm house” for his family. The artist expanded his land holdings over the next ten years and ultimately moved his family to the larger stone-and-brick house he built near the summit of the hill, but he continued to work on and operate a farm at Olana for the rest of his life. Church was proud of his farming accomplishments, writing friends and family of the success of his orchards, vegetables, and livestock.

The FARM exhibit coincides with extensive farm restoration work about to begin in Olana’s historic farm complex. The Olana Partnership and Olana State Historic Site have secured two major grants to focus on restoring Frederic Church’s farm. Over the next several years, meadow and orchard restoration projects will return the neglected farm to potentially active agricultural use. “According to a report of the American Farmland Trust, every hour we lose 125 acres of farm and ranch land in the U.S.,” reports Olana Partnership President Sara Griffen. “By focusing on the restoration of Olana’s farm we hope to play a small role in ensuring the agricultural future of Columbia County.”

Photographer Brandt Bolding states, “through extensive travels photographing and documenting the farms of northeastern America I am attempting to bring awareness of just a small part of what is at stake. Nowhere is this more of a concern than in the Mid-Hudson Valley…where citizens, and civic organizations large and small rally to preserve the irreplaceable beauty of our landscape from less than circumspect development.”

The photos included in the exhibition will be printed by the photographer in a limited edition of twelve and are available for purchase in the Olana Museum Store. The exhibit will be open every day through October 30, 2011 at Olana State Historic Site, 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, New York.

About Brandt Bolding:

Brandt Bolding’s photographs have been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the northeastern part of the U.S. and have appeared in newspapers, journals, and publications by various preservation organizations in New York State. His work on agricultural life will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, NY, later this year. Two of his photographs appeared in the book entitled Old Homes of New England: Historic Houses in Clapboard, Shingle, and Stone published by Rizzoli in April 2010.

Photo: Level Acres Cornfield, Route 82, Columbia County. Courtesy Brandt Bolding Photography.

Olana Offers Children’s Summer Programs


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The Olana Partnership has announced two summer programs for children that will be offered in July and August. Each of the week-long programs offers a distinct experience for children ages 7-14 and parents can register their child for either one or both offerings.

Panorama – Olana’s new summer program for children will be held at the Wagon House Education Center from Monday, July 11 through Friday, July 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The week-long adventure will explore art, history, and nature through the prism of artist Frederic Church. Children will learn about artist techniques and Olana’s working farm in the 19th century; they will paint in the beautiful Olana landscape and create historic crafts for children. Professional authors and illustrators will enhance the experience of participants through hands-on activities. On the final day of the program, a museum will be set up in the Wagon House to display the children’s artwork.

River School – Olana’s summer dramatic arts program will be held at the Wagon House Education Center from Monday, August 8 through Friday, August 12, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Children will create their own play from soup-to-nuts in this non-competitive program that explores all aspects of story and dramatic arts through the fun and magic of live theater. During this week-long “full process” experience, participants will create original scripts, design and construct sets and props, and stage a performance for family and friends at the end of the week. The theme of the play will derive from exploration of a painting by Hudson River School landscape painter Frederic Edwin Church. While using their imaginations in the inspiring Olana landscape, participants will work on public speaking and expression. Parents of past participants have summed up their children’s experience in River School as an “educational, dramatic arts exposure,” where children gained “confidence, and public speaking experience, and a sense of mastery and achievement.”

Registration forms for children ages 7-14 can be downloaded from Olana’s website. For more information on these programs, please contact Sarah Hasbrook, education coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or (518) 828-1872 ext. 109.

Olana’s Wagon House Education Center offers public programs for children, families and the community. The Education Center is located at Olana State Historic Site, 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, New York. After entering the site, take your first right after the lake and continue down to the Farm Complex parking lot.

Wagon House Education Center programming is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation; the Educational Foundation of America; the John Wilmerding Educational Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

Olana Hosts Artists’ Handmade Houses Book Event


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The Olana Partnership and Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios will offer a book talk and signing with author Michael Gotkin and photographer Don Freeman to celebrate the publication of Artists’ Handmade Houses on Saturday, June 18 at 4:00 p.m. on the East Lawn at Olana State Historic Site, 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, New York. This event is free and open to the public (a vehicle use fee applies). Light refreshments will be served. Please call (518) 828-1872 ext. 103 or e-mail rsvp@olana.org to reserve.

