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Paul d’Ambrosio

Fall At The Fenimore Durer Prints, Souza Photos, In-County Artists Entice Fans

Fall At The Fenimore

Durer Prints, Souza Photos,

In-County Artists Entice Fans

Paul D’Ambrosio, president, Fenimore Art Museum, shows one of the many people ensnared in the tentacles of Keith Haring’s “Medusa Head,” a piece of the exhibit now on display as part of the Fenimore’s autumn exhibitions. The full Haring exhibit was postponed until 2021. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Durer’s etchings are expected at attract art aficionados to Otsego Lake’s shores this fall. (Fenimore Museum photo)

COOPERSTOWN – In an era where so much seeks to divide us, Paul D’Ambrosio is hoping art can unite.

“We loved the idea of having Pete Souza’s photographs of presidents Reagan and Obama,” said The Fenimore Art Museum president. “Even though they were on the opposite ends of the spectrum politically, this exhibit shows their shared humanity, what they had in common.”

“Pete Souza: Two Presidents, One Photographer,” on display now in the Clark Gallery through the end of December, highlights 56 photos of the two presidents, taken during his time as official White House photographer.

It’s part of the fall season at the museum, which is showcasing Souza, “Albrecht Durer: Master Prints” and one piece from the postponed Keith Haring exhibit in anticipation of opening the exhibit next year.

“This exhibit has been a year in the making,” said D’Ambrosio.  “We’ve always had a good audience for our photo exhibits, especially ones, like the Herb Ritts, that draw on recent history. It’s especially appealing to a younger audience.”

What made Souza unique as a photographer, D’Ambrosio said, is that he had access to two presidents. “He had the ability to make these men forget he was in the room,” he said. “Under Reagan, he took upwards of 20,000 photos a week.”

“He saw a president who looked like him,” says D’Ambrosio of a photo from President Obama’s White House photographer Pete Souza.

Many of the photos are of serious moments – Reagan consoling soldiers after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, or Obama watching the attack on Osama Bin Laden. “Souza set up a camera above the desk in the oval office so he could snap a photo of Reagan without being in the room,” said D’Ambrosio. “He captures a lot of the loneliness of the job.”

But interspersed with those are behind-the-scenes looks at each president, such as Obama bending over to let a young boy touch his hair.  “He saw a president who looked like him,” he said. “It’s a very powerful image.”

In the center of the exhibit is a room of photos of each man displayed side-by-side to show off similarities of the office, including watching movies in the White House theater, greeting Popes John Paul II and Francis, and interactions with British Royalty – Obama greeting a young Prince George (who wore his bathrobe for the occasion) and a blushing Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta at Reagan’s Inaugural Gala dinner in 1985.

“We think a lot of people will remember these photos,” he said.

Souza also documented Obama when he was a senator, as well as the official photographer for Reagan’s funeral; however, those photos are not part of the exhibit.

Also new this fall is “Albrecht Durer: Master Prints”

Works by local artist Christina Hunt Wood are also featured.

“This is more subdued, more for the ‘art’ crowd,” said D’Ambrosio. “Durer may not be a household name, but he was a master printmaker in Europe, at a time when printing didn’t have the same reputation as painting. He made it not just popular, but accepted as an art form.”

Several of the pieces were part of the museum’s Thomas Cole exhibit in 2018. “You can really get absorbed in them,” said D’Ambrosio. “They’re so old and they’ve survived so much, so there’s a kind of reverence there.”

Although the Keith Haring exhibit has been rescheduled for next year, several pieces from the Thaw Collection had already been curated for a sister exhibit, “Elegant Line, Powerful Shape,” and will remain on display through next fall.

“You can see how he was influenced by non-western art,” said D’Ambrosio.

But for those who can’t wait, one Haring piece, “Medusa Head” has been put on display at the top of the staircase. “The scale really does make it powerful,” said D’Ambrosio. “He really uses this style to explore power relationships, the figures struggling against this Medusa.”

He continued, “When you see this in the Clark Gallery, opened to full-size, it’s going to really be incredible.”

Also postponed until 2021 was the “Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams” and “The World of Jan Brett.”

And the art isn’t just confined to inside the museum. On the patio are two sculptures by East Springfield sculptor Akira Niitsu.

“We’ve had such a beautiful summer, and people are picking up a boxed lunch and dining out on the terrace,” he said. “We want people to know that you can still get out and
go to a museum,” he said.

This Is Last Weekend For Rock, Roll Photos

FENIMORE EXHIBIT ENDING

This Is Last Weekend

For Rock, Roll Photos

Fenimore Museum President D’Ambrosio discusses Herb Ritts’ iconic Madonna portrait from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If you want to see it, this is your last chance. The exhibit’s last day is Sept. 2, Labor Day. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – “Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits” was a game-changer for The Fenimore Art Museum.

