CAPITAL REGION, NY – February is behind us, but winter isn’t dead yet. March is a volatile month as days can alternate between snow storms and mild temperatures.
It’s a time when we cling to the activities we enjoy doing outdoors, but know those things are coming to an end. But it’s still too early to switch from skiing to hiking.
It’s the same in art. Many autumn/winter theater and music seasons are coming to an end and it is far too early to start thinking about open-air theater or music concerts.
I think it’s the perfect time to enjoy the visual arts. We are blessed with many different museum experiences in this area and March is a wonderful time to enjoy them – at leisure. And since many museums offer fun activities for all ages, museums are ideal for both individuals and families.
One of the best museums for people of all ages is the New York State Museum at Empire State Plaza. Not only is the outdoor Adirondack exhibit almost as natural as the woods, the curators use the exhibits to offer a tremendous amount of information about the state’s history and the wildlife and insects that live among us.
The third floor features an emotional exhibition about the devastation of 9/11. Even more exhilarating is the honor the exhibit offers to the brave first responders who showed incredible courage on the day.
On the fourth floor is a working carousel that was built between 1912 and 1916. It’s not operational due to COVID, but it’s a majestic moment of nostalgia just to see. The same is true of the early New York City subway car and the original Sesame Street television show set. They all bring back pleasant memories.
There are also some special exhibitions. For fans of the new TV series The Gilded Age, there’s an exhibition of wedding wear set in 19th-century New York. For the socially conscious there is Courage: The Black New York Struggle for Quality Education and Open Wounds, an exploration of the Attica Prison Riots that took place 50 years ago.
Art lovers will appreciate an exhibition by Thomas Hart Benton. Locals may particularly appreciate an exhibit about the early days of Fort Orange, now the city of Albany. All New Yorkers will learn from Bernice Abbott’s photo exhibition, Changing New York, which focuses on the city in the 1930s. Best of all, entry to the museum is free.
Not far from the State Museum at 125 Washington Avenue is the Albany Institute of History and Art. It is a charming museum with several fascinating exhibits. It is best known for having one of the largest collections of Hudson River School paintings in the world.
The huge majestic paintings by artists like Frederick Church focused on the splendor of the Hudson Valley regions to celebrate nature. Wandering through space is both a beautiful and humbling experience.
A more modern exhibit is The Four Elements by Leigh-Li-Yun Wen.” The paintings in the main exhibition hall are large, bold, and bright. They focus on the elements of earth, air, fire, and water. Where Hudson River painters found inspiration, this vibrant exhibition empowers the specific.
There is also the Tang Teaching Museum on Skidmore College’s Saratoga Springs campus. As an educational museum, the Tang has a wonderful opportunity to combine art with learning, often through science. For example, Radical Fiber: Thread Connecting Art and Science is a celebration of interdisciplinary creativity and collaborative learning. Don’t think the exhibition is too cerebral.
It uses simple examples of connecting a crochet hook to explain non-Euclidean geometry and connects the 1804 Jacquard loom with modern computer technology.
In the same way, “Opener 34: Ruby Sky Stiler – New Patterns” combines historical styles of painting and sculpture with a universal beauty. Her imagery transcends temporal and spatial relationships to make art history deeply personal and thought-provokingly beautiful.
There are many other experiences throughout the museum that will change the way you look at art.
The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls is an important museum with a worthy permanent exhibition. An enrichment of the art, which includes works by Picasso, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, Homer and other masters, is that it is displayed in the former home of the Hyde family. It’s a welcoming atmosphere that makes art seem accessible.
The Hyde’s newer gallery houses the painting ‘Georgia O’Keefe: Pattern of Leaves’. With some artifacts, it captures the genius of O’Keefe over the several years she spent summers at Lake George.
Another exhibition, Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking, honors Blackburn, an African American born in 1920. He was an important figure in the development of printmaking. This exhibition examines his life and the artists he worked with.
If these great local museums aren’t enough to satisfy you, there are world-class museums like the Clark in Williamstown, MA and the Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA. Each is a nearby drive to the Berkshires.
If you’re planning on visiting any of these museums, be sure to call ahead or check their website for hours and hours, as well as COVID protocols.