Artists’ Handmade Houses is a collection of private domains handcrafted by the finest artists and craftsmen in America. This diverse selection of artists includes familiar names such as George Nakashima, Sam Maloof, Frederic Church, and Russel Wright, as well as those deserving wider recognition. Constructed between the late-nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, these homes were designed and built by artists as expressions of their art and craft. A few of the featured homes have been awarded National Historic Landmark status and several are open to the public, while others have sadly fallen into disrepair or are in the hands of new owners. In some cases, the photographs in this book represent the last record of the house as created by the artist.

Michael Gotkin’s text places each house in the context of its owner’s life and career, providing anecdotes and insights about its development over time and its place in the oeuvre of the artist. With brief histories about each artist and house, and spectacular new photography by Don Freeman, Artists’ Handmade Houses offers a rare glimpse into the personal living and work spaces of some of the greatest American artists and craftsmen.

Don Freeman’s photographs appear regularly in the pages of World of Interiors, Vogue, House Beautiful, and Vanity Fair, among other magazines. Michael Gotkin works as a landscape architect and city planner in New York City, where he is also an advocate for the preservation of postwar design. He has organized design exhibitions with the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Municipal Art Society of New York.

The hardcover book published by Abrams retails for $60.00 and has 240 pages, with 230 color photographs. Copies of Artists’ Handmade Houses will be available for sale at the event and online.

Olana Civil War Exhibition, Reception


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This year marks the sesquicentennial of the fall of Fort Sumter, and the start of the Civil War. Olana’s exhibition: Rally ’round the Flag: Frederic Edwin Church and the Civil War on view in the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery at Olana is one of the first exhibitions in the multi-year, regional and national commemoration of the conflict.

The exhibition opens May 26 and runs through October 30, 2011, and features Frederic Church’s most patriotic work, Our Banner in the Sky, a sensational sunrise resembling a Union flag, as well as numerous oil and pencil sketches related to the war and rarely on view. The exhibition is also the first retrospective of the very talented and little known artist John S. Jameson (1842-1864). A free public lecture by Dr. Kevin J. Avery, Frederic Church scholar and senior research fellow at The Metropolitan Museum of Art will kick-off the exhibition season on May 22, 2011 at 2 p.m. in the Wagon House Education Center at Olana.

Fort Sumter was bombarded by the newly formed Confederate States of America on April 11 and 12, 1865, launching the American Civil War. At the time, Church was preparing to debut his latest masterpiece at Goupil’s Gallery in New York City. His reaction was not to cancel the unveiling, but instead to re-title his painting of icebergs, The North, showing his support for the northern cause. Church also pledged the exhibition fees to the Union’s Patriotic Fund – a fund to aid the families of Union soldiers. Less than a month later, in a further act of nationalism Church painted a sunrise as a Union flag, Our Banner in the Sky, in response to the patriotic fever that swept the North. Church’s salute to the flag was published as a chromolithograph by Goupil & Co. and quickly became popular.

The renaming of his great picture, now known as The Icebergs, The North, and the creation of Our Banner in the Sky only represent Church’s initial reaction to the conflict. During the next five years, as the Civil War raged on, Church produced some of his most important works. And many reflected the turbulence of the war. The wonderful artistic source material for these epic paintings remains at Olana, and will be on view in the exhibition. The powerful and surging Under Niagara, 1862 (unlocated) was done from the lively oil sketch, Study for Under Niagara, 1858, in Olana’s collection. The study, which will be on display in the exhibition, represents the inspiration for the masterpiece and an important link to the lost canvas. To create his most devastating war-time vision of the exploding volcano Cotopaxi, 1862 (The Detroit Institute of Arts), Church referenced sketches from his trips to South American in 1853 and 1857.

