Category Archives: Cultural travel

‘Collective Consciousness’ on View at Gold Coast Arts Center Focuses on Responsibility for Environment

“Collective Conscious” Curator Jude Amsel, Gold Coast Arts Center Director Regina Gil, NYS Assemblyman Tony D’Urso with artists Beth Williams Garrett, Nancy Gesimondo, Yoon Cho, Charles Cohen, Lauren Skelly Bailey and Linda Cunningham © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Nature has been inspiring artists for centuries, and its beauty has been captured in paintings, sculptures, photographs and a variety of other medium. But some artists take the relationship between art and the environment a step further, creating works from nature itself or producing artworks that make bold statements about the natural world and the imprint mankind has left on it.” This is what curator Jude Amsel was looking for when she put together the exhibition, COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS, on view at the Gold Coast Arts Center Gallery in Great Neck, Long Island through April 1.

The seven artists whose works are represented “are commenting on man’s relationship with our planet. These artists have the power to make environmentalism a priority and bring green initiatives to the forefront of cultural conversations,” she stated.

“With all the gloom and doom, we can feel sad with what’s happening in the world. But these artists bring an awareness,” a literal consciousness of our role and responsibility, Amsel said at the Artists’ Reception, March 4. The viewer is left with a sense of optimism that man’s better impulses will rise to the fore.

Yoon Cho’s work – multi-media performance art which combines video superimposed with digitized drawings – is the starkest commentary on this theme: her project was inspired by a difficult pregnancy after 10 years of marriage and the birth of her son, she and her husband traveled to barren landscapes to comment on extinction and procreation, the images of life forcing its way through.

Beth Williams Garrett created feminized Buddha head sculptures out of plastic bags.

Linda Cunningham turned the blighted industrial waterfront of the South Bronx into striking images on torn, furled canvas.

Nancy Gesimondo found solace in creating assemblages of natural materials, where mussel shells appear as butterflies, a metaphorical prayer flying to heaven; water chestnut seedpods are like flying bats, and peacock feathers are like tall grass.

Lauren Skelly Bailey re-creates the natural world of coral reefs in meticulous glazed ceramics, mimicking the surprise you have when you touch coral, which seem to be fluid and flowing to discover they are rock hard.

Charles Cohen uses realistic photography to get reduce household products to the shape and color of their plastic containers to force a different perspective.

Luba Lukova, whose graphic artistry can be seen in the New York Times, brings her timely commentary to an image of a green plant shielded by a hand as bombs fall, in her silkscreen, “Peace and Planet” (2015).

What is so interesting is to see such variety of media and approaches that come together to the essential message of human impact on the natural world: a collective consciousness of our responsibility.

Here’s more from the artists about their works:

Artist Lauren Skelly Bailey is exhibiting ceramics in “Collective Conscious” at the Gold Coast Arts Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lauren Skelly Bailey’s ceramics are uncanny in the way they so realistically, meticulously yet artistically represent coral. You appreciate the beauty of nature’s own design. And like nature itself which is deceptively complex (think of a wasp’s nest), her work is exceptionally technical. “Stacking Up” (2016) for example, is crafted of porcelain, stoneware, slip, glaze, resin and flock – the pieces are each fired five to seven times. There are pieces gilded with real gold on the last firing.

She began her arts education studying painting and cartooning at Adelphi, graduating with a BA and MA, then went on to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to earn her MFA. She produced many of these ceramics during a residency at the Museum of Arts & Design and had two grants from the NYS Council for the Arts.

“My work explores methods of making assemblage sculptures, conglomerations, installations, and figurines. There’s that sensation of falling for process, the chase of finding the unexpected and learning how it occurs. From that knowledgeI make intentional decisions regarding textural surfaces, glazes, slips and clay applications, changing the context of the piece from a study to a solution. I respond to changes and observe balance in my work, seeking to push an uneasy tension between materials and form. Each new sculpture is a mo­ment, something new that has been achieved or understood, taking me further into my experience with ceramics.” (laurenskellybailey.com)

Nancy Gesimondo (left) with curator Jude Amsel. Gesimondo’s assemblages in “Collective Conscious” evoke Native American reverence for nature at the Gold Coast Arts Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The first reaction to Nancy Gesimondo’s assemblages is how they evoke Native American references. Nancy is from Sunnyside, Queens.

“My work is an exploration of ma­teriality and science that results in new visceral narratives. I create assemblages comprised of natural materials such as shells, feathers, seedpods, semi-precious stones, rocks and crystal formations.The juxtaposition of these found ele­ments results in surreal landscapes, imaginal creatures and hybrid specimens that aim to suggest the exploration and sense of mystery of an archeologist assembling vestiges of a distant past with no true refer­ence of their origin.

“My work is a reflection of my ap­preciation of nature’s beauty and diversity, as well as my concern for its decline. The delicate fragments imbue the work with an ethereal quality that portends a futuristic glimpse of the place we call home.”

Her assemblages draw upon natural materials she regularly collects – feathers, shells, seedpods, semi-precious stones, rocks and crystal formations. “It shows a reverence for Earth.”

“I’ve been collecting feathers forever – they are like little signs from beyond to me.”

She added, “I let the materials guide me towards the image. I very rarely see the composition in advance.”

The overall feeling is of tranquility, a peacefulness, a poetic aesthetic. The natural elements are used as metaphors.

“A Winged Victory for the Sullen” (2016) is an assemblage with amethyst crystal, iridescent feathers, and water chestnut seedpods (collected at Beacon NY), that look like flying birds. It is mounted on 300 lb watercolor paper, and she explained how she had to puncture roofing nails from the back, then glue the seedpods on.

“Evening Prayers III,” (2017) draws upon mussels that look like butterflies, and a strip of peacock features that look like tall grass. “It’s difficult to find mussels that are still together, but after my father died, I wanted to go to the beach. I went to Long Beach where I know there are mussels, but on this day, I never saw so many whole mussels as then. I collected four bags worth. I felt it was a sign from my father, “Abundance. Don’t worry.”

“The shells poetically morph into butterflies. They are like prayers – wishes and wants that fly to heaven.,”

“In my work, there is always some poetry.” (www.nancygesimondo.com)

Linda Cunningham’s torn and furled canvases are a commentary on South Bronx blight on view at “Collective Consciousness” at the Gold Coast Arts Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Linda Cunningham makes an artful plea on behalf of South Bronx in her series, “South Bronx Waterfront Sagas-shards: The New Vision” (2016).

“Collaged canvas with torn edges convey contradictions document­ed with photo-transferred images, layered with acrylic and pastel revealing a broken South Bronx his­tory, an urban renewal tragedy, an area once the retreat of choice for fresh air and greenery. The shards of information and vistas evoke the Port Morris harbor where barges once docked and youth swam off a pier in the East River. The beautiful open vistas are now inaccessible to the residents of the Mott Haven and Port Morris areas of the South Bronx, abandoned and dominated by deteriorating remains, rotting remnants of piers, power stations and City Waste transfer stations.”

Cunningham’s work centers upon time, transience, contradictions, and compelling environmental con­cerns juxtaposed against industry and urban blight.

The canvas itself is twisted and tortured in its way – not at all the neat rectangles that fit into frames.

“Life doesn’t come in a convenient box – I can’t work in a square (or rectangle). Life is one torn edge to another.”

The irony is that she makes the South Bronx blight beautiful. (www.lindalcunningham.com)

Beth Williams Garrett uses plastic bags to create her feminized Buddha head sculptures on view at “Collective Consciousness” at the Gold Coast Arts Center © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Beth Williams Garrett, who studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and has shown her artwork up and down the East Coast, said, “I was a painter for 30 years, until 2010, when I felt the need to make sculpture. I was searching for a suitable sculpting ma­terial, I stumbled upon using plastic bags as a medium… Plastic bags were being thrown away – that’s no good for environment. They present themselves to me as a material to make sculpture with.”

“The inspiration for my first sculptures came from my travels to Buddhist temples in Japan and ancient ruins in Rome.”

Indeed, the sculptures fashioned of plastic bags evoke Buddha, but then there is a twist. “I have always felt my work was autobiographical, as a woman and focused on the female figure.

The result is a feminized Buddha – “girl Buddhas” she said.

Her skill as a painter comes through in the way she uses the colors and patterns in the plastic bags to great effect. One of the pieces draws on both her painting and the sculpting.

“Since then, I have been exploring what I can do with the plastic bags. My newest endeavors have been combining the 3-dimensional work with the 2-dimensional work as relief/multi media pieces and I continue making heads as I love how the plas­tic bags lend themselves to creating facial expressions.”

“It happened by accident in the studio. I propped the plastic bag head on a canvas to take a picture and decided to combine the two. I usually paint bodies without a head, so it made me laugh to make plastic bag without the body. (bethwilliamsgarrettart.webs.com)

Yoon Cho says her son was the inspiration for her multi-media “Desert Walk Photo and Video Series,” which she undertook with her husband, visiting 20 sites in four states on view at “Collective Consciousness” at the Gold Coast Arts Center © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Yoon Cho’s Desert Walk Photo and Video Series explores the connection with our environments by featur­ing America’s diverse desert land­scapes with superimposed digital drawings of various biological life forms over the artist’s walk per­formance. The silhouette graphics of biological life forms such as cells, pollen, reproductive organs, embryos, and skeletons in the sky tell a story of the cycle of life and our co-existence with the Earth.

Cho’s personal journey from a difficult pregnancy to mother­hood and upbringing in a family of physicians encouraged her to examine the relationship between the biological life forms and their habitats. The Desert Walk encap­sulates beauty, destruction, and preservation of the land we live in.

The work is based on photographs from 20 different sites in four states (New Mexico, California, Nevada and Arizona). The final scene is at the Array where astronomers listen for signs of life from outer space. “That represents the future,” she says.

Her work was supported by the Puffin Foundation and New York State Foundation of Arts. (www.yooncho.com)

Charles Cohen, with Gold Coast Arts Center director Regina Gil, with his photographic collage, “Executive Function,” on view at “Collective Consciousness” at the Gold Coast Arts Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Charles Cohen uses photography to change perspective.

“From the threshold between participation and observation, I break with day to day experience. Familiar with the ethnographer’s dilemma, I embrace this betwixt state as the key to being human: we act as protagonist and critic in our own lives so that we can bridge the gap between individu­al and collective.

“My work exposes reductive dual­ities and challenges the ordinary relationship between perceiv­er and perceived by provoking reflexive thought… My work explores a range of subjects, literal and figurative, in an embrace of liminality and in confrontation with a binary view. The result transforms the sub­ject/object relationship from real to metaphor and liberates a state of being—one. (www.promulgator.com)

Luba Lukova’s “Peace and Planet” (2015) on view at “Collective Consciousness” at the Gold Coast Arts Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Luba Lukova creates images that she hopes will catalyze action and change the world. Her thought-pro­voking posters address essential themes of humanity and injustice worldwide. Her messages help viewers develop empathetic un­derstanding for social and cultural issues through indelible metaphors and an economy of line, color, and text. Lukova’s work is included in the permanent collections of MoMa; Denver Art Museum; Biblio­thèque nationale de France; Hong Kong Heritage Museum; Centre de la Gravure et de l’Image imprimée, La Louvière, Belgium; the Library of Congress; and the World Bank, Washington, D.C. (www.lukova.net)

The Gold Coast Arts Center is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts through education, exhibition, performance and outreach. It offers classes for tots to seniors in art, music, dance and performance;, events, gallery, film festivals and outreach programs.

The Gold Coast Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Rd, Great Neck, NY, 516-829-2570 or www.GoldCoastArts.org.

 

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Lunar New Year Festivities Get Underway in Chinatown NYC: Welcoming Year of the Dog

The Lunar New Year gets underway in New York City’s Chinatown with the traditional Firecracker Ceremony and Festival © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The 2018 Lunar New Year festivities got underway in Chinatown, in Lower Manhattan, with the traditional Firecracker Ceremony and Festival to welcome the Year of the Dog. Thousands lined Sara d. Roosevelt Park on Friday, February 16, to be thrilled as some 600,000 explosions were set off to ward off bad spirits.

Along the warren of streets through Chinatown you could see groups of lion dancers  – performers who mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume to bring good luck and fortune – entreating shopkeepers and celebrants for treats and tips.

The Lunar New Year gets underway in New York City’s Chinatown with the traditional Firecracker Ceremony and Festival © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Lunar New Year, Chinatown becomes a fantastic street party with vendors, food and festivities, and heritage and ancient traditions on view: decorations like lanterns feature the color red which is a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture; many wear traditional Chinese costumes with colorful silks to represent joy and good fortune. Many visit Chinese temples to pray for good luck and burn incense sticks.

Lion Dancers from the New York United Dragon Dance Troupe © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The celebrations conclude with a fabulous Lunar New Year Parade through Chinatown on Sunday, February 25, beginning at noon, a colorful pan-Asian procession that incorporates Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Malaysian, and even Hispanic floats and cultural performances. Arrive early to snag a good spot. Some half-million people line the route.

Lunar New Year’s festivities in New York City’s Chinatown delight children © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Through the 10 days of celebration, people honor household and heavenly deities, as well as their ancestors, and devote the holiday as a time for family to come together. Children expect get treats.

“Lunar New Year is the liveliest and most important celebration in Chinese culture and Chinatown is the place to experience it!

New York City’s Chinatown, two square miles in lower east side of Manhattan, is the largest Chinatown in the United States and the site of the largest concentration of Chinese in the western hemisphere. Manhattan’s Chinatown is also one of the oldest ethnic Chinese communities outside of Asia.

More highlights:

Lunar New Year’s festivities in New York City’s Chinatown © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Lunar New Year Celebration, Chinatown, NYC © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Celebration, Chinatown, NYC  © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year Celebration, Chinatown, NYC  © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com
Lunar New Year’s festivities in New York City’s Chinatown © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Museum of China in the Americas (MOCA) offers a walking tour that takes visitors through Chinatown to learn about holiday traditions and customs observed by Chinese households. Witness how the neighborhood transforms itself in preparation for the New Year and discover the characteristics that make this holiday unique.”

