COOPERSTOWN—This Friday, April 14, the Cooperstown Art Association Galleries will hold an opening reception on the front porch from 5-7 p.m. for two shows, “OOPS! TOO LATE!” by Jules Feiffer in Gallery A and “Patterns” by Melissa Tevere in Gallery B. The exhibits are on display concurrently through May 10.
“OOPS! TOO LATE!” is described as a playful exhibit of current work by renowned illustrator Jules Feiffer, meant to surprise, give a sense of spontaneity to the viewer and give the illusion that the work hasn’t dried yet. The drawings presented are all new and allow the viewer see Feiffer’s view of the times we live in. Fred Astaire consistently dances throughout the entire exhibit, leading us through the joys and triumphs as well as the sorrows. Feiffer seemingly effortlessly creates movement and excitement with every line and brushstroke to paper; working from his heart, not his head. There is no pre-planning or goal, just his pure sense of self leaping from pen to paper. Contextual panels by Katherine Novko of the Cooperstown Graduate Program will be interspersed throughout the exhibit to give viewers a more comprehensive understanding of who Feiffer is and his creative process as it relates to this exhibit.
COOPERSTOWN – On Tuesday, November 29, author Pamela McColl presented at Fenimore Art Museum on the insights and experiences she had gained in the 10 years it took to research and write her volume, “Twas the Night—The Art and History Behind the Classic Christmas Poem.” The lecture was particularly relevant this year, since it is the bicentennial of the poem’s first reading and since part of the imagery contained in it parallels imagery James Fenimore Cooper incorporated into his work, “The Pioneers,” published about the same time.
[Editor’s note: We’ve been following the story of the James Fenimore Cooper murals in Mamaroneck doomed to a future hidden from view or lost forever to school reconstruction. There’s good news to report this week, and we asked Carol Bradshaw Akin, Board Member and former President of the Mamaroneck Historical Society, to give us a first-person, on-the-ground report. It’s a wonderful story with a happy ending — something nice for a change — and a real connection between Otsego and Westchester counties. Thank you, Carol!]
There’s good news to report, thanks to the superhuman efforts of the Co-Presidents of the Mamaroneck Historical Society, John Pritts and Gail Boyle, who turned their lives inside out for the past two-plus months to save eight murals of James Fenimore Cooper’s scenes from “Leatherstocking Tales” painted 81 years ago. Ninth grade classes at Mamaroneck Junior High fund-raised from 1936 to 1941, then hired artists from Yale Art School, one of whom, Mimi Jennawine, was a Mamaroneck High graduate. Her other works include a painting in the Smithsonian — and most all of the other muralists went on to become prominent artists.
With GoFundMe contributions, and a couple of generous large donors, the figure needed was reached, and John and Gail began. They threw themselves into this almost impossible task, researching information, and contacts, searching for mural-removal companies (found one), hired an art conservator, wrote and followed up on hundreds of emails, spent hours and days on phone calls, tried (in vain) to be in touch with the School Board and Superintendent, (eventually found the school’s Director of Facilities who was supportive and cooperative!), drove all over from Stamford, CT, to Brooklyn to pick up preservation supplies needed by the company, which also included huge 2ft x 12ft tubes on which to roll the murals. And then once the work began, they supervised all of the work every day at the high school.
The Mamaroneck Historical Society succeeded in its ambitious quest to raise the funds needed to save James Fenimore Cooper murals from destruction, but more work remains as the group strives to rescue the artwork from the walls of Mamaronek High School.
The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta first reported on the endangered murals as word spread of the high school’s plan to cover – and in some cases, destroy – eight Depression-era murals depicting scenes from James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels and his life as a resident of the Westchester County town. The murals stand in the way of the Mamaroneck High School’s plans to build new computer learning labs, and the Historical Society leapt into action to spare them from the wrecking ball.
“It’s good news but it’s different news,” Mamaroneck Historical Society’s co-president John Pritts said of the group’s success to date. “We had no idea until we started how complicated it would become to save the artwork.
Time is running out on the James Fenimore Cooper murals hanging on the walls of a Westchester County high school, but the county’s Historical Society has pushed its effort to rescue the paintings into high gear as an April 1 deadline draws near.
The Society’s past president, Carol Akin – a summertime Cooperstown resident – said Mamaroneck High School granted a two-week delay on construction originally slated to begin March 15. Now they’re rushing to raise the $175,000 necessary to save the murals through a GoFundMe page and a public relations push to keep awareness and interest at a peak throughout the month of March.
“We raised $21,000 in the first week,” Mrs. Akin told The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta. “It’s helpful, but at that rate, we aren’t going to make it.”
The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta first reported on the mural standoff several weeks ago as word spread of the high school’s plan to cover – and in some cases, destroy – eight Depression-era murals depicting scenes from James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels. The murals stand in the way of the Mamaroneck High School’s plans to build new computer learning labs.
“Two or three of the murals would be destroyed in the reconstruction,” Mrs. Akin said. “The rest
Officials in a Westchester County high school say time is running out in a debate over the fate of eight murals depicting scenes from James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels that could be covered to make way for new learning space in the building.
