Garrison, N.Y. is a quaint town located in the Hudson Valley and just happens to be the home to the Garrison Art Center. The Art Center, which is less than 45 minutes from Vassar’s campus, is more than an just an ordinary art gallery in the Hudson Valley.
It houses numerous exhibitions by local artists and more well-known artists alike, as well as hosting art classes, auctions and several other special events.
Recently, the gallery celebrated its 50 year anniversary, which the executive director, Carinda Swann, believes is partially due to the nature of the town of Garrison, being as small as it is, as she stated in an article in the Hudson Valley Magazine: “We serve as an info center and a bathroom, as well as the art community.”
The Coordinator of Public Education and Information at The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Margaret Vetare, to whom the Art Center was an important touchstone for many years, further attested to this by stating, “Their geographic draw might surprise you. In fact, when I was taking a class in mosaics a couple of years ago, I met a woman in a ceramics class who actually rode the train up from Manhattan because she preferred the classes and instructors at GAC to some she had experienced in NYC.”
She continued, “So here is this small, kind of funky Victorian building wedged in the narrow strip of land between the river and the rails, functioning at this very high level with excellent teachers, varied and well thought-out exhibitions, and equipment like kilns and printmaking facilities that make these pursuits accessible to many, many people.”
The Art Center originated from the community’s desire for access to a thorough and exemplary art education. It started in 1964 through funds collected from a show of local artists at the Garrison School, which were used for both the art center and art fund of the school itself.
The Garrison Art Center doesn’t just function as a museum, it also houses a variety of activities for community members to participate in. Art classes were the center’s primary endeavor for the first several years, and today the center has classes such as “Introduction to Watercolor,” “Pottery” and “Sculpture Workshop,” as well as more unexpected ones such as “5-String Banjo” and “Making Comics From Life.”
Vetare noted the uniqueness that the Art Center brings to Garrison, “Between the GAC and the Depot Theater just across the street, it’s like there’s a wonderful artistic heartbeat pulsing away in this spot and for me it feels like a physical and cultural anchor in a geographic location that can otherwise feel a bit diffuse.”
However, over the years it has expanded to open galleries and many other local projects. “All their offerings, whether classes or exhibitions or annual events, are of a very high level, and they bring an artistic richness not just to the tiny hamlet of Garrison but to the whole surrounding area,” commented Vetare.
The Art Center’s galleries, called the Riverside Galleries, contain three exhibition spaces—The Trudy and Henry Gillette Gallery, used for larger exhibitions, The Anita Hart Balter Gallery, used for smaller and more intimate exhibitions, and the Studio Gallery, used for educational exhibitions. The exhibitions are comprised of a variety of artistic styles, from paintings to sculpture to photography.
On the method of choosing the artists to display, Administrative Assistant at the Garrison Art Center Julia Famularo commented, “The process of selecting artists for exhibition in our galleries begins with the artists themselves who apply. The Art Center’s Gallery Committee meets in the Fall and reviews all of the applications for consideration of a gallery show. Occasionally a member of the Gallery Committee may recommend an artist for exhibition.”
In addition to the variety of artistic styles, the galleries also feature a variety of artists from more local artists in the nearby community to nationally and internationally renowned artists.
“Some of the most exciting exhibitions at the Art Center in recent years have included an exhibition of paintings curated by Sean Sculley in 2013, and in 2014 collages by Ivan Chermayeff and recently prints by Judy Pfaff. You may see our entire 2015 exhibition calendar on our website,” said Famularo.
In addition to those artists, Grace Knowlton, a well-known New York based artist, also had a solo exhibition in 2007.
The current exhibition being hosted at the galleries, from Jan. 24 to Feb. 15, is “Carry On” by Rob Swainston.
The show is described on the Art Center’s website: “In this exhibition viewers can see numerous printmaking techniques, often within the same piece. Rob Swainston’s mastery at combining multiple techniques creates a complex layering of processes and media culminating in a richly painterly print not often accomplished with this level of virtuosity.”
Coming up after “Carry On” are “Rooted/Forest Portraits” by Julie Ann Mann and “Ladder to the Sun” by Gabe Brown, which start on Feb. 21 and go through March 15.
Aside from its exhibitions and art classes, the Garrison Art Center hosts events such as the Riverside Art Auction, the Annual Riverside Crafts Fair and the Holiday Pottery Sale.
For part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Art Center launched a free steamroller printmaking festival called “Rollin on the River.”
For 50 years, the Garrison Art Center has contributed to and expanded the art community of the town of Garrison, and with its rich galleries, exciting events and excellent educational opportunities; perhaps it will continue on for 50 more.