Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art: A Local Treasure
By José Moreno-Lacalle
From Issue 38: Spring 2018
Do you know that there is a quality art museum in our vicinity? You should, because it is a beacon of fine art and culture in Ulster County. The Samuel Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz has an important permanent collection of 5,000 items, including photographs, paintings, sculpture and works on paper. It also offers a continual rotation of art exhibitions that often focus on the work of artists of the Hudson River Valley, both past and present, not to speak of those further afield, such as Andy Warhol or contemporary African artists.
Within the purview of the Museum’s mission, which is not only about art but also education, is the Hudson River School—the very first school of American landscape painting, founded by Thomas Cole in 1825—and the early 20th-century Woodstock Art Colony, comprising the Byrdcliffe and Maverick groups, both founded by Her-vie White. In 2015, the first retrospective of a 19th-century Hudson River School painter, Jervis McEntee, was exhibited at the Dorsky, helping snatch him from complete obscurity.
The Dorsky was established by Samuel Dorsky, a self-made businessman who developed a passion for art and formed a collection of his own. He was introduced to SUNY New Paltz by a friend, Neil C. Trager. At the time, there was only a single gallery space on campus, used primarily to dis.play student and faculty art. Mr. Dorsky decided that he wanted to create a museum that would incorporate most of his art collection, be a venue for art exhibitions, and serve as an education center as well. Although Mr. Dorsky died in 1994, the Museum was built by the college and opened in 2001. Mr. Trager became its first director. That position, now named after him, has been held by Sara Pasti since 2009, and Samuel Dorsky’s children, David, Noah, and Karen are devotedly involved in support.ing and sustaining the mission of the Museum.
On view until July 15 is Steven Holl: Making Architecture, part of the Dorsky’s Hudson Valley Masters Series. Holl is a world-renowned architect who lives and works in New York City and Rhinebeck. He has created apartment complexes, museums, and private homes in the United States, England, China, Russia, and Malawi.
Holl’s method of working out an architectural concept is unique; he always starts with an idea expressed in water.color, of which his office then creates a 3D model. His watercolors and the models are part of the exhibition. Also on view, until July 15, is Marking Time: Andy Warhol’s Vision of Celebrations, Commemorations, and Anniversaries.
Special events include poetry readings, art symposia and performance works, and many of the exhibitions are also guest-curated. There are also free, guided gallery tours on the first Sun.day of each month. The Dorsky’s offerings to the public are wide-ranging and important. Indeed, the Dorsky is now widely recognized as the premier public space for art exhibitions and education as well as cultural scholarship concerning Hudson Valley art past, present, and future.
The Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11am to 5pm and closed on holidays. There is no admission fee, but a suggested donation of $5.00 is appreciated. The museum’s annual fundraiser, Art Uncorked, is an auction and dinner held at the Century Club in Manhattan. Auction offerings in the past included cooking classes at the Culinary Institute, a week in San Miguel de Allende, fine wines, tickets to Maverick Concerts and to the Wallkill Valley Land Trust Historic House Tour and Reception, and works by local artists. The 2018 Art Uncorked will be on October 17. Tickets will be available online in the near future (www.newpaltz.edu/ museum).
Meanwhile, pay a visit to catch two fascinating exhibitions and see some of the permanent collection that’s on display, which may include a work by Milton Avery, a portrait by Ammi Phillips, a Japanese wood.block print by Utamaro, or a work by an Australian Aborigine.