As museums adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, The Farmers’ Museum has embraced its outdoor space and turned its living museum into a socially distant outing that still appeals to visitors.
With the rise of the Delta variant, the museum’s staff is replacing its weekend Harvest Festival with “Celebration of Autumn.”
The festivities are designed to spread out fall themes and happenings over a month-long period from Sept. 18 through Oct. 11. The goal is to incorporate cherished activities from the traditional weekend festival into early autumn at the museum.
When the going gets tough, the entrepreneurs get going.
A corollary: The entrepreneurial spirit isn’t limited to entrepreneurs. (Per Merriam-Webster: “A person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater-than-normal financial risks in order to do so.”)
So it was telling to watch the Cooperstown Chamber’s first “Coffee With Coop” panel discussion via Zoom last Friday, March 19. Kudos to the Chamber, and Executive Director Tara Burke, who was also an adept emcee.
It was a little disheartening to hear a recitation of all the Hall of Fame cancellations, although the scope of its undertakings – an estimated 80,000 fans were expected at Derek Jeter’s Induction – make them particularly fraught, not to mention dangerous, in Time of COVID.
And yet, the entrepreneurial spirit lived in presentations by, first, Fenimore President/CEO Paul D’Ambrosio and then, in Glimmerglass Opera General & Artistic Director Francesca Zambello.
‘Though he died in 1990, in many ways Keith Haring is still alive. His art is everywhere. There are Haring T-shirts, Haring shoes, Haring chairs. You can buy Haring baseball hats and badges and baby-carriers and playing cards and stickers and keyrings.
“Keith Haring’s work pops up all over the place – his radiant baby, the barking dog, the dancer, the three-eyed smiling face. Simple, cheerful, upbeat, instantly recognisable …
“But Haring did much more than provide cute cartoons … His art faced outwards. He wanted to inform, to start a conversation, to question authority and convention, to represent the oppressed.”
The Guardian, June 2, 2019, on opening of major Haring exhibit at the Tate Liverpool
The Fenimore’s come a long way, baby, from “Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation,” 15 years ago, to Keith Haring, the highlight of the museum’s 2021 season.
If Grandma Moses harkened back to simpler times, Haring’s concerns – though he died on Feb. 16, 1990 – are center stage in the 21st Century.
“It’s a whole new ballgame,” said Fenimore President/CEO Paul D’Ambrosio. “It’s very different from what you’d expect from The Fenimore.”
The Fenimore’s season begins April 1, but anticipation is centering on “Keith Haring: Radiant Vision,” which will open May 29, Memorial Day Weekend, and run through Sept. 6, Labor Day.
It will include more than 100 pieces, D’Ambrosio said.
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.”
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”
“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.
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.
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 email@example.com visit www.facebook.com/CooperstownPres/
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/
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.
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
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.