Tours are conducted in English and are led by MoCA docents with personal or family roots in the neighborhood. In case of inclement weather, tours will be held in the galleries. Advance reservations are required. For information and reservations call 212-619-4785 or purchase tickets online, www.mocanyc.org. (Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre Street New York, NY 10013, 855-955-MOCA).

For more information, visit www.chinatown-online.com.

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

New York Times Travel Show: Despite Trump Policy, Americans CAN Travel to Cuba!

Tour operators and cruiselines are still offering programs to Cuba. Abercrombie & Kent is offering a people-to-people program with A&K USA Chairman Phil Otterson, featuring 7 nights aboard boutique sailing yacht ‘Le Ponant’.

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

After President Obama threw down barriers for Americans to travel to Cuba, the island nation saw a surge in tourism – US airlines launched new flights, cruiselines set up calls, and hotel companies were looking to build. Then the Trump Administration reversed the Obama policy, creating confusion about Americans’ ability to travel, which even travel professionals say they are having a hard time deciphering.

“Tourist travel to Cuba remains prohibited. You must obtain a license from the Department of Treasury or your travel must fall into one of 12 categories of authorized travel,” a spokesman for the US Department of State said.

“Travel to Cuba is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Anyone located in the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with these regulations. Individuals seeking to travel to Cuba are not required to obtain licenses from OFAC if their travel is covered by a general license. If travel is not covered by a general license, you must seek OFAC authorization in the form of a specific license. Travelers who fail to comply with regulations may face penalties and criminal prosecution.” See the Department of Treasury webpage; also OFAC’s FAQl:
https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf

The Department of State also has a travel advisory on Cuba at its travel.state.gov site. “Reconsider travel to Cuba due to health attacks directed at U.S. Embassy Havana employees.”

The change in policy specifically impacts independent travelers’ ability to visit under a broad People to People policy without joining some kind of licensed group – which those who have been advocating for opening travel to Cuba for decades say is not a surmountable problem.

Meanwhile, cruise lines like Norwegian are still coming in and even benefiting from the restrictions. “All of our ships are covered under People to People provisions,” Andy Stuart, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, said at the New York Times Travel Show industry panel. “The fact we are still going, added capacity, tells the story that this is fantastic way to visit, There is still pent-up demand. We have doubled capacity –we have the two largest ships that can sail into Havana harbor. We are excited about it. We have to get the word out that Americans can still go to Cuba.”

But USA-Cuba travel professionals argue that the Trump policy is only a blip that can easily be overcome by anyone who is interested in visiting.

“Yes You Can Still Go to Cuba!” 

John McAuliff, Executive Director & Founder of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, fields questions from interested travelers at the Cuba-US People to People Partnership booth at the New York Times Travel Show. © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Despite Trump’s hard-line speech to shut down relations with Cuba last June in Miami, Americans can still travel to Cuba.

“All types of purposeful travel authorized by the Obama Administration remain legal,” stated John McAuliff, Executive Director & Founder of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development (www.ffrd.org).

Travel with groups and on cruises are unaffected by the policy.

“Even hotel restrictions have a legal work-around,” he maintains.

Independent travel by individuals, families and friends is also largely unchanged but now falls under the re-written license category of “Support for the Cuban People” instead of “People to People.”

The withdrawal of 60 percent of US diplomats in October was connected to a still unexplained medical problem that affected only US and Canadian diplomats. “It is totally unknown what happened and who is responsible, but the goal of cooling relations succeeded.” On the other hand, Canada did not withdraw its diplomats.

“There has not been a single confirmed case of similar health symptoms from the 4 million visitors to Cuba last year, including 650,000 Americans. No other country has issued any kind of health advisory.

Indeed, the International Tourism Fair in Madrid recently judged Cuba “Safest Destination in the World.”

The State Department, under internal rules, issued a Travel Warning because with the reduced staff, it could not provide the normal level of citizen services.

‘Yes We Came’ poster. President Obama pulled down the barriers for Americans to travel to Cuba;  © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Those who want to travel to Cuba on their own can. Here are tips:

Book a ticket nonstop on JetBlue from JFK or United from Newark (about $300).

Select “Support for the Cuban People” as the type of travel you are undertaking.

Use AirBnB to reserve a room or an apartment (known as casa particular) from a private owner.

You can dine in a private restaurant (paladar).

You can buy handicrafts and other items from self-employed shop keepers (cuenta propistas). (The Trump Administration was hysterical about Americans traveling to Cuba because tourism dollars, they say, support the military state and maintain the Communist regime.)

You can hire a guide privately, such as Enrique Nunez, an art historian, singer-songwriter, artistic director and ‘lecturer on wheels” who drives you around in an old Soviet Lada (“The Car of the Cuban Survivor”; iroko011@gmail.com.)

As much as possible, use private taxis, which are also available for travel between cities.

“Whatever you do, wherever you go, be intentional and responsible that your goal is ‘a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people…and that result in meaningful interactions with individuals in Cuba’.” (What that means is up to you.)

Keep a journal or list of your “meaningful interactions” for five years.

Some two dozen travel entities were at the New York Times Travel Show with services related to Cuba travel, including Cuba/US People to People Partnership, Fund for Reconciliation & Development; Cuban Guru, LLC; Intrepid Travel; Access Trips Culinary Tours; Celestyal Cruises; New York Times Journeys; REI Adventures; Norwegian Cruise Line/Crown Cruise Vacations; International Expeditions; Intrepid Travel; Diving Unlimited International; smarTours; Dream Yacht Charter; Wild Frontiers; African Ventures.

Natural Habitat Adventures offers licensed tours to Cuba (photo supplied by NatHab.com)

McAuliff advises that the best, most economical group tour for Americans to get an overview of Cuba is on a fully inclusive one week cruise offered by Celestyal. Now in its fifth year, the cruise departs from Havana or Montego Bay, Jamaica, and visits three ports in distinctive regions: Santiago, Havana and Cienfuegos. (Passengers boarding in Havana have the option of creating their own program before or after the cruise.)

“A unique feature is that more than 60 Cubans are with you for the whole voyage including lecturers from the University of Havana, musicians, dancers, animators, chefs, waiters, and room attendants.”

FFRD is circulating a petition to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs thomas Shannon, Donald Trump, House members and Senators:

“We urge the State Department to immediately rescind its politically motivated Travel Warning on Cuba and suspension of issuing US visitor and migrant visas in Havana.

“The freedom of independent and group travel to Cuba by all US citizens must also be protected by regulation and by law.”

To sign: http://tinyurl.com/travelwarningcuba.

For more information, visit Fund for Reconciliation and Development, 917-859-9025, director@ffrd.org, www.ffrd.org. See current US government regulations at tinyurl.com/regsnov2017.

See also:

State Department Implements New Travel Advisory System, New Info Hub for US Travelers

New York Times Travel Show: American Travelers Resilient In Face of Crises

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

National Museum of American Jewish History is Unexpected Revelation in Philadelphia

National Museum of American Jewish History, located within Philadelphia’s Independence Park historic district, is the only museum of its kind in the nation that tells the whole expansive story of Jews in America going back to colonial times up to the present © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

I used the opening of the brand new Museum of the American Revolution as the theme for my three-day visit to Philadelphia – a really deep dive probe of the Revolutionary War era, a return to understanding the founding of the nation, through, original documents, materials and artifacts, at a time when we need to be reminded – everything from the off-hand comment by Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly that the Civil War could have been averted if only there were compromise (he should go to the National Constitution Center), to the quixotic amazement of a US Treasury official pining on his research into what’s this thing, “The American Dream,” before adopting the biggest redistribution of wealth since the Gilded Age, to the right-wing meme that America is a (white) “Christian Nation.”

Philadelphia is like hopping from time-capsule to time-capsule because you go from one authentic site where events happened, where the Founders and builders of this nation actually stood, to another. Come, time-travel with me. And the best way to appreciate it – and be wonderfully surprised at ever twist and turn– is to walk. That’s how you come upon things you never considered – the historic markers which point out where Wanamaker’s Department Store was, the Ricketts Circus, the American Philosophical Society (founded by Ben Franklin). I see an Art Deco “Automat” sign; the stunning Art Deco architecture of a building, gorgeous giant murals that pop up out of no where. I practically fall over what closer inspection tells me is the very townhouse whereThomas Jefferson stayed when he wrote the Declaration of Independence (called “Declaration House”), a short walk from Independence Hall.

Declaration House, where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is why it is so terrific that my hotel, the Sonesta Downtown Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square is so well located (1800 Market St. Philadelphia 19103, 215-561-7500).

It’s the afternoon when I arrive at the Sonesta Hotel on Market Street (a parking garage is adjacent) and after checking in, I have just enough time to explore one attraction on my list.

I am headed to the Betsy Ross House, walking down Market Street, literally through Philadelphia’s magnificent City Hall. Walking, you get to see the markers which discuss the history of this site and how the city was planned out. You also can stand on a podium and have a photo taken of yourself as a monument.

As I walk passed the lawn that is just opposite Independence Hall, I spot a huge banner proclaiming the George Washington’s famous words, “Happily the Government of the United States Gives to Bigotry no Sanction, to Persecution No Assistance,” and a statue, in commemoration of the nation’s centennial, “ dedicated to “Religious Liberty. Dedicated to the People of the United States by the Order B’nai B’Rith and Israelites of America.” Then I see a small banner advertising the National Museum of American Jewish History and realize I am standing in front of it. Who knew there was such a thing?

“To Bigotry No Sanction. To Persecution No Assistance” reads the banner on the National Museum of American Jewish History; the statue outside proclaiming Religious Liberty commemorates the nation’s centennial © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In point of fact, the museum has only been in this building in a prime location in the historic district since 2010; previously, the original collection which formed the basis of this grand museum was housed in Philadelphia’s oldest synagogue, Congregation Mikveh Israel, known as the “Synagogue of the American Revolution,” is the oldest formal congregation in Philadelphia, and the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the United States. It dates back to 1740 when Thomas Penn granted land to Nathan Levy for a burial plot for his son. The current incarnation of the synagogue, a modern building, is only about a block away from the Museum, tucked behind (appropriately enough), the Bible Society Building which is directly across the street from the National American Jewish History museum, and across the street, as it happens, from the National Constitution Center. It all fits together and is most appropriate for my visit to Philadelphia this weekend timed for a family Bat Mitzvah.

I have a little less than two hours before the museum closes, and you need a minimum of 2 ½ (good news: the ticket is good for a two-day visit).

The National Museum of American Jews was a revelation to me – beginning with why it is “National”: it is the only museum of its kind in the nation. That’s why.

I have seen parts of the story in other venues – notably Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island (www.tourosynagogue.org), the Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida; Ellis Island and the Jewish Museum in New York City– but none presented such a comprehensive unfolding of the epic Jewish experience in America that dates back nearly as far as the Puritans in Plymouth (though Jews first settled in the New World since Columbus).

Its exhibits and galleries, the artifacts and commentary brilliantly presented to express complex concepts – the sweep of history, in effect – but taken down to very personal levels of a person, with a face, a name and a genealogy.

It comes down to legitimacy – much as the museums which speak to the Jewish people’s history in Israel – and the illegitimate notion of the United States founded as a Christian nation (See New York Times, Jan. 6, 2018: The Museum of the Bible Is a Safe Space for Christian Nationalists.)

Non-Christians were part of this country’s founding and the Founders, who were humanists, globalists and men of the Enlightenment – among them George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin – were not only tolerant of other religions but open-minded about philosophies. But what is painfully clear are the strains of anti-Semitism and racism that have persisted throughout American history despite George Washington’s assurances to the Touro congregation (“To Bigotry No Sanction,”), despite the Bill of Rights and the Naturalization Act of 1790 which bar the establishment of religion, an issue as relevant as today’s headlines.

There are four floors which wrap around a huge atrium, each floor devoted to a different era and theme. The displays, including multi-media , interactive stations, and artifacts, are well presented to convey complex, even nuanced concepts, intertwining real people with places, historical events and cultural movements. In some instances, it is the sheer numbers that impress.

Foundations of Freedom: 1654 – 1880

I start on the top floor, “Foundations of Freedom: 1654-1880”. Do most Americans realize that Jews were already settled in the New World colonies from 1654? A giant map shows the trade routes that coincided with Jewish migration, especially after the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, which drove many into the Caribbean islands. (How many people realize that the first white settlement were of Marrano Jews in Jamaica?) Then, when the Spanish took over, a group fled Barbados where they had lived since the 1620s, to Newport, Rhode Island in 1658.

Family Tree of the first Jewish families in America includes the Sulzberger family who owns the New York Times © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

You gaze at a family tree of the first Jewish families, most of Portuguese background.

Asher Levy came to North America in 1654; look down his family tree and you come to Arthur Sulzburger (1881-1964), whose family publishes the New York Times.

By the 1600s, a small group of Jews settled around Charleston, SC; a 1669 constitution, written by John Locke, granted “Jews, heathens and other dissenters” the freedom to worship.

Throughout the displays, there is a kind of running count which puts into perspective Jews in America:

“European laws excluded Jews from most trades except finance and commerce, so they settled in port cities. In 1700, there were 250 Jews among the population of 250,000 white settlers in colonial America; zero synagogues. The population grew slowly, from a mere 250 out of a population of 250,000 to 2500 out of a population of 3.9 million by the end of the 1700s.

In Savannah in 1733, there were 42 Jews – the largest single Jewish group to arrive in colonies up to that time. Among them, was a Jewish doctor who arrived during an epidemic and began caring for ill and dying.

Jews arrived in Philadelphia in the 1730s; by 1760, there were close to 100 Jews.

We learn that Jewish Americans were split (like the colonists) over whether to side with the Patriots or the Loyalists in the American Revolution, based on livelihood, families and aspirations, but “most Jews stood for independence.”

New York’s Jews collaborated with British Loyalists; Jews who sided with Patriots escaped to Philadelphia.

The US Constitution made American Jews citizens in 1790, but some states had laws lasting well into the 19th century  barring Jews from holding public office (despite the Bill of Rights’ first amendment which prohibits the establishment of religion).

“To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” George Washington wrote in 1790 to the congregation of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, founded by Portuguese Jews in 1763 who fled their settlements in the  Caribbean when it appeared the Inquisition would be imported there from Spain and Portugal.