“Our admissions at The Fenimore were up 13 percent from last year,” said Paul D’Ambrosio, president. “This tells us that we need to keep appealing to a broader, younger audience.”

The portraits – Monday, Sept. 2, is the exhibit’s last day – include Madonna, David Bowie, Prince and other music icons.  It was loaned by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Herb Ritts Foundation. Also on view are costumes and instruments on loan from the Rock & Roll Hall.

Fenimore Gives Champs Honorary Memberships

Fenimore Gives Champs

Honorary Memberships

The Fenimore Art Museum bestowed honorary membership on the state champion CCS Hawkeyes’ Varsity Basketball Team last Friday during the spring member reception. At right, Fenimore President Paul D’Ambrosio, center, and Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch congratulate Coach John Lambert. Team members are, first row, from left, Kyle Meyer, Ben Tafuro and Spencer Lewis; second row, Kyle Santello and Ryan Lansing; third row, Jack Lambert, Calvin Sandler and Jesse Furnari; fourth row, Noah Lifgren and John Kennedy. (Todd Kenyon photo)
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

Young Professionals Networking Mixer

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NETWORKING – 6 – 8 p.m. Mixer featuring opportunity to sample beers, meet other young professionals, maybe win a door prize with Young Professionals Network of Otsego County. Cooperstown Brewing Company, 110 River St., Milford. 607-432-4500 or visit www.facebook.com/YoungProfessionalsNetworkYPN/

RUMMAGE SALE – 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Find good used clothing for women, girls, children, toddlers, babies, men, boys. Also, sheets, blankets, beach towels, bath towels, linens, curtains, kitchen utensils, toys, games, jewelry, more. First Presbyterian Church, 25 Church St., Cooperstown. E-mail joycejones@stny.rr.comor visit www.facebook.com/CooperstownPres/

Exhibits, Lectures Mark Research Library’s 50th

Exhibits, Lectures Mark

Research Library’s 50th

Alex Dickson, Fly Creek, a former volunteer at The Fenimore Research Library, examines a local atlas at today’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the fieldstone library building’s completion in 1968. At right is Fenimore President Paul D’Ambrosio, chatting with Bruce MacLeish, a former librarian there. Behind them is Wayne Wright of Oneonta, retired library director, who delivered the keynote address. Activities continue until 4 p.m., when James Fenimore Cooper’s 229th birthday will be celebrated with cake. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, AUGUST 9
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for THURSDAY, AUGUST 9

Youth Opera Performs ‘Odyssey’ 

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THEATER – 2 p.m. Operatic rendition of Homer’s “Odyssey” features rollicking sailor songs, storms, siren songs, more. General admission, $20. Auditorium, Cooperstown Central School. 607-547-2255 or visit glimmerglass.org/events/odyssey/

CONCERT – 7 p.m. Performance by Sidney Community band. Bandstand, Neahwa Park, Oneonta. 607-432-7997 or visit oneonta.ny.us/departments/parks-and-recreation/summer-concert-series/

Seward Brings $125k Grant For New York History Day

Seward Brings $125K Grant

For New York History Day

As some of the 500 visiting students from around the state file by, Farmers’ Museum President Paul D’Ambrosio, left, confers with state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, a few minutes ago on the economic impact and other benefits of New York History Day, underway today in Cooperstown. Seward dropped by to announce a $125,000 grant to to support the activity. D’Ambrosio said Seward’s continuing support allows the museum to more fully promote the activity statewide, hence the record turnout this year. Some 150 schools and 10,000 students statewide create projects – this year’s theme is “Conflict and Compromise.” Projects are set up in the Louis C. Jones Center to be judged today, and statewide winners will compete for national honors June 10-14 at the University of Maryland. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
On WAMC’s ‘Morning Headlines’, Editor Reviews Gene Thaw’s Contribution Locally

On WAMC’s ‘Morning Headlines’, Editor

Reviews Gene Thaw’s Contribution Locally

The gallery built for the Thaw Collection at The Fenimore Museum.