The pencil drawings of Cotopaxi, featured in the exhibition, were done on location and illustrate Church’s amazing ability to capture the ever changing eruption. As the war turned in favor of the Union, Church returned to the subject of the frozen north, inspired in part by a sketch on display by Isaac Hayes of Church’s Peak, a mountain the explorer named to honor the artist. This watercolor, and Church’s own oil sketch Aurora Borealis (also in the exhibition) informed his large celestial tour de force Aurora Borealis, of 1865 (American Museum of Art, Smithsonian). And after the war, the end of the conflict and the return of hope are reflected by the passing storm and rainbow in Rainy Season in the Tropics, 1866 (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), worked out in a small compositional pencil sketch on view in the exhibition.

A number of Church’s paintings were displayed to support the Union, at Sanitary Fairs – public exhibitions held throughout the northeast to benefit wounded soldiers. The best-known was the Metropolitan Sanitary Fair which took place in New York City in spring 1864. Church’s epic canvas The Heart of the Andes was a feature of the exhibition. Church had sold the masterpiece to William Blodgett, but for himself, Church kept Study for Heart of the Andes, featured in the exhibition, as a reminder of the painting that brought him world renowned.

Church was not immune from the tragedy that the war brought to so many American citizens on both sides of the conflict. He lost a good friend and watched the careers and aspirations of others derailed by the war. Church’s friend Theodore Winthrop, after whom the artist’s named his son, was an emerging poet and travel writer and was one of the first Union casualties of the war, falling at the Battle of Big Bethel in June 1861. Arctic explorer and physician Dr. Isaac Hayes was called away from his primary passion to witness first hand the horrors of the war while commanding an army hospital. John S. Jameson was a young landscape painter described in Church’s own words as having an enormous talent and potential, whose life was tragically cut short when he died on August 31, 1864, at the age of twenty-two, only months after enlisting in the Union army.

A Hartford native, Jameson was both an exceptional artist and musician. Church recognized the extraordinary artistic potential of Jameson, commenting to the young man’s mother, “Of all the younger artists whose personal acquaintance I have made, and whose works and characteristics of mind and heart came to my observation, no one has interested me so much, as your son or held out better grounded hopes of future high excellence.”

Jameson completed very few canvases during his brief life cut short by imprisonment and death in Andersonville Prison. Olana has gathered the six identified paintings by Jameson and for the first time these works are shown together: Landscape in the Olana collection and five works from private collections.

Jameson’s poignant story represents only one of countless young men, on both sides of the battlefield, who gave their lives in the conflict. It is hoped that this initial gathering of Jameson’s works, together for the first time in any exhibition, will provide an opportunity for discovery and artistic comparison, and garner appreciation for this heretofore lesser-known gifted Hudson River School painter.

The stories of Jameson, Winthrop and Hayes serve as a personal counterpoint to the more professional and public support Church would give through his art.

To launch the exhibition, noted Church scholar Dr. Kevin J. Avery will lecture on Frederic Edwin Church and the Civil War at the Olana Wagon House Education Center on Sunday, May 22 at 2:00 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is requested. There is a $5.00 per car fee charged to enter the site on weekends. Members of The Olana Partnership have free access to the site. Please call 518-828-1872, ext. 103 to reserve a seat.

Dr. Avery will discuss the ways in which the Civil War impacted the artist both personally and professionally. Avery will examine Church’s major works from the era of the war and the beginning of reconstruction as barometers of the failures and successes of the Union army and the hopes for the Nation. During this time, Church was at the height of his career and these paintings are his most important canvases.

Kevin J. Avery is a senior research scholar at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and an adjunct professor at Hunter College, City University of New York. A short essay by Dr. Avery will be available in a fold-out pamphlet in the exhibition gallery.

Evelyn Trebilcock, Olana Curator and Valerie Balint, Olana Associate Curator, serve as the exhibition curators. This is the third annual exhibition in Olana’s Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery.

The exhibition is made possible by support from Questroyal Fine Art, the Lois H. and Charles A. Miller Jr. Foundation, TD Bank, The New York State Council on the Arts Museum Program, Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Brock Ganeles, David and Laura Grey, Henry and Sharon Martin, Chas A. Miller III, Richard T. Sharp, Susan Winokur and Paul Leach.