Of the 3.9 million population in the fledgling nation, 2,500 were Jews; 9 of 13 states required public officials to be Christian even though the 1790 Naturalization Act contained no religious requirement.

A theme that runs through is of what it means to perpetually be a minority in America.

Innovation & Expansion

A section themed “Innovation & Expansion”  is part of the timeline of Jews in America usually ignored entirely, but Jews were very much a part of the Westward expansion and the march to the Industrial Revolution.

From 1820-1870, the United States doubled in physical size, the population quadrupled and the Industrial Revolution transformed society.

For Europeans, America beckoned as a land of opportunity; millions of immigrants crossed to be the laborers that built the factories, railroads, roads, including 200,000 Jews, attracted by promise of economic and political freedom.

The population of Jews during this period mushroomed, from 2500 to 250,000.

Here we see the photos and effects of families, personifying the experience.

There is a large map spread out on the floor where you can play a video that shows the expansion; and a whole room where you see, city by city, how Jews populated them, and particular highlights.

In New York City, in 1823, for example, the first Jewish periodical, “The Jew” began publishing. During the 1800s, New York City became a center of political, economic and cultural life of American Jews. By 1840, a majority of American Jews lived in the city; the population grew to 60,000 by 1860.

Baltimore saw its total population increase from 120,000 to 320,000 during the mid-1800s, with its Jewish population increasing from 100 to over 10,000 by mid-1860s.

Jewish Americans settled first in port cities but spread out across America © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Other cities: Cincinnati, where Hebrew Union College opened in 1875;

Trinidad Colorado was where the B’nai B’rith was founded in 1843, modeled after the Masons, Odd Fellows and other fraternal organizations.

With each display, there are specific people who are associated and here, we learn of the “Girl Rabbi of the Golden West: Pioneering female Jewish revivalist” (she gave up preaching when she married).

The Civil War was as traumatic for Jewish Americans as it was for the rest of the country.

The Menken brothers of Cincinnati were among 7000 Jewish Americans who fought for the Union; 3000 Jewish Americans fought for the Confederacy © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Just as Jewish colonists were divided over the issue of joining the Revolution or remaining loyal, there were also splits over supporting Union or the Confederacy, largely based on where they were living and their livelihood. In the section themed, “Union & Disunion,” the Civil War era, it notes, “Jews never unified on issue of secession or slavery: 10,000 Jews fought in the Civil War: 7000 for Union, 3000 for Confederacy. Which side depended largely on where they lived as well as their livelihood.

3rd floor — Dreams of Freedom: 1880 – 1945

You can easily spend two hours just on the fourth floor alone, but I see how limited my time is and go down to the third floor: themed “Dreams of Freedom: 1880-1945”, chronicling the migration of millions of immigrants who came to the United States beginning in the late 19th century who profoundly reshaped the American Jewish community and the nation as a whole.

The first section of this floor considers immigration and integration: getting to America, making a home, the reception immigrant Jews received, and learning to negotiate American society. The second section takes up life after Congress legislated the end of free and open immigration in 1924. Through the lenses of the fine and performing arts, political activism, and religious expression, it explores how Jews defined what it meant to be an American Jew during an insecure period of American, and world, history. The final section of Dreams of Freedom delves into how American Jews experienced World War II.

It addresses the strain of anti-Semitism that has existed throughout American history, going back to colonial times – in Newport (when Lopez was refused American citizenship and had to get it in the Massachusetts colony), and New Amsterdam, when Peter Stuyvesant wanted to throw Jews out but the Hudson Bay Company insisted Jews be given rights, even despite George Washington’s pronouncement and the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Anti-Semitism, especially in the US State Department, was a reason that the United States turned a blind eye to the rise of Hitler, fascism and the Holocaust © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So even though the Constitution provided for religious freedom, states denied Jews the right to hold political office; even after World War II, Jews were denied access to housing, hotels, country clubs, college and jobs.

And as the Roaring Twenties was followed by the Great Depression, a virulent strain of anti-Semitism re-emerged leading up to World War II, when many in Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet and the majority of Americans content to let Hitler and Nazi Germany begin its murderous campaign against European Jews. “No War for Me” characterized mood of Americans not to lift a finger to help Jews during the Holocaust. (Breckinridge Long, assistant secretary of state, pushed for strict immigration controls that blocked Jewish refugees from escaping the Nazis.)

Choices and Challenges of Freedom: 1945 – Today

The Museum’s second floor begins in the immediate postwar period with stories of migration, from war torn Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and the Soviet Union. Within the United States, as well, Likewise, between 1945 and 1965, there was a huge migration: about a third of all American Jews left large urban centers and established themselves in new suburban communities like Long Island. For Jews and non-Jews alike, a suburban home became a sign of success, prestige, and security-a “Shangri-La” for the middle class.

A typical 1950s Jewish American suburban home, where “The Goldbergs” is playing on the TV © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After World War II, American Jews felt comfortable with their identity and Jewish communities thrived in the new suburban communities of the 1950s into the 1960s – 60% of Jewish families belonged to synagogue, twice the percentage as 30 years before. Community synagogues were a locus for Jewish life and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs became legendary affairs; Jewish kids went to Jewish summer camps and families vacationed in the Borscht Belt of the Catskills. You walk through a mock-up of a 1950s suburban house, such as you might have found in Levittown, Long Island, where a black-and-white TV is airing an episode of a Jewish American sit-com, “The Goldbergs.”

The Marx Brothers were among the Jewish Americans who enjoyed mainstream popularity; Groucho Marx had a home in Great Neck, Long Island, one of the communities that proved welcoming to Jewish entertainers from Broadway © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here you see how Jewish American culture went mainstream. The museum incorporates multi-media – videos, sound tracks – there is a small theater where you watch performances by Jewish entertainers going back to early films, theater and television (Fannie Brice, Marx Brothers, George Burns, Three Stooges, Eddie Cantor, Bud Abbott, Sophie Tucker, Al Jolson); a series of changing images of major figures like Simon & Garfunkle, Carole King.

American Jews felt comfortable enough in American society to emerge as  activists who championed civil rights, women’s rights and social and political justice, including Gloria Steinem and Bela Abzug.

Activist for women’s rights and cultural icon, Gloria Steinem © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Only in America Gallery/Hall of Fame

The first floor houses an Only in America Gallery/Hall of Fame honors 18 Jewish Americans – some well known, others less so, and the choices, challenges and opportunities they encountered on their path to remarkable achievement. Through the lives of real people—some well known, others less so—the gallery, utilizing a combination of multimedia, original artifacts and interactive experiences, weaves compelling stories from the past and present with the larger themes of the Museum.

The first 18 individuals featured in the Only in America Gallery/Hall of Fame are: Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Louis Brandeis, Albert Einstein, Mordecai Kaplan, Sandy Koufax, Esteé Lauder, Emma Lazarus, Isaac Leeser, Golda Meir, Jonas Salk, Menachem Mendel Schneerson,  Rose Schneiderman, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand, Henrietta Szold, and Isaac Mayer Wise. Recent inductees include Gertrude B. Elion and Julius Rosenwald.

Sit in a small theater and watch Jewish entertainers of national renown including Eddie Cantor, who built his dream house in Great Neck, Long Island until he lost everything in the 1929 stock market crash © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are also special exhibits: the upcoming one is Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music, which celebrates the centennial birthday of one of the 20th century’s most influential cultural figures, who personified classical music and produced a rich repertoire of original compositions for orchestra and the theater. “Audiences may be familiar with many of Bernstein’s works, notably West Side Story, but not necessarily how he grappled with his own religious, political, and sexual identity, or how he responded to the political and social crises of his day. Visitors will find an individual who expressed the restlessness, anxiety, fear, and hope of an American Jew living through World War II and the Holocaust, Vietnam, and turbulent social change – what Bernstein referred to as his ‘search for a solution to the 20th‐century crisis of faith’.” The exhibition will feature one‐of‐a‐kind historic artifacts, all brought to life through immersive film, sound installations, and interactive media. (On view March 16 – September 2, 2018.)

Free public hour-long Highlights tours are usually offered daily at 11:30 am and 2:30 pm. (Availability is subject to change, so check at the Admissions Desk on the day of your visit for confirmed times.) Space is limited; interested visitors should request tour badges from Admissions to reserve a spot, which are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

More than 30,000 artifacts form the basis of the core exhibition. You can browse selected objects on its site as well as search the Museum’s online collections database, and its Pinterest page.

You need at least 2 ½ hours but the ticket is good for two consecutive days.

National Museum of American Jewish History; 101 South Independence Mall East; Philadelphia, PA; 19106-2517; (215) 923-3811; www.nmajh.org

Mikveh Israel

I am chased out of the museum at closing (they are setting up for a wedding), and am intrigued to visit Mikveh Israel synagogue a short walk away. It is Friday evening and the synagogue, which is Sephardic, is getting ready for Sabbath services.

Congregation Mikveh Israel, known as the “Synagogue of the American Revolution,” the oldest formal congregation in Philadelphia and the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the United States, dates back to 1740 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mikveh Israel traces its beginning to 1740, when Thomas Penn granted land to Nathan Levy for a burial ground for Levy’s infant son. There, Levy established a cemetery for the Jewish community. Mikveh Israel’s first house of worship was completed in 1782 with financial assistance from Benjamin Franklin, among others. The synagogue has moved several times before returning to its original neighborhood in 1976, the Bicentennial.

Mikveh Israel follows the Spanish-Portuguese (Sephardic) ritual, introduced by Reverend Gershom Mendez Seixas, who, in 1780, came to serve as Hazzan (Congregational Leader). This relatively modern building, not far from its original 1782 redbrick structure on Cherry Street, is its fifth since the synagogue’s founding. (Limited hours to visit. 44 N. 4th St. Philadelphia PA 19106, 215-922-5446, www.mikvehisrael.org/.)

The Jewish cemetery on 8th and Spruce Streets, part of Independence National Historical Park, includes the grave of Rebecca Gratz, who is believed to be the inspiration for the character Rebecca in Sir Walter Scott’s  “Ivanhoe,” and memorials to Haym Salomon, who helped finance the American Revolution.

(Read more: http://www.visitphilly.com/history/philadelphia/mikveh-israel-congregation-and-cemetery/)

Just outside Mikveh Israel, there is a monument of Uriah Phillip Levy, born in Philadelphia in 1792, a 5th generation American (his great-great grandfather, Dr. Samuel Nunez, arrived in America in 1733 and was a founder of the city of Savannah, Georgia). Levy left for sea when he was 10 years old, returning to Philadelphia for his Bar Mitzvah. He joined the US Navy in 1812, serving with distinction in the War of 1812. During his 50-year career in the Navy, he was court marshaled 6 times and killed a man in a duel – all related to anti-Semitism. He became the first Jewish Commodore of the United States Navy. During the Civil War, he helped repeal the practice of flogging sailors.

Uriah Phillip Levy, 5th generation American born in 1792, was the first Jewish Commodore of the Navy; an admirer of Thomas Jefferson, he bought Monticello and saved it from ruin © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Levy was a great admirer of Thomas Jefferson and purchased Monticello in 1834 – at that point, Jefferson’s mansion home was in a terrible state of disrepair. Levy restored and renovated the structure, and opened it for public viewing. but local people were incensed that such a structure was owned by a Jew, they tried to have the property taken away. A World War II destroyer was named in his honor, the USS Levy, as well as the Jewish chapel at Norfolk Naval Base; he is buried at Beth Olam cemetery in Queens (Emma Lazarus is as well).

(Our exploration into Revolutionary War America continues with the Museum of the American Revolution, Ben Franklin Museum, Betsy Ross House and National Constitution Center.)

Visit Philadelphia provides excellent trip planning tools, including hotel packages, itineraries, events listings: 30 S 17th Street, Philadelphia PA 19103, 215-599-0776, visitphilly.com.

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Judy Collins, Jason Robert Brown, US Premiere Among Highlights of New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at St John the Divine

The traditional candlelighting that is so inspirational and concludes the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine as people sing, “This Little Light of Mine.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of my favorite ways to bid adieu to the year and begin anew is the annual Concert for Peace at the magnificent Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine,. This is a signature New Year’s Eve event that was founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984 with the idea of bringing together New Yorkers and visitors from around the world for an evening filled with uplifting music.

This year’s concert, the 33rd Annual Concert for Peace, honored the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with a performance of two selections from his MASS, Almighty Father and Simple Song, sung by Jamet Pittman, and the magnificent Cathedral Choir and the Cathedral Orchestra under the direction of Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music.

Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music, leads the Cathedral choir and the Cathedral Orchestra © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A highlight was the U.S. premiere of “See the Wretched Strangers” by composer Lucas Wiegerink who came up for a bow. The text, written by Shakespeare, is an impassioned commentary on immigration and refugees. “Imagine that you see the wretched strangers./Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,/Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,/And that you sit as kings in your desires…And this your mountainish inhumanity. Imagine.”

It was performed by Amit Farid, piano; Arthur Fiacco, violoncello; Jamet Pittman, soprano; Katie Geissinger, mezzo-soprano; Lee Steiner, tenor; and Enrico Lagasca, bass.

A series of choral songs about our shared Earth continued the theme that has been integral to these concerts of neighborly compassion, inspiring a renewal of hope for the coming year. “Earth teach me to remember kindness./As the dry fields weep with rain./Earth teach me.”

Jason Robert Brown, Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist, performs “Hope,” which he wrote the day after Election Day 2016 © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jason Robert Brown, Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist, performed a new piece which he described as “disco go go girl power anthem” written for an 11-year old named Gabby, called “Invisible.” He was joined by Jesse Warren-Nager, soloist, Gary Sieger, on guitar; Randy Landau on bass; Gabe Violett and Jessica Vosk, back-up vocals.

He also performed, “Hope,” the title and the longing message of a piece he wrote the day after Election Day 2016, out of despair. “When life is crazy and impossible to bear-/It must be there./ Fear never wins./ That’s what I hope,/ See? I said “hope.” The work begins.”

That sense of despair emerged from Judy Collins, Artist in Residence at the Cathedral Church, who fought back that despair by urging “Resist. Resist. Resist. Keep resisting.” She led a mournful, “To Everything, There is a Season, Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Amazing Grace.”