Fenimore Art Museum President Paul D’Ambrosio told The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta the gallery is a potential home for the paintings on the walls of Mamaroneck High School.
“It would be a shame if they were covered,” Mr. D’Ambrosio said, explaining the murals originated from 1930s-era Works Progress Administration art projects. The WPA hired artists from Yale University to create the murals as a nod toward James Fenimore Cooper’s time as a resident of Mamaroneck.
“They’re not amateur work,” he said. “They’re a strong part of local history.”
Otsego Lake is the setting for two of the murals; another shows Cooper in front of Otsego Hall.
Mr. D’Ambrosio said the Fenimore Art Museum discussed moving the murals but it could be expensive, adding, “And it’s not clear how expensive.”
He said, too, the Fenimore lacks space for a permanent exhibit of the Mamaroneck murals and is talking with the school district about the appropriate time needed to raise money and strategize next steps. With construction at the high school imminent, there is a feeling of urgency among those hoping to preserve the murals.
“There might be some flexibility there, but it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of time,” Mr. D’Ambrosio said.
Stephen Harthorn, editor of The James Fenimore Cooper Society Journal, sent a letter to the Mamaroneck Board of Education urging the panel to neither destroy nor cover the murals.
On its editorial page over the past few weeks, The Freeman’s Journal has commented on, among other important issues, the fog-like haze that was smoke from the western wildfires that fell on the lake and village, leaving the air heavily dangerous for long periods of time, and the latest COVID surge that is gnawing, for the most part, on our unvaccinated and younger residents — children — as well as causing new concern among our older population. None of this was any good and all of it is sad and, no doubt to some, depressing.
However, for us here in Otsego County, this distant, remote upstate almost-forgotten (or, perhaps, not yet discovered) place, there is a special glimmer; something that can bring a smile; something to lighten our load and keep us on a happier track. Otsego Lake.
Nine miles of clear, deep water that laps endlessly on steep tree-lined shores and often reflects the changing sky and clouds and forest, the lake is a home to myriad fish and feathered wildlife, a reservoir for the village of Cooperstown and a summer and winter playground for boaters, tubers, swimmers, sailors, rowers, paddlers, divers, fishermen and water, and snow-skiers. Glacier-created during the last great Ice Age, and spring-fed as well as stream-fed, this superb natural resource is the headwaters of the Susquehanna River. In the past it has played a variety of roles in the Leatherstocking novels of James Fenimore Cooper, who called his – and our – beautiful lake The Glimmerglass.
The haunted mansion exudes an atmosphere
that is unlike any other in Otsego County
Hyde Hall brings to mind Shirley Jackson’s famous opening for the Haunting of Hill House. Only in this case, the house stood for more than 200 years and will probably stand for 200 more.
Hyde Hall is something of an anomaly. It’s a relic of the past, which does not exist anymore and was unusual even for the time, at least in Otsego County.
The breathtaking scenery surrounding Hyde Hall is enough to warrant a visit. At the top, where the house stands, you can look down at Otsego Lake and see all the way to Cooperstown.
The limestone house has a cold, intimidating demeanor, which is why it is a surprise the interior of the house feels warmer and much more decorative. Marketing Manager John Aborn describes it as an oyster with a pearl inside.
Editor’s Note: On hearing of Hugh MacDougall’s March 6 passing, former columnist Cathe Ellsworth, now retired from Cooperstown to Mount Vernon, Ohio, resubmitted this column from Feb. 15, 2018, as a tribute to the James Fenimore Cooper expert.
We have recently learned that at the 21st International Cooper Conference, held in Oneonta last September, Cooperstonian Hugh MacDougall was recognized as founder of the Cooper Society and longtime Cooper Conference participant.
At the conference, a handout entitled “A Tribute to Hugh MacDougall” was distributed to the attendees. And while we have not had the opportunity to read all of the tributes to Hugh, we would like to share part of the one written by Steven Harthorn, the Cooper Society’s executive director for publications.
Harthorn wrote: “Hugh MacDougall is an extraordinary person in many ways, and when spending time with him, it doesn’t take long to recognize his vigorous energy or his
“One quality that has stood out for me as I have tried to carry on Hugh’s legacy in editing the Cooper Society’s publications is Hugh’s passion for outreach. Hugh’s vision for the
Cooper Society has made it distinctive in the world of author societies.
SPECIAL PERFORMANCE – 8 p.m. One night program featuring chamber music and literature with cellist Jan Vogler, pianist Vanessa Perez, and violinist Mira Wang performing selections from Bach, Schubert, and readings from Walt Whitman and James Fenimore Cooper. Also including Bill Murray (Ghost Busters, Lost in Translation, Moonlight Kingdom, etc.). Glimmerglass Festival, 7300 St. Hwy. 80, Cooperstown. 607-547-2255 or visit glimmerglass.org/events/bill-murray-jan-vogler-and-friends-new-worlds/