Olana is located at 5720 Route 9G in Hudson, NY 12534. The grounds are open every day from 8:00 a.m. until sunset; guided house tours (reservations recommended) are available Tuesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays, May through October, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and include access to the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery; the last tour starts promptly at 4:00 p.m. Telephone: (518) 828-0135 for reservations and to confirm hours.

Illustration: Frederic Church, Our Banner in the Sky, 1861. Courtesy Olana.

Olana to Host Irish History Themed Tours


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Events such as the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s and 1850s led to a major influx of Irish immigrants to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Like many other families in this area, the Churches hired numerous Irish immigrants for their staff at Olana during the years Frederic Church lived on this property (1860-1900).

Two of the longest-serving employees were the Churches’ coachman and head cook, Michael and Jane McKenna – a brother and sister – both of whom were employed here for over a quarter-century. Olana will present special Irish-themed tours Friday-Sunday, March 11-13 & 18-20, at 10 and 11AM, 12, 1, 2 & 3PM.


Photo: Frederic Church’s coachman Michael McKenna is shown here with one of the Church’s horses. Collection Olana State Historic Site, NYS OPRHP.

Olana Partnership Elects New Chair, Board Members


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The Olana Partnership has elected Richard Sharp as Chair of the Board of Trustees at its annual meeting in New York City on January 29, 2011.

Mr. Sharp has been an active member of the Board since 2005, and was a driving force behind the creation of the Evelyn and Maurice Sharp Gallery which opened two years ago at Olana. He is an avid collector of nineteenth century American art and has frequently donated and loaned works in his collection to public museums. Mr. Sharp is a senior partner in the litigation department of Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP, a leading international law firm. He received his B.A. degree, summa cum laude, from Brown University in 1970. He studied at Oxford University and the Hague Academy of International Law in 1970-1971, and received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979.

Mr. Sharp stated, “Olana is unique in combining extraordinary landscape design, architecture and collections. One of my top priorities is to renew our ties to the local community, while increasing our visibility nationally and internationally.” Mr. Sharp also seeks to foster close collaboration among the many Hudson Valley historic sites.

The Partnership also welcomed three new board members at the annual meeting: Stephen Clearman, Rebecca Desman, and Stephanie Zhang.

Stephen Clearman bought Kinderhook Farm in 2003 in Columbia County where he and his partner have established themselves as leading local producers of sustainably-raised beef cattle and sheep. Mr. Clearman started Geocapital Partners in 1984, where he managed a series of institutional venture capital partnerships. In 2002, he started Kinderhook Partners, which invests in small and little unknown publicly traded companies. His interest in Olana coincides with his interest in art and collecting, including Hudson River School paintings.

Mr. Clearman received an M.S. from Columbia University in 1974 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1978.

Rebecca Desman is director at Deutsche Bank (DB) and has been an integral part of the growth of DB’s U.S. sales platform in flow credit and derivatives. Rebecca graduated from Princeton University in 2001, where she received her B.A. in Political Science. She plays an active role in undergraduate and diversity recruiting at DB and sits on the Global Markets Women’s Network Advisory Committee. While working at DB, Ms. Desman earned her M.S. in Non-Profit and Fundraising Management at Columbia University. After completing her masters, she joined two major clients of DB and helped set up The Darfur Project, which provided relief supplies for refugees. She is particularly involved in and motivated by global women’s issues and is active in several global charities. She is an avid appreciator and collector of art.

Stephanie Zhang is executive director in the Technology Division of Morgan Stanley and has 19 years of experience working in the financial services industry in New York and Asia. Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Ms. Zhang worked in EJV Partners to help build out their data center operations. Since 2001, she has focused on building a set of technical solutions and processes in the area of Identity and Access Management for the global Morgan Stanley enterprise.

Ms. Zhang has travelled extensively in Asia, Europe and the Americas. She enjoys the diversity of New York City and takes advantage of its many cultural opportunities; her hobbies include jewelry-making, painting, photography, modern dance, and performance art. She holds a B.A in Computer Science and Statistics from the University of Wisconsin/Madison.