Judy Collins leads singing of “Turn, Turn, Turn.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, the Interim Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, urged, “Pray no one takes for granted out gifts of speech, though, art. Do not take for granted the gifts given by those who came before, or our responsibility to preserve those gifts for the next generation.”

The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, the Interim Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, urged, “Do not take for granted the gifts given by those who came before, or our responsibility to preserve those gifts for the next generation.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Harry Smith, who has hosted these events for many years, contrasted the celebration of “great leaps forward, when we felt we were moving the earth and its people toward more egalitarianism,” versus other years when there was the backward movement of war and poverty. This year, he added to the list the national scourge of opioids, epic natural disasters, homelessness, refugees.” But a highlight was that women’s voices have been heard as never before, when men were held to account…” But, he said, “Workplaces may be safer, but not equal. But we made an important step forward this year.”

Harry Smith intones, the antidote to despair “is action.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He added, “We fret, worry, obsess over every tweet and prevarication.” But then he described people he met in his travels who have taken matters into their own hands, who are taking action. “People of varying politics and persuasions determined to make lives better. The antidote… is action.”

The New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace concludes with the light of thousands of candles held aloft © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

The evening always concludes with an inspirational lighting of candles – it starts from the back of the enormous hall, and the firelight comes forward until the entire cavernous space glows in the warmth and light.

Candlelight at The New Year’s Eve concert for Peace at Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Cathedral itself is a marvel. Originally designed in 1888, with construction beginning in 1892, the cathedral has undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. It started out in Byzantine Revival-Romanesque Revival style, but the plan was changed to  Gothic Revival in 1909. A major fire on December 18, 2001 caused the cathedral to be closed for repairs until 2008. It remains unfinished with construction and restoration a continuing process – which inside, only adds to the mystique of the place. It boasts being the largest Gothic cathedral, and may be the world’s largest Anglican cathedral and church; it is also the fourth largest Christian church in the world.

Judy Collins, artist in residence at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine and a fixture of the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, with Tony-Award winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown who also has become a regular © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The cathedral houses one of the nation’s premier textile conservation laboratories to conserve the cathedral’s textiles, including the Barberini tapestries. The laboratory also conserves tapestries, needlepoint, upholstery, costumes, and other textiles for clients.

There are concerts by the Cathedral Choir and other artists and events throughout the year. Check the website for details.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th Street), New York, NY 10025, 212-316-7540, info@stjohndivine.org, www.stjohndivine.org.

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

‘Darkest Hour’ Wins Best Picture Award at Gold Coast International Film Festival

Artist Edwina Sandys, granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill, discusses her grandfather at the Long Island premiere of “Darkest Hour” at the 2017 Gold Coast International Film Festival, Long Island, with Festival Founder and Executive Director Regina Gil and Diane Masciale, VP & GM of WLIW21 and Executive Producer of local productions at WNET © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The results are in: Darkest Hour, a new film starring Gary Oldham as Winston Churchill, is the winner of Best Narrative Film at the 7th Annual Gold Coast International Film Festival. Best Documentary award was a tie: Underfire: The Untold Story of PFC Tony Vaccaro, the World War II soldier turned war photographer, who attended the sell-out screening, and the Long Island premiere of Dare to Be Different, about WLIR 92.7, the influential Long Island radio station on the cutting edge of music in the 1980s.

In all, the festival, now in its 7th year, screened more than 80 films from 12 countries – 36 of them Long Island premieres – with Q&As with dozens of visiting artists including directors, producers, and grandchildren of famous film subjects: Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, the artist Edwina Sandys; Frank Sinatra’s granddaughter, AJ Lambert who attended the 60th anniversary screening of the movie musical Pal Joey, and David Ben-Gurion’s grandson, Alon Ben-Gurion, after the screening of an extraordinary documentary based on six-hours of recently uncovered candid conversations with Israel’s founding father.

A record 15 of the screenings were sell-outs; the film-festival drew 4500 audience goers of all ages and backgrounds, from all over Long Island and the metro area – 175 different zipcodes.

“People think film festivals are elitist – but that’s not what we’re about,” said Festival Director Caroline Sorokoff. The festival featured “Free Film Friday,” with presentations of the movie classic “Sergeant York,” starring Gary Cooper; family short films at the Great Neck Library, and film shorts at the Port Washington Library (with a Q&A with Israeli filmmaker Yaniv Segalovich, director of An Average Story, Letiferet, who joined Alexandra Gil, curator of the Gold Coast International Film Festival’s short films; the film won an audience award).

“Hundreds of people took advantage.” And this year, veterans could come to any screening for free, thanks to a grand from GEICO.

The Gold Coast International Film Festival is distinguished by the fascinating events that are organized with the screenings – Q&As with producers, directors, actors, experts and people associated with the films.

Indeed, a highlight of the festival was the Long Island premiere (two weeks before general release) of Darkest Hour, featuring Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman’s brilliant performance as Winston Churchill and the terrifying early days of his appointment as Prime Minister as Hitler’s forces were taking over Europe and threatening an invasion of the British Isles. It was Britain’s darkest hour. And like the movie “Lincoln”, and “Thirteen Days” about John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which shows the backstory of a key “moment” in pivotal history, we learn of how he had to overcome intense opposition from political rivals, and the diabolical choice he faced: negotiate with Hitler to save British lives at a terrible cost or rally the nation and fight on against incredible odds. Gary Oldman brilliantly portrays the first dark days of Churchill as Prime Minister. Directed by Joe Wright, the screening at the Soundview Cinemas in Port Washington, featured a Q&A with Churchill’s granddaughter, the artist Edwina Sandys, a young child during this time, who spoke nostalgically and lovingly of her grandfather and grandmother, Clementine.

Edwina Sandys, a renowned sculptor, at the Gold Coast International film Festival to talk about her grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill, after the screening of “Darkest Hour” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro is the remarkable story of WWII infantryman and legendary photographer Tony Vaccaro, who created one of the most comprehensive, haunting and intimate photographic records of the war using a smuggled $47 camera while developing the negatives in his helmet at night. Tony Vaccaro, himself, along with Director Max Lewkowicz and Producer Valerie Thomas participated in a post-screening Q&A session, followed by the opening reception of Tony Vaccaro’s acclaimed, wartime and celebrity photography at the Gold Coast Arts Center Gallery in Great Neck (on view through February).

The Long Island Premiere of Dare to Be Different had three sold-out screenings, and featured a Q&A with Director Ellen Goldfarb and Executive Producer and former WLIR Program Director Denis McNamara, plus a host of other special guests, including artists and DJs featured in the film. It was an event that could only happen on Long Island, where WLIR brought new wave music to America. WLIR helped launch the careers of U2, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Blondie, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Clash, and The Cure, among others. Special guests attending the premiere include Larry “The Duck” Dunn, Michael “Eppy” Epstein, Max Leinwand, Steve North, Carol Silva, Donna Donna and “Malibu Sue” McCann.

Alon Ben-Gurion, grandson of Israel’s former Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, speaks with audience after the screening of the documentary, “Ben-Gurion Epilogue,” based on six hours of newly discovered conversations with Israel’s founding father, at the 2017 Gold Coast International Film Festival, Great Neck, Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ben-Gurion: Epilogue, a stunning documentary compiled from six hours of never-before-seen footage, of newly discovered conversations with Israel’s founding father presents  a rare and fortuitous piece of cinematic archeology – it’s as if film was found of candid conversation with George Washington. Watching, you realize you are seeing a work of undeniable historical significance with prophetic implications for Israel’s future. Presented in Partnership with American Friends of Soroka Medical Center to a standing-room-only audience at the Bowtie Cinema in Great Neck, the screening featured an extraordinary Q&A with Ben-Gurion’s grandson, Alon, who spoke personally of time spent with his grandfather.

“Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” a documentary about the gorgeous actress focuses on her role as inventor of secure wifi, Bluetooth and GPS communications and how her arresting beauty stood in the way of being given credit for her brilliance, screened at the Gold Coast International Film Festival, featured a panel discussion moderated by Diane Masciale of WLIW21 and WNET (right), with Alexandra Dean, Director (second from left), Fleming Meeks, Journalist and Dr. Christine Metz of the Feinstein Institute. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

An extraordinary documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, was the first of a new “Science on Screen” series funded by a hard-to-win grant to the Gold Coast Arts Center to better communicate science to a general audience. The documentary finally credits the dazzlingly-beautiful actress as a brilliant inventor responsible for the innovation that made possible secure WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS communications (her intent was to make the Navy’s torpedoes more effective in order to win World War II, but the Navy put the patent away in a drawer until it was rediscovered by another inventor devising military weapons). The Long Island premiere, featured a Q&A (sponsored by Edelman financial Services, LLC) with Director Alexandra Dean, Fleming Meeks, the Forbes journalist who scored amazing interviews with the reclusive actor late in life, and Dr. Christine Metz of the Feinstein Institute and was moderated by Diane Masciale of WNET.

Straight/Curve: Redefining Body Image, Long Island Premiere at the Gold Coast International Film Festival of the documentary examining the industries and obstacles responsible for the body image crisis and showcasing the dynamic leaders fighting for more diversity of size, race and age, featured a Q&A with Director Jenny McQuaile and Producer Yael Melamede and a panel of distinguished experts from Northwell Health: Dr. Gabriella Farkas, Dr. Bonny Patel and Nancy Farber, ND. The Q&A was sponsored by the Katz Institute for women’s Health at Northwell Health.

“Straight/Curve: Redefining Body Image,” Long Island Premiere at the Gold Coast International Film Festival of the documentary examining the industries and obstacles responsible for the body image crisis and showcasing the dynamic leaders fighting for more diversity of size, race and age featured a Q&A with Director Jenny McQuaile and Producer Yael Melamede and a panel of distinguished experts from Northwell Health: Dr. Gabriella Farkas, Dr. Bonny Patel and Nancy Farber, ND moderated by Festival Director Caroline Sorokoff © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 60th anniversary screening of Pal Joey, an Academy Award-winning musical gem, with famous classics by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, and Kim Novak, featured a Q&A with AJ Lambert, Sinatra’s granddaughter (Nancy’s daughter) and Raj Tawney, a multi-media journalist/producer. Lambert spoke about her warm and loving grandfather.

Supergirl, the story of Naomi Kutin, an Orthodox Jewish pre-teen girl with an extraordinary talent – holding a world record in powerlifting, featured a Q&A with the film’s director, Jessie Auritt and “Supergirl” herself, Naomi Kutin and her family.

The delightful documentary Hummus! The Movie, was followed by “The Great Gold Coast Hummus Taste-Off” at Lola restaurant next door to the BowTie Theater in Great Neck Plaza.

The 60th anniversary showing of “Pal Joey,” a movie musical with classics by Rogers & Hart, starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novack, at the Gold Coast International Film Festival featured a Q&A with AJ Lambert, Sinatra’s granddaughter (Nancy’s daughter) and Raj Tawney, a multi-media journalist/producer © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The seventh anniversary of the not-for-profit Gold Coast International Film Festival featured over 80 films and dozens of filmmakers at screenings and events at North Shore venues, including Soundview Cinemas in Port Washington, the Bow Tie Cinemas in Great Neck, Port Washington, Manhasset and Roslyn, and the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck.

Films presented this year showcased major Hollywood actors, include Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Arquette, Burt Reynolds, Isabelle Huppert, Rainn Wilson, Bill Nye, Rosemarie DeWitt, Imogen Poots, and Shahab Hosseini, star of the 2016 Oscar-winning film, The Salesman, which premiered at last year’s festival, featured in the East Coast premiere of the Iranian film Gholam this year.

This year’s festival included more than 40 premieres, including French movie-star Isabelle Huppert’s new film Souvenir; Burt Reynold’s new film Dog YearsBombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story; Yellow Birds, starring Jennifer Aniston, Toni Collette, Alden Ehrenreich and Tye Sheridan, and the timely Bill Nye: Science Guy. Award-winning feature films from the world’s most prestigious festivals (Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Tribeca, Hamptons) were screened, along with dozens of excellent short films.

Israeli filmmaker Yaniv Segalovich, director of “An Average Story” (Letiferet) which won an audience award, joins Alexandra Gil, curator of the Gold Coast International Film Festival’s short films, for a Q&A, at one of the Free Film Friday events © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The festival featured films from 12 different countries – most that you cannot otherwise get to see – including 1945, from Hungary about a remote Hungarian town preparing for the wedding of the village magistrate’s son, when two Orthodox Jews arrive at the village train station with two coffin-shaped wooden crates, supposedly filled with soaps and perfumes. Is this a harbinger of the return of more Jews? Led by the boorish village magistrate, the townspeople fear that these strangers may be heirs of the village’s denounced and deported Jewish neighbors and have come to claim their family’s stolen property. Paranoia runs rampant, leading to tragic events and a potent, unexpected ending. “While there have been many films about the Holocaust, there are few about its immediate aftermath, when greed and material gain from the Jewish peoples’ demise was pervasive. Director Ferenc Török cleverly captures this often overlooked moment in history where one town’s actions become a metaphor for the moral decay of the whole country. Shot in elegant black and white with an eye for exquisite composition and a minimal evocative score, 1945 is a subtle and nuanced study in the collective guilt and enduring anti-Semitism of postwar Hungary,” wrote Jay Rosenblatt, San Francisco Jewish Film.

The Long Island premiere of The Insult, provided a rare look at modern-day Lebanon. The intelligent, rivetting and politically charged drama focuses on how a minor disagreement between a Christian Phalanges Party supporter and a Palestinian construction foreman sparks an unforgivable insult, which ignites a confrontation of national importance. Celebrity lawyers, TV news, and political leaders get involved in a trial that rips open raw memories of Lebanon’s violent past

Paris Opera, from France, provided a  fascinating, candid behind-the-scenes view of a season at the Paris Opera, following the array of personnel – management, performers, costumers, cleaning crew – even choreographer Benjamin Millepied – who work night after night to bring breathtaking spectacle to this legendary setting.

The New York premiere of Back to Burgundy, from France, is a story of wine, family, family business, and more wine is set amid the gorgeous backdrop of Burgundy, and told with an assured mix of drama and humor. Jean, who had left his childhood home more than ten years ago, returns after his father’s death to reconcile the future of the business with his brother and sister.