In today’s weekly report, “Morning Headlines,” on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, Jim Kevlin, editor/publisher of www.AllOTSEGO.com (and Hometown Oneonta & the Freeman’s Journal), discusses Gene Thaw’s contribution of 1,000 Native American art pieces The Fenimore Art Museum.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO WAMC REPORT
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21

Learn About Baseball’s

Greatest Heroes & Moments

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BASEBALL AUTHOR – 1 p.m. Stephen Wong, author of “Game Worn: Baseball Treasures from the Game’s Greatest Heroes and Moments,” comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame to discuss the book and take questions from the audience, followed by a book signing in the atrium. Bullpen Theater, Baseball Hall of Fame. Info, baseballhall.org/events/author-series-stephen-wong?date=0

ART DISCUSSION – 12:30-2:30 p.m. Join President and CEO Paul D’Ambrosio for this weeks Food for Thought discussion “Spirit of the Ice: The Art of Figure Skating Through the Ages” exploring the new Dick Button exhibit. Registration required. Cost, $25 members, $30 non-members. The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/fenimore/programs/special_events or call (607) 547-1461

From Cooperstown, Thaw Exhibit On Display At Met This Summer

From Cooperstown, Thaw Exhibit

On Display At Met This Summer

Fenimore Art Museum President Paul D’Ambrosio addresses the opening of “American Indian Art from the Fenimore Art Museum: The Thaw Collection,” last evening at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.   Selections from the Cooperstown museum’s nationally known collection of Native American art will be on display at the Met throught the summer.  Also attending the reception was Eva Fognell, Thaw Collection curator.
CLICK FOR FULL PRESS RELEASE FROM THE MET
On WAMC’s ‘Morning Headlines’, Editor Previews Fenimore’s Dick Button Exhibit

On WAMC’s ‘Morning Headlines’, Editor

Previews Fenimore’s Dick Button Exhibit

Fenimore President Paul D’Ambrosio shows off a 1,000-year-old skate with a stone runner, the oldest in Olympian Dick Button’s collection this summer at The Fenimore Art Museum. (AllOTSEGO.com)

In today’s weekly report, “Morning Headlines,” on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio, Jim Kevlin, editor/publisher of www.AllOTSEGO.com (and Hometown Oneonta & the Freeman’s Journal), previews Dick Button’s “The Art of Figure Skating Through the Ages,” which opens Saturday for the season at Cooperstown’s Fenimore Art Museum.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THIS WEEK’S  REPORT
Membrinos Win Otsego Lake Scenic

Membrinos Win Otsego Lake Painting

Joseph and Martha Membrino of Cooperstown won an oil painting of the Sleeping Lion, the Otsego Lake landmark, at NYSHA’s annual Holiday Members’ Reception Sunday evening at The Fenimore Art Museum. The Membrimos were randomly chosen from a group of 200 members who recently completed an extension survey on the museum. From left are Joseph Membrino, artist Susan Jones Kenyon, Martha Membrino and Dr. Paul S. D’Ambrosio, NYSHA president. (Fenimore Art Museum photo)
Joseph and Martha Membrino of Cooperstown won an oil painting of the Sleeping Lion, the Otsego Lake landmark, at NYSHA’s annual Holiday Members’ Reception Sunday evening at The Fenimore Art Museum. The Membrimos were randomly chosen from a group of 200 members who recently completed an extension survey on the museum. From left are Joseph Membrino, artist Susan Jones Kenyon, Martha Membrino and Dr. Paul S. D’Ambrosio, NYSHA president. (Fenimore Art Museum photo)
250 Alumni, Spouses Due At 50th Fete

250 Alumni, Spouses Due At 50th Fete

By JIM KEVLIN • The Freeman’s Journal

Edition of Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014

Louis C. Jones was on a Guggenheim in the Virgin Islands when Stephen C. Clark invited him to Cooperstown for “a chat.”

NYSHA President Paul D’Ambrosio keeps a photo of CGP founder Louis Jones (by Milo V. Stewart Sr.) in his office.
NYSHA President Paul D’Ambrosio keeps a photo of CGP founder Louis Jones (by Milo V. Stewart Sr.) in his office.

According to one story, the Joneses hadn’t brought a can opener and were unable to find one in the Caribbean, and Louie off-handedly told wife Aggie this would be a chance to pick up one up.

Interviewed on The Otesaga’s veranda, the future NYSHA director and founder of the Cooperstown Graduate Program told Clark he didn’t like rich people, wasn’t a Republican (some remember him as a follower of Norman Thomas, the socialist), disliked the country club scene – on and on. Not much of a hard sell.

But, it turned out – as current NYSHA President Paul D’Ambrosio recounted a few days before this weekend’s CGP 50th anniversary celebration – that was just the temperament Clark wanted for the task at hand. “Stephen Clark was such a unique individual, in his humanity and respect for every person,” said D’Ambrosio. “He believed ordinary men and women built this country and their story needed to be told.”

