The Olana Partnership will soon mark its 50th season, and it’s celebrating with the Frederic E. Church Award Gala on November 17 at The Metropolitan Club in New York. The evening will recognize a number of honorees for their achievement in American art, culture and landscape design and environmental conservation. Recently installed Olana Partnership president Sean E. Sawyer answered EAL’s questions about this year’s honorees and told us what’s next on the horizon for the Partnership.
Sean E. Sawyer
Tell us about this year's honorees. Why were they selected?
This year’s recipients of the Frederic E. Church Award have all made outstanding contributions in fields of endeavor tied to Church, Olana’s creator, and have been selected to represent the breadth of Olana’s story, past, present, and future, as we launch our 50th-anniversary season.
As a young attorney at Milbank Tweed, Jim Hamilton established Olana Preservation, Inc., the forerunner of The Olana Partnership, in 1965. His legal work was crucial to the success of the public-private effort that saved Olana from destruction and preserved it as a historic site in 1966.
Martin Puryear and Professor Jason Rosenfeld are central figures in Olana’s current acclaimed exhibition, “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home.” Puryear’s sculpture "Question" is the centerpiece of the exhibition, installed in Olana’s Court Hall. He has been recognized as one of America’s foremost living artists, receiving the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama. Rosenfeld is co-curator of “River Crossings” and editor of the companion book. He has organized major international exhibitions, including “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde” at Tate Britain. Rosenfeld is one of only five faculty members to be awarded the title Distinguished Chair at Marymount Manhattan College.
Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky is one of the greatest champions of wildlife and the environment today and, specifically, of the New York State Parks system. In her role as chair of the NYS Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Dr. Waletzky provides crucial support for Olana’s ongoing restoration, conservation and interpretation as a public property. She is also chair of the Taconic Region Parks Commission, which includes Olana.
Finally, The Olana Partnership will honor its long-standing partnership with New York State by recognizing Governor Andrew Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020: A Vision for Transforming NY Parks. This plan provides a multiyear commitment to leverage $900 million in public and private funding for state parks from 2012 to 2020. Governor Cuomo is committed to “making comprehensive investments in the state’s most popular flagship parks, including Olana, to ensure they remain relevant throughout the 21st century.”
What are you most looking forward to as Olana enters its 51st year?
The next 50 years, of course! The Olana Partnership is celebrating Olana’s 50th by moving forward with the restoration of the remaining elements of this National Historic Landmark, particularly Church’s historic farm complex. The farm will become a center for programming at the intersection of art and nature.
Is there new programming scheduled for the coming year?
In 2016, Olana’s exhibitions and programs will celebrate Frederic Church as an explorer-artist and invite visitors to embark on their own explorations of Olana’s restored picturesque landscape. In the main house, the exhibition will present Church’s global explorations, along with rarely seen paintings and objects, including his traveling painting gear, and we will re-create his innovative 1859 installation of his masterpiece, “The Heart of the Andes,” in all its velvet-draped splendor. In the landscape, visitors will have a range of opportunities to walk and ride along the network of carriage roads designed by Church and enjoy the great variety of views that he crafted and that The Olana Partnership has worked to restore and protect over the past 50 years.