This year, GCIFF again presented the work of talented young filmmakers in grades K-12 in its Young Filmmakers Program, presented in partnership with Hofstra University, a festival sponsor.

Alexandra Gil, curator of the Gold Coast International Film Festival’s short films, and Regina Gil, Festival Founder and Executive Director, present awards for short films at a gala luncheon at Neiman Marcus Garden City © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The festival finished on Wednesday November 15 with a Closing Awards Lunch at the cafe at Neiman Marcus Garden City (in Roosevelt Field). Neiman Marcus was a major sponsor of the film festival.  The lunch also launched the Neiman Marcus ”Love to Give” Collection, where 10% of the proceeds from the sale of the ”Love to Give” items goes back to the Gold Coast Arts Center, based in Great Neck, Long Island, which organizes the annual Gold Coast International Film Festival.

For the past 110 years since Neiman Marcus’ founding, said Doris Wilshere, Vice President and General Manager, supporting the arts has been a priority. “It has been of particular interest to the founders. That’s why our partnership with the film festival is important to us. It’s the one budget we are encouraged to spend every $1 of, every year.”

David Kirschenbaum , Neiman Marcus Garden City Director of Public Relations, Regina Gil, Gold Coast International Festival Founder and Executive Director, and Doris Wilshere, Vice President, General Manager of Neiman Marcus Garden City, announce launch of ”Love to Give” Collection, which gives back a share of the purchase to support Gold Coast Arts Center’s programs © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In addition to Neiman Marcus Garden City, sponsors and partners of this year’s Gold Coast International Film Festival included: founding partners, the Town of North Hempstead and Douglas Elliman Real Estate; major partners, Hofstra University and the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency; GEICO; Deluxe Entertainment Services Group; AARP Long Island; A.L. Sarroff Fund; Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP; The Katz Institute for Women’s Health at Northwell Health; St. Mary’s Kids; Jet Blue; Biener Audi; LVR Rental; The Inn at Great Neck; The Andrew Hotel; WLIW21; Altice; New York Women in Film & Television; Anton Publications; Blank Slate Media; LI Pulse; Edelman Financial Services, LLC; and LOLA of Great Neck.

More information at www.goldcoastfilmfestival.org; facebook.com/gciff.

The Gold Coast International Film Festival is produced by the Gold Coast Arts Center, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts through education, exhibition, performance and outreach. Gold Coast Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Road, Great Neck, NY 11021, 516-829-2570, www.goldcoastarts.org.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Fall Getaway in the Great Northern Catskills: Frederick Edwin Church’s Olana

Frederick Edwin Church orchestrated visitors’ arrival to Olana so you would look up © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Just over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge from the Thomas Cole National Historic Site (#1 on the Hudson River School Art Trail), you see this grand mansion perched on the hillside, poking out from the trees. It is just a short ride off Rte 9G on eastern shore of the Hudson River to get to the long drive up to the mansion and farm, Olana, built by the Hudson River School artist Frederick Edwin Church.

View of Frederick Edwin Church’s Olana from the Rip Van Winkle Bridge © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Spanning 250 acres, Olana is one of the most intact artist-created landscapes in America, and “the most intact artist residence of its age in the world,” our guide explains. In fact, it is the artist’s last major work. Church designed, even decorated, every aspect of the house and landscape – digging out a 10-acre lake, planting some 50,000 trees. And today, virtually all the furnishings (95% we are told) are original to the house, even in the same places as when the Church family occupied the house, up until the 1960s.

Literally saved from a wrecking ball, the Olana State Historic Site is now one of New York’s premier historical attractions (HRSAT Site #2), drawing 20,000 visitors a year. You can only visit the house on a guided tour and they only take up to 12 per tour, so tours frequently sell out by 1 pm (advance reservations are recommended).

As I approach Olana, a sign on the road introduces me to a new word, and a new concept – “viewshed.” The word intentionally evokes “watershed” – a protected resource area. Here, Olana, chosen and designed by the artist Church for the views, successfully established a “viewshed” maintaining that this is a national cultural resource worthy of protection and preservation.

The notion of preservation versus progress is the very essence of Church and his Olana, taking up the key theme from Thomas Cole, his teacher and mentor.

The protected “viewshed” from Frederick Church’s Olana © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Church’s background is very different from Cole’s. While Cole, renowned as the father of the Hudson River School art movement, America’s first, was an immigrant from England, Church was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1826 to a well-to-do family (his father, Joseph Church, owned several businesses including a silversmith and became a director of Aetna Life Insurance Company). Whereas Cole had little art training, Church’s father arranged for him to study with Cole for two years, 1844-46, when Church was 18 years old. Church then went to New York City to set up a studio. He became the youngest Associate of the American Academy of Design, in 1850, and within a few years, became one of the most successful artists of his generation – a veritable rock star.

Portrait of Frederick Edwin Church hangs in Olana © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

And whereas Cole, the immigrant, was enthralled by the wildness of the American landscape, Church fell under the spell of naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who encouraged artists to travel the world. Church traveled to the Middle East, South America, Europe (one of his children was born in Rome), Labrador and Greenland. He brought these images and ideas back to the Hudson River Valley where he would build Olana, and his worldliness and world-view filled his canvases.

Ultimately, Olana became his canvas.

Over the last 40 years of his life, from 1860-1899, he designed and fashioned Olana into a three-dimensional work of art that includes the magnificent Persian-inspired home with its various collections, set within a 250-acre landscape, meticulously designed for iconic views of the Hudson River Valley.

Virtually all we see at Olana belonged to the Church family and wherever possible, is positioned where it would have been © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What is most remarkable about Olana is that the home and grounds never left the family – the furnishings, the art, even the books, are all Church’s possessions, and we see them laid out in the deliberate living canvas that Church intended.

After Church died, in 1899, his son, Louis, occupied the house, and when Louis’ widow died, in 1964, the house and estate were saved from being sold off by virtue of a public-private collaboration between New York State Parks and a private nonprofit, Olana Partnership (similar to the collaboration between the Central Park Conservancy and New York City’s parks department). Olana opened to the public as a museum in 1966.

This is most fitting, since Church served as commissioner of Central Park (he was a distant cousin of landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstead). He also was a founding trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Church was responsible for locating Cleopatra’s needle, the obelisk, behind the museum.)

And Church, who achieved national and international prominence with his seven-foot wide painting, “Niagara” (1857), was credited with creating the Niagara Reserve – New York’s first state park and one of the first in the nation, a precursor to the national parks movement.

The Olana grounds include five miles of carriage trails, managed by New York State Parks, and are open to the public at no charge.

Artist painting the view that Frederick Church created at Olana © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Olana Partnership has worked to restore Olana as well as the landscape. The physical landscape, in Church’s planning and today, is as much art as the landscape painting on canvas. As you walk the trails, the images are framed – markers here as along the other sites of the Hudson River School Art Trail, compare the scene today to paintings. And since my last visit, the view from the mansion to the Hudson River and Catskills beyond has been opened up.

Indeed, as I arrive at Olana, there a group of artists, in the area on a week-long workshop, are painting the scene.

Church’s Worldly View

While Thomas Cole was an immigrant from England who glorified America’s landscapes in a way that had not been done before, Frederic Edwin Church was one its most traveled among the Hudson River School artists, and he brought these images and this worldliness into his canvases.

Frederick Church’s Olana offers an astonishing collection of art. You can only tour the house with a guide © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Church finished his two-year study with Cole in1846 but Cole died soon after, in 1848. Church seems to have always maintained a connection with Cole – returning to the Hudson Valley to build his home close to Cole’s Cedar Grove, traveling with Cole’s biographer to Labrador. He found ways to help the Cole family – helping sell Cole’s paintings (he owned several himself, some of which are on view at Olana) and hired Cole’s son Theodore as Olana’s farm manager.

When Church was in his 20s, he became enamored with the renowned naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt who encouraged artists to travel and paint equatorial South America. In 1853, Church made the first of two expeditions following in Humboldt’s footsteps, chiefly in Colombia; the second, in 1857, to Ecuador.

“Sunset, Jamaica.” Frederick Church traveled to exotic locales for his subjects. © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The paintings he produced from these trips made him one of the best known and most successful painters of his generation.

The New York exhibition of his ten-foot canvas, The Heart of the Andes, in 1859, “was the most popular display of a single artwork in the Civil War era, attracting 12,000 people who paid admission in three weeks to its New York premiere alone, then traveling to Britain and seven other American cities on a tour lasting two years.”

The painting sold for $10,000 to collector William Blodget, at the time, the highest price ever paid for an American painting,” says Olana curator Evelyn Trebilcock. We get to see Church’s final study for “Heart of the Andes”.

Frederick Church’s study for “The Heart of the Andes” on view at Olana © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Church set out again to travel to exotic places and intrigued by literature of Arctic exploration, in 1859, he hired a boat to take him to the north Atlantic between Labrador and Greenland to sketch icebergs, joined by Louis Legrand Noble Thomas Cole’s biographer. At the beginning of the Civil War, in 1861, Church exhibited Icebergs: The North, another grand canvas, which also was a blockbuster hit.

With his career on the rise in 1860, Church’s married Isabel Carnes and came back to the Hudson River Valley, where he had studied painting with Thomas Cole, and bought a farm overlooking the Hudson River on the opposite shore from Cole’s house.

Touring Olana: ‘Thou Art Welcome”

You walk in through the threshold to Olana under an inscription in Arabic, “Thou Art Welcome.”

Most remarkable: all the land and the contents of the grand home are intact, because they had always been within the Church family, and everything you see was meticulous conceived and planned by Church.

That’s what makes the experience of being here all the more profound – there is an immediate connection to the man and creative process of this great artist, who until now, I had only appreciated through his canvases on view in art museums.

Frederick Church used Persian architectural influences to create Olana © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Olana is every inch Church’s creation. Church traveled the world (he is a worldly person in his reading and outlook) and went to Mideast, and when came back, wanted to create a “fantasy”. He actually never went to Persia but thought the Persian style could be fanciful. But he didn’t just fabricate the designs out of his imagination, he studied Persian art and architecture. He never visited the Alhambra, but bought photos in order to incorporate the Moorish design elements. He experimented with colors and patterns.

“The desire to build attacks a man like a fever,” Church wrote.

He built the house in two years (for about $90,000, or about $2.5 million today, fairly reasonable), and spent the next four years meticulously decorating it.

Architectural detail of Frederick Church’s Olana © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Church experimented with different designs; he mixed the colors; he based his patterns on a book of Persian architecture; the stencil designs on the door – in gold and silver paint – have a shimmering effect. The gilded patterns we see on the grand doors – Les Arts Aribe – are from original stencils.

“He meticulously arranged every room, choosing exotic items for their emotional effect, each room a composition. It took him four years to complete decoration.”

I ask whether Church produced much art during this time, and the guide explains that by 1876, when Church was 50 years old, landscape painting had fallen out of fashion and his career was on the wane, Church came down with crippling rheumatism. Home and family became more important and Olana became his primary canvas.

The exotic décor Frederick Church used at Olana; he spent two years building his mansion and four years decorating it © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Most important to Church were the views. He oriented the house and the windows southwest to best capture the view.

“Our home will be a curiosity in architecture, but the view from every window will be fabulous,” Church said.

The paintings we see that decorate the rooms are Church’s own collections – his own paintings as well as painters he admired, including Thomas Cole.

There is also Church’s painting of “Petra,” 1868, with its unusual perspective (even for Church) – a vertical image of the temple, carved into rock cliff , as you come to it through a rock cleft, like a photograph.

The unusual perspective Frederick Church used in his painting of El Khasne Petra; the painting hangs in the family room, furnished much as it was when the family lived at Olana © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The last time I visited, I was able to see Church’s library, and what he was interested in, what informed him (almost like reading a journal, it is so telling about values, perspective, world-view, what informed him). He was interested in natural science, novels, religion (Presbyterian), “Women of the Arabs”, “Popular History of the Mexican People” “Natural Law & Spiritual World.” He owned a copy of Darwin’s “Origin of the Species.” He was friends with Mark Twain, who also lived in Hartford, where Church was born.

In 1888, at 61 years old, Church devoted himself to expanding house and building a new studio within the house. He closed the New York City studio he had rented for 30 years.

Today, his studio seems just as he left it, with various items of folk art and pre-Colombian artifacts Church collected on his travels.

Frederick Edwin Church’s studio is much as he left it © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

On the wall, “Christian on the Border of the Shadow of Death,” a dark, early painting, reminiscent of Cole. Here in the house, we can see the transition of his style, from largely emulating Cole to developing his own style and perspective.

“Church was a smart marketer of his art – people paid a fee to see just one painting. Lithographs of his work were successful,” says Olana curator Evelyn Trebilcock. “When Church studied with Cole, he painted in Cole’s style, incorporating Christian message, but Church realizes it is not commercial -not saleable- so he instead shows God in beautiful sunsets.”

We go up back stairs that would have been used by the servants – to the second floor family rooms, which were opened to the public in 2009.

Most impressive here are the tiles and the fireplace, produced by Ali Mohammed Isfahan which Church acquired in New York City (they know because they have the receipts).

The Olana dining room, set up for the Church family, has a gallery of art that Church collected on his travels © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In the dining room, set for a family meal, the walls are an art gallery – none of which are Church’s, but are the pieces he collected on his travels through Europe, artists he wanted to showcase and support.

There are also portraits of Church, his father, Joseph, who became a director of the Aetna Life Insurance Company and Church’s wife – all painted by other artists since Church never painted portraits. In my mind, it suggests the humility of the man.

Preserving Olana

After Church died, his art (along with the Hudson River School) fell out of favor.

In 1964 after Church’s daughter-in-law died, the fate of Olana was thrown into question. Then David Huntington, an art historian, got interested and reignited popularity in Church’s work.

Huntington organized a preservation group to buy Olana and got the heirs to agree to give the group two years to come up with the funds, $450,000, to buy Olana.

“The house was going to be dismantled – the items had already been tagged for auction at Sotheby’s,” Mark Prezorsky, landscape curator, says. “The Hudson School was out of style. You could buy a Cole at a garage sale.”