And so, in 1947, Louis Jones began his quarter-century tenure as NYSHA’s top executive, overseeing evolution of “The Fenimore House,” additions to The Farmers’ Museum (including the centerpiece Cornwallville Church) and, in 1964, CGP’s creation, a collaboration then and now between NYSHA and SUNY Oneonta. (SUNY Oneonta President Nancy

Kleniewski often calls CGP “the jewel in the crown” of the college’s graduate programs.)
As Wendell Tripp, longtime editor of New York History, NYSHA’s scholarly journal, and still a CGP adjunct, tells it,

Jones found a capable – and similarly independent – management cadre in place: Janet MacFarlane and Mary Cunningham, who ran the place during WWII, only to be supplanted when the men returned, and George Campbell, a farmer and one-time member of the village crew who had parlayed his knowledge of vintage farm implements into the position of curator.

“Louie Jones was a highly intelligent person – as a lot of people are,” said Tripp. “But he had a marvelous humanistic sensitivity so that he could lead, encourage and stimulate very creative people, without being domineering or subservient.” He was also a “marvelous raconteur” consulted in cultural matters by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and other of Albany’s leading lights. And so the NYSHA entities thrived.

Louie Jones was, first, an educator (with a lifelong interest in murders and ghost stories), coming to Cooperstown from the future SUNY Albany. “He knew there was no place in the country training young people in history museums,” said Gretchen Sorin, CGP’s current director. “A lot of museums had no professional staff.”

He was also intrigued with creating a program “on the campus of the museums” – that still sets apart the CGP today. And so, in the fall of 1964, the CGP welcomed its first class at “The White House,” that building to the north of The Fenimore.

Jones was its first director, for a while ceding general NYSHA responsibilities to Fred Rath, who became “acting” director, (though Jones kept a hand in it.)

The curriculum at the outset was heavily influenced by the Foxfire Movement, a 1960s an oral history and DIY (do it yourself) initiative that sought to preserve the legends, farming practices, recipes and other cornerstones of life in the Appalachian Region (Otsego County is at its north end.)

That impetus was very much alive when Sorin arrived on campus in the mid 1970s, (as it happened, CGP’s first black student.) The curriculum included in its museum management, folklore and art conservation classes, such activities as hog butchering (at The Farmers’ Museum) and a knowledge of maple syruping, moonshining and the like.

By the time D’Ambrosio arrived – an English major undergrad, he became intrigued with museum work during an internship helping conservators stabilize a collection of 19th century cartoonist Eugene Zimmerman at the Horseheads Historical Society – the folklore track had lapsed and art conservation had moved to Buffalo, where students could work on art more modern than NYSHA’s 19th century collection.

Today’s museum studies curriculum is guided by what Sorin refers to as the New Social History, still including the oral histories and studying “pre-industrial technology, but all focused on “ordinary people and everyday life.”
When all three programs were functioning, enrollment peaked in the 60 range, but today’s classes are 20 or so, meaning there are 35-40 students going through the two-year curriculum at any one time. They study, not just exhibits and collections, but administration, finance, fundraising and development and “cultural entrepreneurship.”

Responding to trends in the industry, students can also learn about science museums. The latest addition to the five-person faculty is Carlyn S. Buckler, a molecular biologist by training. There are another five part-time faculty members, including D’Ambrosio. (He and wife Anna, director of Munson Williams Proctor Art Institue in Utica, are one of a dozen “CGP couples.”)

A “big ideas” course – reflecting trends like diversity and evironmentalism – seeks to put museum studies in a larger context. “We want (our students) to be on the cutting-edge of scholarship,” said Professor Will Walker, who teaches that course, as well as overseeing oral history.

In the 1970s, the program had moved into a cinderblock building north of The Fenimore complex, a bit of a bunker, which it shared with SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station. However, a $6 million redo three years ago gutted the building and replaced it with an airy modern structure, a glass wall looking out on James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass. It includes a gallery to give students hands-on experience, as well as a digital lab.

For years, the CGP and Winterthur, the University of Delaware’s museum-studies program, were seen as competing, but that’s past, Sorin believes, as the latter focused on decorative arts and the former on the real world.
“People love coming here,” Sorin said of the students she’s seen over 19 years. “They love this place. They love becoming part of the community.”

Of the 1,000-some graduates, many populate the heights of museum administration and scholarship. Hunt and peck through the CGP Alumni Directory, and a star emerges on every page, from Jane Spillman, “the queen of American glass” who recently retired from the Corning Museum of Glass, to Greg Harris, president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

“Our program … gives SUNY Oneonta a national impact on how culture is preserved and presented to the public,” said Kleniewski, reflecting on the half-century record. “You’ll find our graduates everywhere from the California African American Museum in Los Angeles to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.”

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