Olana’s Annual Holiday Bonfire


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This Sunday, December 5th marks Olana’s 6th Annual Holiday Bonfire, with caroling by The Merry Minstrels. Explore the house at your own pace, with guides stationed in each room to answer your questions. Afterward enjoy a winter sunset, the company of neighbors and the warmth of the bonfire while enjoying the sounds of traditional Victorian caroling of The Merry Minstrels.

House tours 10AM-4PM (last tour starts at 3), Caroling from 2-4PM, Bonfire from 3-4PM. Call 518-828-0135 for info.

Photo courtesy Olana State Historic Site, NYS OPRHP.

77th New York Regimental Balladeers at Olana


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Sunday, October 10th, from 1-3 p.m., at Olana State Historic Site, the New York 77th Regimental Balladeers will reenact musical selections from the Civil War era.

Co-founded by John C. Quinn and Michael Yates, the 77th New York Regimental Balladeers are dedicated to preserving the songs, history and spirit of the 1860s. John, Mike, and fellow Balladeers John Perreault, Jim Broden and Kathleen Ross use the original Civil War music arrangements and lyrics to convey the thoughts, motives, and sorrows of the men and women who lived during one of the most defining periods of our American heritage. The songs are sung as they would have been performed in camp or the family parlor 138 years ago.

A $5 per vehicle grounds fee includes the performance. House tours will be available on a first come, first served basis starting at 10 a.m., with the final tour of the day beginning promptly at 4 p.m. Come early to ensure tour availability and shorter wait times. House tour tickets are $12/adult, $10/student or senior. Children under age 12 receive free tour tickets! Call 518-828-0135 for information.

Olana, the home and studio of Hudson River School artist Frederic E. Church, is a New York State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark. It is located at 5720 Route 9G in Hudson. Olana is one of six historic sites and 15 parks administered by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation – Taconic Region. The Olana Partnership is a private, not-for-profit organization, which works cooperatively with New York State to support the preservation, restoration, development, and improvement of Olana State Historic Site. Call 518-828-0135, visit www.olana.org for more information.

Call for Artists to Olana Plein Air Event


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Pre-register by September 18th for Paint Out Olana. Artists of all ages, mediums and experience levels are invited to showcase the Olana landscape on Sunday, October 3rd, from 12-4 p.m. Be inspired by the spectacular views and creative atmosphere of Olana State Historic Site.

Participation in the event is included in the site’s $5 vehicle use fee. A listing of artists pre-registered by September 18th will be available in the Visitor Center. Call 518-828-01356, x305 to pre-register.

House tours will be available on a first come, first served basis starting at 10 a.m., with the final tour of the day beginning promptly at 4 p.m. Come early to ensure tour availability and shorter wait times. House tour tickets are $12/adult, $10/student or senior, and free for children under 12 years of age.

Olana, the home and studio of Hudson River School artist Frederic E. Church, is a New York State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark. It is located at 5720 Route 9G in Hudson. Olana is one of six historic sites and 15 parks administered by New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation – Taconic Region. The Olana Partnership is a private, not-for-profit organization, which works cooperatively with New York State to support the preservation, restoration, development, and improvement of Olana State Historic Site. Call 518-828-0135, visit www.nysparks.com or www.olana.org for more information.

Barry Hopkins Run at Olana


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On Sunday, September 12 at 9:30 a.m. the Barry Hopkins Run will take place at Olana State Historic Site. This Onteora Runners Club Grand Prix event also offers a free children’s run that precedes the adult event at 9:00 a.m. Runners will spend the morning on this 3.8 mile course traversing primarily unpaved carriage roads in the designed landscape of Hudson River School artist Frederic Church.

Registration is $10 per person; $9 for members of The Olana Partnership or the Onteora Runner’s Club. Email carri.manchester@oprhp.state.ny.us or call (518) 828-0135 to receive a registration form. Unique awards will follow the race.

Olana, the home and studio of Hudson River School artist Frederic E. Church, is a New York State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark. It is located at 5720 Route 9G in Hudson. Olana is one of seven historic sites and 15 parks administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Taconic Region. The Olana Partnership is a private not-for-profit organization which works cooperatively with New York State to support the preservation, restoration, development, and improvement of Olana State Historic Site.