Olana barely escaped a date with the wrecking ball and now has one of New York State’s top attractions © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, the 1960s was not a good time for Victorian architecture – it was a time for sweeping away the “old” for the new, a period of anti-establishment frenzy. Cole’s home, Cedar Grove, for example, was put up for auction – all the possessions were sold off – and might have been knocked down altogether to make way for the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.

The Catskill Mountain House which dated from 1824 and figured in many of the Hudson River School paintings, he pointedly notes was burned down in 1963.

But Huntington, the art historian, “was able to see what Olana was.”

The preservation group got the heirs to agree to a two-year “stay of execution” so that they could raise the $430,000 purchase price – they made the deadline with 10 cents to spare. But now that they owned the house, the problem was affording to maintain it.

Each season, Olana hosts exhibits; this year’s exhibit was “OVERLOOK” a groundbreaking installation by Artist Teresita Fernández with 55 works including “Penetrable” by Jesus Rafael Soto. © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

New York State in astonishing short order had Olana declared a state historic site – the resolution went through three readings in the Assembly and Senate in a single day and Governor Nelson Rockefeller flew by helicopter to Olana for the bill signing. The site is now owned and operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Olana is one of first anywhere to have a preserved “viewshed” (Monticello is another) – arguing the need to preserve the view helped defeat a plan to build a nuclear power plant on the Hudson.

“The farm is big part or Olana,” Prezorsky, the landscape curator, says. “The way we experience it is how move through it –the views open up….. He composed his home as artistic masterpiece in midst of nature. This is one of the few farms where art and farming intersect.”

View from Frederick Church’s studio © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Church had a 10-acre lake hand-dug as part of the design “before machinery; he sold off “muck” for profit.” Church, he says, was a very practical man; he wanted the farm to be a sustainable enterprise. He planted some 50,000 trees.

Thanks largely to the preservation of Olana and the Thomas Cole House, the Hudson River School regained its place in American history and culture. Olana awakened a sense of pride in scenery and conservation.

Olana resuscitated an appreciation for Church’s art. In 1979, Frederick Church’s “The Icebergs”, discovered in a home for boys in Manchester, England, broke the record for an American painting, selling at auction for $2.5 million.

Olana offers house tours from April  through October (closed Mondays), and on weekends November through March. Reservations are highly recommended; there is a car fee on weekends and holidays, and a fee for the house tour. Plan your visit and see a schedule of special events, at olana.org.

Olana State Historic Site, 5720 Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12534, 518-828-0135, olana.org.

The Hudson River School Art Trail, a project of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, has 8 trail sites; during the course of my three-day getaway, I get to experience six of them. Get maps and directions for all the sites on the Hudson River School Art Trail site, www.hudsonriverschool.org.

A great place to stay: The Fairlawn Inn, a historic bed-and-breakfast, 7872 Main Street (Hwy 23A), Hunter, NY 12442, 518-263-5025www.fairlawninn.com.

Further help planning a visit is available from Greene County Tourism, 700 Rte 23B, Leeds, NY 12451, 800-355-CATS, 518-943-3223, www.greatnortherncatskills.com and its fall hub http://www.greatnortherncatskills.com/catskills-fall-foliage

See also:

Fall Getaway in the Catskills: Thomas Cole National Historic Site is Site #1 on the Hudson River School Art Trail

3-Day Fall Getaway in the Catskills: Fairlawn Inn is Superb Hub for Exploring the Hudson River Valley

 

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

 

3-Day Fall Getaway in the Catskills: Fairlawn Inn is Superb Hub for Exploring the Hudson River Valley

The historic Fairlawn Inn, Hunter, NY, looks out to the Catskill State Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Two hundred years ago, Thomas Cole, the father of the Hudson River School art movement, sailed up the Hudson River to the Catskills and was smitten by the landscape, by the natural world, by the respite from the bustle of New York City. And so convenient to reach, even then, coming by the new steamships which was the “thing to do”. He railed against the influx of “progress” even then, and the ravage of the axe that was already decimating the lush forest. It is remarkable that we have Cole and his student, Frederick Edwin Church who built his magnificent Olana on a hilltop with a view over this magnificent Hudson Valley, to thank for its preservation. The Catskills are magnificent any time of the year, but in fall, there is an explosion of color. And like an explosion, it is fleeting.

Less than three hours drive to Hunter, NY, from Long Island, is the Fairlawn Inn, a magnificent bed-and-breakfast inn with an incredible story to tell. It will be my hub to explore the Hudson River School Art Trail that offers some of my favorite hikes in the world. They trace the footsteps of the artists and you can see the very same scenes they painted.

On my way to the inn, I have already visited two of the sites on the trail – relished the view from Kaaterskill Clove, marveling how it still looks much as it did in Thomas Cole’s “The Clove, Catskills” (1827), and Asher B. Durand’s “Kindred Spirits” (1849) -even the tree just turning red for fall foliage seems the same as the scene in the painting – which you see from the parking lot for the hike up Kaaterskill Falls, then continuing on to take this stunning hike to the heights of the double falls. They are along Route 23A, the scenic byway you take from the Thruway to get to Fairlawn Inn, in Hunter, less than a dozen miles further.

View of Kaaterskill Clove with the Hudson River School Art Trail marker that lets you compare the scene today with the Cole and Durand paintings © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During my all-too brief three-day getaway to the Catskills/Hudson River Valley, I spend two days hiking trails associated with the Hudson River School Art Trail in the Catskills State Park, just beginning to show their fall colors and imagining how the artists walked these trails before me, and one day re-discovering two historic jewels: Olana, Frederick Edwin Church’s exquisite mansion home and estate that has become one of New York State’s most visited historic houses (for good reason), and the Thomas Cole House Museum, devoted to the artist known as the “Father of the Hudson River School” which has been restored since my last visit with new ways of experiencing the museum that really give you a sense of the man.

The Fairlawn Inn is ideally situated, and so charming and comfortable, you immediately feel whatever city stress or physical exhaustion dissipate as soon as you cross the threshold – all of this the artistry and craftsmanship of the gracious host, Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko, who has anticipated everything to make his guests feel absolutely at home – even providing refrigerated drinks, ready snacks and fruit, a coffee maker and a refrigerator for guests to help themselves.

It is about 5:30 pm when I arrive at the Inn, bathed in the golden light of the late afternoon. Set beside Hunter Mountain (the entrance to the popular ski resort is less than a half-mile away) and with views of the Catskill State Park from its wrap-around porch, the bed-and-breakfast inn is in a Victorian jewel originally built in 1840 and expanded in 1904 as the summer home of a wealthy Jewish philanthropist and real estate developer, Harry Fischel.

The charming dining room at the Fairlawn Inn where a made-to-order breakfast is served © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko, with 40 years in the fast-food industry, bought the bed-and-breakfast in 2002, and remodeled, redecorated, refitted, and refurnished with stunning antiques and period pieces and other amenities, exposed the gorgeous oak and maple floors and woodwork (hemlock, which was typical of the area because it was a byproduct of the tanning process the area was known for), created the stunning landscaping, added a patio, fire pit and waterfall, all with an eco-friendly eye.

Chuck claims to have the only historic home in North America that has earned a 4-key rating (on a 5-key scale) from Green Key Global, a Canada-based eco-tourism organization and was named Good Earthkeeper for 2013 and #1 Inn in New York for 2010 by New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association.

Indeed, it is quite remarkable for a 113-year old house to get that distinction– Chuck has used composting, solar tubes that bring in natural light to otherwise dark hallways,low-flow shower (yet still wonderful pressure); LED lighting throughout; the outdoor lanterns are solar-powered (from Ikea, no less; he has a plan to use them for Christmas lights).

One of the parlors at the Fairlawn Inn © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Walking around the inn, there are wonderful sitting areas outfitted with books, a parlor with a bar with snacks and a refrigerator with drinks as well as coffee maker to help yourself; a pool table in another parlor; a living-room area; outside a gorgeous, lushly landscaped patio with waterfall, solar-powered lanterns, a fire-pit.

I love to see Chuck’s clever innovations – how he made a wine rack out of crown moldings and planter hooks; a fire pit out of a coal bin; how he turns “shabby chic” into beautiful pieces of furniture.

Each of the guest rooms at the Fairlawn Inn bnb has its own theme and decoration © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are 5 rooms upstairs of the main house, each one differently configured and scrumptiously decorated, several with fireplaces. The Glenwood Room has a two-person Jacuzzi and a fireplace. Several rooms are “outside”, along a lovely porch with charming sitting areas, in that extension to the home that originally housed the Jewish scholars and served as an ice house. My room, the Spring Valley, was originally a mikvah (a ritual bath for a bride).

The rooms are each uniquely themed and decorated in period furniture (several have clawfoot bathtubs), but with modern amenities (private bathroom in each, free Wifi) and eco-friendly features like solar-tubes which bring in natural light. Several have gas-operated fireplaces; at least one has a two-person Jacuzzi bath.

The Fairlawn Inn, a Gold Eco-Rated Lodging and 2015 Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence winner. is gorgeous, comfortable, wonderfully situated, excellent amenities, but the best asset is Chuck, himself, who is more than a gracious host.

Bed-and-breakfast inns really reflect the character of their structure and the personality of the innkeeper. The Fairlawn Inn is an expression of Chuck’s phenomenal sense of hospitality and his prodigious artistic talents – the interior design and decorative arts, antiquing, painting, landscaping, and culinary arts. He loves to cook.

Fairlawn Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko preparing breakfast © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Many bed-and-breakfast hosts love to show off their breakfast creations but Chuck goes beyond: he offers his guests a selection of four different made-to-order omelettes (I enjoy his feta cheese, spinach, kale and arugula omelette) plus a special item like pancakes (selection of fillings), fresh fruit and muffins (pumpkin spice), freshly brewed coffee, served in a gorgeous dining room (just the right size – not too big, not too small), with glorious sunlight flooding in from the windows.

Before we leave the table, he comes out with a bottle of water and snacks to take on our hikes.

Everything is so caring, so thoughtfully arranged, so meticulous – there is even a night light in bathroom and hooks. Little things that matter. There is a remote control for the fireplace which Chuck has decorated himself with antique tiles.

Wicker lounge chairs on the Fairlawn Inn porch make for a comfortable place to relax © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The porch has a delightful sitting area of wicker lounge chairs – even a blanket nearby – as well as tables if you should want to eat al fresco.

I am truly intrigued by Fischel’s story which Chuck relates as he gives me a tour of the inn and ask who built the house and why it is so enormous, with a huge two-story extension. Chuck explains that Fischel would house Jewish students in the summer; my room, Spring Valley, actually was a mikvah (a room used for a ritual bath for a bride).

The Spring Valley room at the Fairlawn Inn was used as a mikvah by the original owner, Harry Fischel, who built the Victorian home in 1904 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chuck points to a thick biography of Fischel, written by his son-in-law, Rabbi Harry S. Goldstein. Fischel, I learn, was born in 1865 in a small, isolated  town of Meretz, Lithuania, to poor but pious parents (his father was a cabinet maker). Yisroel Aaron Fischel (later known as Harry) became an architect and a builder by the age of 19. At 20, he emigrated to America virtually penniless (“he had 60 cents in his pocket” Chuck tells me) and earned his first million in real estate at a young age (he pioneered building tenements in the Lower East Side on irregular-shaped lots, becoming the first successful Jewish developer on the Lower East Side). But even when he was earning just $10 a week, so his biography reads, he sent money home to help support his parents. “Fischel was one of the leading pioneers in the growth of American Judaism, in general, and in American Jewish Orthodoxy, in particular, particularly in the dynamic precedent-setting first half of the 20th Century,” the Wikipedia biography notes.

The Hunter Synagogue which Harry Fischel built across the street from his home, in 1914 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Chuck notes that Fischel laid the cornerstone at Yeshiva University, built a high school for Jewish girls, and personally prevailed on President Taft to install a kosher kitchen at Ellis Island in 1911, so that Orthodox Jewish immigrants could have the opportunity to eat kosher food during a probation period (so they could be strong enough to pass the test to avoid deportation).

He also built the first modern Jewish theater in 1904 (exclusively for Yiddish productions).He was first Treasurer of the Central Committee for the Relief of Jews Suffering Through the War in 1914, a member of the Executive Committee of the Joint Distribution Committee in 1914; organizer of the Palestine Building Loan Association in 1921; built the home, office, yeshiva and synagogue for the Chief Rabbi of Palestine Abraham Isaac Kook at his own expense in 1923; established the Harry Fischel Institute for Talmudic Research in 1931 (which, after the creation of the country of Israel, trained, for many years, a large percentage of the judges who presided over the religious courts in the country); and established the Harry Fischel Foundation on January 4, 1932 (later renamed the Harry & Jane Fischel Foundation). He laid the cornerstone at Yeshiva University.

Harry Fischel’s summer home, now the Fairlawn Inn, and the Hunter Synagogue directly opposite, both built by Fischel more than a century ago © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Fischel also built the first synagogue in Hunter, but it burnt down in 1914, so he built a new one across the street from his home – a charming Victorian from 1914 that is on the National Register of Historic Places and is still operating.

Fischel died in 1948, just before Israel became a nation.

The Fischel house remained in the family until 1993, when a couple bought what had become a decrepit structure and devoted 3 ½ years to restore and renovate it into a bed-and-breakfast, which opened in 1996.

Fischel’s great grandson, Aaron Reichel, has visited the inn twice, Chuck tells me.

It is interesting to see some of the relics of the past: built 1904 when electricity was considered “transitional” (they didn’t know if electricity would last), there are light fixtures that were made to accommodate both electricity and gas; fixtures pointed down (for electric) and up (for gas). Electricity was delivered but made gas on-site – capturing methane released from coal, but sometimes blew up.

The hemlock wood paneling that is so stunning especially in the dining room was actually a by-product of the tanning process that was the major industry in Tannersville and Prattsville.

The outdoor patio which Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko created is part of the lush landscaping at the Fairlawn Inn © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Fairlawn Inn is perfect for corporate retreat (with all the outdoor activities- from skiing to mountain biking that are so great for team-building); special interest groups, multi-generational getaways, destination wedding with expansive lawns for a tent (Chuck loves to cook and has accommodated weddings with up to 150 guests).

The inn is ideal for a hub-and-spoke itinerary for exploring and enjoying the amazing array of historic, heritage, cultural and outdoor attractions and Chuck offers lists of attractions walking distance and a short drive that fill out a three-day getaway but can also easily fill a longer itinerary. He also can put you on the path for antiquing, and the Hudson Valley Wine & Craft Beverage trail (TravelHudsonValley.com)

(And Chuck can steer you to every one, providing comprehensive lists, brochures, maps, print-outs, and his personal guidance and tips.)

Plenty of space: the architecture of the Fairlawn Inn, the summer home of Harry Fischel, was unusual because he used it to house students and today makes a great venue for corporate retreats, special interest groups, and family gatherings © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hiking is a huge activity and for my second day at the inn, I go to the North-South Lake Campground from which there are many trails as well as a fantastic lake (people are actually swimming with the record high temperature for a fall day), and set out for one of my favorite hikes that takes me to more of the Hudson River School artists’ favorite spots: North-South Lake (site #6 on the Hudson River School Art Trail), Artist’s Rock and Sunset Rock (site #7 on the HRSAT); another trail goes to where the Catskill Mountain House stood (trail site #8).

Pre-Revolutionary chair, made in Philadelphia, may well have been used by George Washington; it is flanked by chairs that had been owned by Elizabeth Abell, who introduced Mary Todd to Abraham Lincoln © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For my third day, Chuck gives me a tour of the Hunter Antique Mall, housed in what used to be the Masonic Lodge, which he also owns, which offers a literal treasure trove of fabulous finds, with fascinating documentation and excellent pricing. He points out a pre-Revolutionary chair made in Philadelphia that easily could have accommodated George Washington, and a pair of chairs signed on the bottom for Elizabeth Abell, a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s who introduced Mary Todd to him. (It turns out that chuck is an absolute expert on antiquing, and can steer you to auctions and a “junking” trail where you can find treasures at garage-sale prices). He offers his patrons clever ideas: like turning a stack of vintage luggage into a sidetable that also affords cramped apartment-dwellers storage; and how you can make a bird feeder out of gorgeous blue-and-white China cup and saucer; and decorates otherwise bland furniture with a waxy-press-on craft.

Fairlawn Innkeeper Chuck Tomajko shows how he might make a bird feeder out of blue-and-white china cup and saucer © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

I then go on to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill (#1 on the Hudson River School Art Trail, www.thomascole.org) with a sensational guided tour as well as featured exhibit in the New Studio (this year’s exhibit is “Sanford R. Gifford in the Catskills”); the house usually closes at the end of October but this year has an extended season of November weekends; and then on to Olana State Historic Site (#2 on the HRSAT), in Hudson NY, which closes for the season on Oct. 28 (www.olana.org).

I prefer hiking to experience fall foliage, but those who prefer driving will find several scenic byways: Greene County’s two National Scenic Byways include a 21-mile route that descends from high country peaks to Durham Valley farmland.; along the way, you will find views that stretch across the Hudson River Valley to summits in four neighboring New England states. Then take an excursion along Mountain Clove, a byway that meanders through ravines, historic districts, and waterfalls. In fact, one of the best foliage views in New York State, Chuck notes, is just 2 miles from the Fairlawn Inn door, at the intersection of Rte 214 and 23A – which looks toward Bear Creek and some half-dozen mountains that form layers.

The intersection of Rte 214 and 23A, just two miles from the Fairlawn Inn, looking toward Bear Creek is ranked as one of the best foliage views in New York State © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

An Arts-Meets-Nature Driving/Exploration Route: The Kaaterskill Clove Experience provides a new self-guided discovery tour through the history of American art, and the primeval landscape that inspired it. Tailored, easy-to-follow itineraries provide a roadmap for families, adventure seekers and leisure travelers to experience the Kaaterskill Clove at your own pace, while enjoying everything that Greene County has to offer, from farm stands to charming cafes.

Other attractions include:

Sky Walkway over the Hudson River alongside the Rip Van Winkle Bridge.

Antiquing (Tannersville and Catskill are the main villages, but Chuck can steer you to auctions and a “junking” trail where you can find treasures at garage-sale prices).

You can follow the Hudson Valley Wine and Craft Beverage trail (travelHudsonValley.com)

Bike (or walk) the 2.7-mile long Huckleberry Trail that follows the old Huckleberry Railroad track and is mostly under trees.

There is mountain biking and golf at Windham Mountain (another wonderful ski mountain just 8 miles up 23A).

Close by in Coxsackie is The Bronck House (in the same family for 400 years) and the quaint town of Hudson with its galleries, antiques, boutiques and restaurants, which is operated by the Greene County Historical Society (http://www.gchistory.org/).

The Fairlawn Inn is within 90 minutes of major attractions including Hyde Park (Franklin Roosevelt’s home and library), the Walk Over the Hudson, Hyde Park (FDR),Walk Over Hudson, Huguenot Village in New Paltz (a national historic site with costumed interpreters, www.huguenotstreet.org), Howe Caverns and Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame). And it’s just 2 ½ hours from “the universe” of New York City.

The village of Hunter is accessible from Amtrak to Hudson, MTA to Poughkeepsie, where you can find Enterprise and other rental car agencies, car service and Uber.

The Fairlawn Inn, 7872 Main Street (Hwy 23A), Hunter, NY 12442, 518-263-5025, www.fairlawninn.com. (Children must be 10 or older.)

Really helpful sites to plan your getaway include www.greatnortherncatskills.com and its fall hub www.greatnortherncatskills.com/catskills-fall-foliage offered by the Greene County Tourism, 700 Rte 23B, Leeds, NY 12451, 800-355-CATS, 518-943-3223.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Nassau County Museum of Art Becomes Destination for Arts Education with Opening of Manes Center

Ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Manes Family Art & Education Center with Dr. Harvey Manes and grandchildren. The new center gives the Nassau County Museum of Art, housed on the former Childs Frick estate in Roslyn Harbor, Long Island, a new dimension in arts education, spanning ages and abilities © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

Housed in what was Childs Frick’s natural history laboratory where he studied paleontology, the newly opened Manes Family Art & Education Center on the grounds of the Nassau County Museum of Art – Frick’s former estate – gives the museum a new dimension in arts education and appreciation.

The Manes Center, named in recognition of Museum Trustee Dr. Harvey Manes and the Manes Foundation’s $1 million gift, gives the museum the space to offer a dynamic and creative environment in which audiences of all ages and abilities can find creative engagement through a variety of activities, classes and projects. This includes new hands-on programs for children as young as 3, adults from beginners to skilled, and an ambitious curriculum for autistic individuals.

The environment is special: Childs Frick, the son of Henry Clay Frick, was a vertebrate paleontologist and a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History. The center has repurposed Frick’s labs into art “labs,” each dedicated to a specific type of art learning, to address the multiple learning styles, interests and abilities of adults and children: Hands-On Studio Lab, Indoor/Outdoor Lab, Reading Resource Lab and Design Tech Lab, as well as additional exhibit space.

This means that for the first time, the Museum will be able to offer hands-on multi-day workshops across the visual arts disciplines.

Dr. Harvey Manes, with Nassau County Museum of Art Director Karl E. Willers and Board President Angela Susan Anton, at the opening of the Manes Family Art & Education Center. “Art is my passion,” Dr. Manes said. “I believe in promoting peace through art and education.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Family programs at the Manes Center provide children and the adults in their lives the opportunity to take time from their busy schedules to reconnect while talking about and making art together. Each week we offer projects that encourage curiosity and experimentation, and creative thinking through a variety of experiences and materials inspired by current exhibitions.”

“Before, we always scrambled for space in order to run programs at the museum,” commented NCMA Director Karl E. Willers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, August 3. “This facility allows us to enhance and expand all kinds of classes… Programs can be geared to exhibits as well as to open to the surrounding landscape. Many art programs integrate science and the natural world. It adds a new dimension to our educational offerings – extended hands-on workshops, more events going on simultaneously spanning age and ability groups, when before we were limited by the space availability in the mansion.”

The building, which was designed for Charles Frick’s paleontology research (the specimens he collected are now at the Museum of Natural History), is a series of laboratories that are being repurposed for making art in all its forms. The floors are finished to accommodate workshops and there are sinks!

“We can offer proper professional art spaces for people to look at and make art in contemporary studio facility,” said Reem Hussein, who was brought in to manage the center. We are bringing in technology – i-Pads to create art with technology. But we are mindful of people who want traditional art making.

“These are programs we don’t offer now. We will able to offer more series programs, rather than one-shots and lectures.”

She said that the rooms are called “labs” to pay homage to Frick. 


NYS Assemblymembers Charles Lavine and Michaelle C. Solages, and NYS Senator Carl L Marcellino with NCMA trustee, Dr. Harvey Manes whose $1 million donation made the Manes Family Art & Education Center possible © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New American Garden Inaugural Exhibit

The public is invited to preview the Manes Center and take in its inaugural exhibit, “The New American Garden: The Landscape Architecture of Oehme, van Sweden.”

Organized by The Cultural Landscape Foundation, The New American Garden is a traveling photographic exhibition which chronicles the careers and influence of Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden who revolutionized landscape architecture with the creation of a type of garden characterized by large swaths of grasses and fields of perennials. The gardens are the penultimate merger of man and nature, and the ultimate in “installation” art’s ephemeral quality. Indeed, 10 of the gardens that are immortalized in the photographs are gone, and many others are in jeopardy.

During this introductory period, through September 7, admission to the Manes Center is free (free admission offer does not include the main building, the Saltzman Fine Art Building).

The building now looks as a low-level white box, but that will soon change. The pop/surrealist modern artist Kenny Scharf is being invited to paint the exterior. After that, it is anticipated that the landscape architects Oehme, van Sweden will create a new garden.

Pop Artist Kenny Scharf, at the opening of his exhibit at the Nassau County Museum of Art in 2016, will transform the exterior of the new Manes Family Art & Education Center © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

The focus on gardens for the inaugural exhibit at the Manes Center is also appropriate for this grand estate.

Most of the 145 acres originally belonged to poet, lawyer, conservationist, political activist, patron of the arts and preservationist William Cullen Bryant, who settled in Roslyn in 1843. The long-time editor of the New York Post built is home, Cedarmore, and founded Roslyn’s public library. In 1862, he built a cottage for his friend and fellow poet, Miss Jerusha Dewey (you can see the cottage when you explore the hiking trails on the grounds). In 1900, Lloyd Stephens Bryce purchased Bryant’s ‘Upland Farm’ and commissioned architect Ogden Codman, Jr. to design Bryce House, the present mansion. Henry Clay Frick, co-founder of US Steel Corporation purchased Bryce House in 1919 as a gift for his son, Childs Frick, a Princeton graduate who became a vertebrate paleontologist and naturalist.

For museum-goers, the estate grounds also offer:

Sculpture Park: Approximately 30 works, many of them monumental in size, by renowned artists including Fernando Botero, Tom Otterness, George Rickey and Mark DiSuvero among others, are situated to interact with nature on the museum’s magnificent 145-acre property.

Walking Trails: The museum’s 145 acres include many marked nature trails through the woods, perfect for family hikes or independent exploration.

Gardens: From restored formal gardens of historic importance to quiet little nooks for dreaming away an afternoon, the museum’s 145 acre property features many lush examples of horticultural arts. Come view our expanded gardens and beautiful new path to the museum.

Childs Frick’s mansion home is now the Saltzman Fine Art Building of the Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Today, Frick’s mansion is the Saltzman Fine Arts Building, home to the Nassau County Museum of Art, which has put on world-class exhibitions and has a notable collection, including 150 Tiffany paintings and drawings which were bequeathed to the museum.

Currently on exhibit in the Saltzman Fine Art Building (through November 5, 2017)

“New York, New York”: From its earliest years, New York City was the stage on which the transformation of America played out, reflecting economic and historic upheavals that led to the city’s place as the financial and art capital of the world. This exhibition, guest curated by Director Emerita Constance Schwartz, portrays the city’s grit and glamour, its excitement and bustle, the heartbeat of a great metropolis, through more than 140 works by artists such as John Sloan, Reginald Marsh, Childe Hassam, Red Grooms, Robert Henri, Fairfield Porter, Berenice Abbott, Milton Avery and Georgia O’Keeffe among many others.

“Glamour Icons: Marc Rosen”: Through the work of the award-winning designer Marc Rosen, Glamour Icons celebrates fragrance and cosmetic packaging as an art form. This retrospective spanning the designer’s 40-year career includes many of his most iconic designs as well as some vintage 20th-century perfume bottles from Rosen’s personal collection. The designer’s work has been recognized with many industry awards and is also in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Musée de La Mode in Paris.

Family Sundays – 1– 4 pm (free with admission): Be inspired by an exhibition based gallery conversation, then explore new art materials and learn new art-based vocabulary and ideas in the studio with our museum educator.

Super Family Sundays – 1-4 pm (admission plus $10 materials fee):

Families immerse themselves in artmaking and exploring the Museum, the grounds, and sculpture collection during Super Family Sundays. Multiple activities are offered in collaboration with teaching artists in a variety of media, from performance to monumental cardboard constructions. Themes connecting the artmaking activities are inspired by the art on view in our galleries, the Museum’s history or the changing seasons on display in its forests and gardens.

Preview of Educational Programs at Manes Center

Among the arts education programs that will be available at the Manes Center beginning this fall:

Early Childhood Programs: Programs for young children and their adult companions at the Manes Center are all about discovery. Both in the galleries and in the art studio, children find opportunity for self-expression, socialization, and experimentation, through creative play and exploration through open ended developmentally appropriate experiences. Looking at and talking about art fosters visual literacy in young children.

Programs include:

Story Time for 3 to 5 year olds, featuring gallery exploration and hands-on art activities.

Young Artists (ages 3-5) programs for children and their adult companions consist of hands-on activities designed to experiment and become familiar with art materials and processes.

An Outdoor Classroom program will offer guided and self-guided activities for children to encourage the exploration of the natural environment through experiences that make the connection between art and science. Activities are designed to encourage open air exploration and imaginative play.

New outdoor education programs will encourage children to explore NCMA’s natural environment and make the connection between art and science © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A drawing class geared to children 8-11 years old, to learn the rules of traditional drawing by practicing line, shading, and perspective through drawing in the studio and gallery and using experimental materials.

A program tentatively titled “Imagine, Design & Build,” for children 11-15 to experience the design process through sketching and building as they dive deep into creative thinking and problem-solving to explore the connections between design, art, science, and technology.

A program for teens 13-17 is aimed at supporting high school students who are preparing portfolios as part of their college applications. Group and individual instruction focus on elements and principles of art and design through application to students’ own work and conversations about art work in the museum’s galleries. Student will have the opportunity for work with live models, critique sessions, and portfolio reviews. 

Adult Programs

Hands-on studio programs are being designed for adults of all levels of art making experience, taught by experienced artists. The programs focus on group and individual projects to help adults explore and learn art skills and processes, and have opportunities for personal expression. Adults will learn techniques of drawing & painting, sculpture, and printmaking and have opportunities to draw from live models. 

“The Creative Process” dovetails with every changing exhibition in the Manes Center’s contemporary art gallery: visitors are invited to create in response to the art on view through hands on activities that focus on artists’ themes, processes, and materials. Projects are designed to pique curiosity and inspire creativity, and gain new insights into the creative process. 

Life drawing at the Manes Center will present the opportunity to draw from a live model through gesture sketches and longer duration poses under the guidance of a teaching artist.

Adults can learn the basics of drawing and painting and explore materials such as graphite, charcoal, and conté crayon, watercolor and acrylic paint. Projects will be inspired by art history and current gallery exhibitions.

The center will also offer programs in using digital art tools to create traditional and experimental works of art. 

Art Talks for adults invited scholars, academics and exhibiting artists to introduce and discuss topics in the field of art with visitors in an intimate salon style setting.

Programs for Special Needs

Art education programs are also being designed for children, teens and adults with special needs. 

One program invites families affected by autism into the galleries and art studio to talk about and make art. Throughout the course of this program parents and caregivers will gain skills in behavioral methods that they can employ when bringing their child into a community setting. Families will join the Art Educator trained in Art Therapy in fun interactive gallery experiences that provide opportunities for everyone to look at and talk about art in a group setting. Then off to the studio for hands on art making activities that encourage experimentation with new materials, processes and creative play.

Another workshop is aimed at building social and vocational skills for teens and young adults with autism through arts-based workshops. During this workshop series, teens will receive hands on training in basic artistic processes that can be translated into practical job skills. Based on current exhibitions in the galleries at Nassau County Museum of Art, these workshops will encourage participants to explore different methods of art making and design and how a museum can be a resource for creative inspiration. Students with autism will have the opportunity to apply their artistic skills and functional academic learning in a real world setting.

Explore picture & art books and related resources about art history and museum exhibitions. This space is equipped with manipulatives and simple drawing materials for young children.

The Manes Center will also be available for birthday parties, with appropriate art project activities.  Party bookings are available on Saturdays 12:30 – 2 pm.

The Nassau County Museum of Art is on the 145-acre grounds of the former Childs Frick estate in Roslyn Harbor, Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Nassau County Museum of Art, consisting of the Saltzman Fine Art Building and The Manes Family Art & Education Center, is located at One Museum Drive in Roslyn Harbor, just off Northern Boulevard, Route 25A, two traffic lights west of Glen Cove Road. The Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and above) and $4 for students and children (4 to12). During the August 3-September 10 preview of the Manes Center, there is no admission fee (this does not include admission to the Saltzman Fine Art Building). Members are admitted free. Docent-led tours of the exhibition are offered at 2 p.m. each day; tours of the mansion are offered each Saturday at 1 p.m.; meet in the lobby, no reservations needed. Tours are free with museum admission. Family art activities and family tours are offered Sundays from 1 pm; free with museum admission. Call (516) 484-9338, ext. 12 to inquire about group tours. The Museum Store is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 516-484-9338 for current exhibitions, events, days/times and directions or log onto nassaumuseum.org.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

 

Saratoga Springs is Firmly En Pointe as Center for Dance, Culture

Saratoga Springs, which is the summer home of the New York City Ballet and the location for the National Museum of Dance, celebrates its connection to dance with painted shoes that decorate the streetscape © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

With just one full day to explore Saratoga Springs, I am still able to take in the high points that distinguish this town, which has been so popular a place for visitors going back to the 14th century, when its mineral springs were first discovered by Native Americans. Later, it became a major center for organized horse racing, a tradition which remains today, and draws the biggest crowds during the six-weeks of racing season. But Saratoga Springs, owing to the millionaires and elites and then the colleges including Skidmore, has also become a cultural mecca, especially for dance. The Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center is the summer home for the New York City Ballet and now the home of the National Museum of Dance. 

National Museum of Dance

During my one full day in Saratoga Springs, after thoroughly exploring its horse-racing traditions at the race track and the National Museum of Racing, I next visit the National Museum of Dance, which is located just at the entrance to the Saratoga Spa State Park in what had been the historic Washington Bathhouse (there is still an exhibit to the historic spa). This is such a surprise.

It exquisitely reflects the visual as well as the athletics and art of dance; surprised at seeing video going back to 1895 of dance. All the dance legends are represented with stunning photos, videos, costumes.

So far, 50 dance pioneers including dancers of all genres, choreographers, composers, writers and patrons have been inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Established in 1986, the National Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame is the only museum of its kind in the nation and one of only a few in the world dedicated to the art of dance (which is why they claim the name, “National.”)

It is set in the former Washington Bathhouse, a 1918 Arts & Crafts style building in the Saratoga Spa State Park which provided health spa treatments (there are rooms you can visit from that time).

The Museum’s archives house a growing collection of photographs, videos, costumes, documents, biographies and artifacts that honor all forms of dance throughout history.

The museum’s galleries feature rotating exhibits and three permanent exhibits including the Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame.

Dancers in Film is an enchanting ongoing exhibition at the National Museum of Dance © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dancers in Film, a delightful ongoing exhibition, celebrates the relationship between dancers and film, and features both well-known dance stars and our favorite actors who have had world famous dance roles on the silver screen. Highlighted in the exhibit are Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients Ann-Margret (2010), John Travolta (2014), and Chita Rivera (2015). You will love sitting and watching the fast-changing videos. I am frankly amazed to see some of the oldest ones, even from 1895 (at the very dawn of movie-making).

Sparked by an abundant discourse both age-old and current, The Dancing Athlete is an innovative exhibition that explores the inherent connections between dance and sports, and dancers and athletes, and the influence and confluence of these forms throughout history. Through costumes, photographs, video, objects, and archival materials, the exhibit examines these relationships within several themes such as cross training and physiological impact, shared movement vocabularies, and sports-inspired choreography, among others. A select group of athletes and dancers including Lynn Swann, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Edward Villella are showcased as well as several choreographic works including Gene Kelly’s stunning  “A Man’s Game”. By highlighting the athletic prowess of dancers and injecting popular sports and athletes, boys, especially, will better appreciate dance.

The New York City Ballet company presented their autographed pointe shoes in honor of Peter Martins’ induction into the Dance Hall of Fame © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Opened in 1987, the Dance Hall of Fame honors dance pioneers of all types whether they are choreographers, composers, writers, dancers, or patrons; there are more than 50 who are so far included in the Hall of Fame. Among them: Fred Astaire, George Balanchine, Agnes deMille, Rudolph Nureyev, Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Busby Berkeley, Jerome Robbins, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, The Nicholas Brothers, Bob Fosse, Marge Champion, Tommy Tune, Edward Villella and Michael Jackson and the newest inductees, Gregory Hines and Patricia Wilde who are featured in special exhibits devoted to their careers  (see a complete list of the inductees, http://dancemuseum.org/exhibits/hof.html).

The Museum campus also includes the Lewis A. Swyer Studios, a building constructed specifically for the purpose of keeping live dance as part of the Museum’s offerings. The Swyer Studios welcome frequent master classes, lecture/demonstrations, residencies, and other programs, as well as the Museum’s very own dance school, the School of the Arts, which offers dance classes to all ages, levels, and interests. The Museum also offers a wide selection of special programs, events, and workshops throughout the year.

Twist! Jump! Play! Dance! The Alfred Z. Solomon Children’s Wing is an interactive space just for kids, with a video library, reading corner, movement and balance toys, and stage area. A Kids’ Gallery showcases rotating exhibits of children’s artwork and is where visitors can create their own masterpieces.

The museum also offers a Resource Room with thousands of books, periodicals, and print items for dance research available to the public.

A young dancer photographs one of the ballet shoes outside the National Museum of Dance, which also has its own dance school on the site of the former Washington Bathhouse at Saratoga Spa State Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

When I visit, I notice young girls, their hair tied back in the bun typical of dancers, looking on with adoration. This is their Cooperstown.

National Museum of Dance, 99 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, 518-584-2225, dancemuseum.org,  info@dancemuseum.org

There is a very good reason for the National Museum of Dance to be set at Saratoga Spa State Park: Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), a stunning amphitheater, is set in the heart of The Spa State Park and is the summer residence of the New York City Ballet as well as the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. Surrounded by 2,400 acres of green hills, geysers, natural mineral springs and hiking trails, you can enjoy jazz, pop and classical concerts. (108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, spac.org).

I didn’t get a chance to really explore the Saratoga Spa State Park, but it has a score of attractions contained within it, in addition to the National Museum of Dance and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. It also has the Saratoga Automobile Museum, which this year is featuring as its main exhibit, “The Gavel: Cars of the Saratoga Auto Auction” which gives an insider look at the workings of the classic and collector automobile auctions that have become so popular with television viewers. Vehicles on display range from a 1931 Ford Model A Woody to a very rare 1957 Chrysler 300C standard shift, a 1957 Ford Thunderbird and a 1957 Continental Mark II. Imports represented include a 2003 Maserati Spyder convertible and a 2013 Lotus Exige Factory Cup on display.  These cars, along with hundreds of others, are on display until September 17, when they are all headed for the auction block in September at the Saratoga Auto Auction. (110 Ave of the Pines, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 , 518-587-1935, www.saratogaautomuseum.org, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm).

The Saratoga Spa State Park Golf Course offers two beautiful golf courses; a championship 18-hole course and a challenging 9-hole course, complete with pro shop and restaurant. (Information and to reserve a tee time online visit: Saratoga Spa Golf).

Saratoga Spa State Park, distinguished by its classical architecture and listed as a National Historic Landmark, is noted for its diverse cultural, aesthetic and recreational resources. In addition to the nationally-known Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Spa Little Theater, the National Museum of Dance, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, the Gideon Putnam Resort and Roosevelt Baths and Spa, Spa Golf Courses, the park offers a pool complex including slide complex and historic Victoria Pool surrounded by arched promenades; hiking and walking trails, running courses, picnic areas; winter activities include cross-country skiing on approximately 12 miles of trails, ice skating, ice hockey, and two golf courses.

Saratoga Spa State Park, 19 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, 518-584-2535, saratogaspastatepark.org, https://parks.ny.gov/parks/saratogaspa.

Neighborhoods

Saratoga Springs, home to the national Museum of Dance and summer home of the New York City Ballet, celebrates its connection to dance with painted shoes that decorate the streetscape © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

My walking tours from the Inn at Saratoga take me passed and through Congress Park, where in 1792, New Hampshire Congressman John Gilman discovered a mineral spring. (I also take note of a free cutey-pie trolley that operates up Broadway, but I prefer to walk). In 1822, Dr. John Clarke purchased Congress Spring and surrounding land, drained the swamp and built a park where he offered concerts. He built his impressive Greek Revival home overlooking the park, as well as a bottling plant. In 1876, Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park, designed the gardens. The Park today harbors a visitor center (built in 1915 as a trolley station); the Casino (a gaming house for men built in 1870 by prize fighter, former Congressman and gambling entrepreneur who developed Saratoga horse racing, John Morrissey, which today houses the Saratoga Springs History Museum), Italian Gardens, Congress Park Carousel, and some wonderful sculptures, fountains and monuments.

John Morrissey’s casino in Congress Park has been turned into the Saratoga Springs Historical Museum © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the visitor center you can pick up some wonderful self-guided tours, such as North Broadway, “a neighborhood of exceptional residential architecture”; West Side Neighborhood (“The City’s first prime residential location, where many of the people who owned, supported and worked in the bustling resort industry lived.:”and East Side Neighborhood, once home to Skidmore College, rich in history and spectacular architecture, including stunning examples of Greek Revival, Victorian, Gothic, Italianate, Second Empire and Queen Anne styles.

On the Friday night I am in Saratoga Springs, I have a plethora of choices: watching harness racing, polo matches, a performance of the New York City Ballet, and any number of live music venues, including Caffe Lena.

Caffè Lena, a famous folk-music venue since 1960, has just undergone a $2 million renovation but still offers an intimate space to appreciate folk, jazz, poetry and well-established performers as well as newcomers © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

I wander over to Caffè Lena, a famous folk-music venue which the New York times in 2013 called “Folk Music Heaven, was sporting a $2 million renovation, its first since opening in the 1960, and had people lined up out the door hoping to get through a wait-list for that evening’s performance. It actually offers a range of styles – folk, jazz, poetry night, open-mike night – and still retains the intimacy of a small room and small stage, so you are mere feet away from the performer. “Opened in a former woodworking shop in 1960, the café has helped launch many of America’s best loved songwriters, ranging from Bob Dylan in 1961 to Sawyer Fredericks in 2014, with an dazzling Who’s Who list in between. When founder Lena Spencer passed away in 1989, Caffè Lena was converted to a non-profit institution supported by concert revenue, private and corporate donors, grants and bequests, and an ever-evolving team of volunteers.” (Caffè Lena, 47 Phila Street, 518-583-0022, Tickets: 800-838-3006, email:  sales@caffelena.org. caffelena.org.) 

For more information or to help plan your visit, Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau, 60 Railroad Place, 855-424-6073, 518-584-1531, https://discoversaratoga.org/. 

Also, Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center, 297 Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, 518-587-3241, Email: visitorinfo@saratoga-springs.org,  www.saratogaspringsvisitorcenter.com

See also:

Historic Inn at Saratoga Captures Sense of Place, Gracious Victorian Style 

Saratoga Springs, Age-Old Mecca for Horse Racing, Gets Better with Age

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