One of the things I love best about Central New York is the abundance of artistic energy. You can find galleries, museums and sculpture gardens within a short drive from home. Recently on a brilliantly sunny May day, we went over to Stone Quarry Hill Art Park near Cazenovia, NY, and I came away with some thoughts to share with you.
1) Sculpture is especially beautiful outdoors.
Seeing the pieces set amid the hills, trees and wildflowers made them into ever-changing works of art. Now I’ve seen them in the spring, but when I go back in the fall it will be an entirely different experience. It was intriguing to me to walk around the pieces and see them in different surroundings and angles. This way with the forest behind them… That way with the valley view beyond… You don’t get that in a museum with four white walls.
2) Whatever you create will trigger different responses in various people, so just create.
There’s a grass and dirt trail at the Art Park that winds it’s way down through the forest. Walking along, I was delighted by artistic surprises: a horse, funny faces, a tree trunk sparkling with colorful tiles. And along the path, nailed to some of the trees, were discs each with a strong single-syllable word painted on it. When I saw them, my mind conjured up a memory of journalism school at Syracuse U and my professor advising us to use solid, short, Anglo-Saxon words, like the ones on the discs. But when my teenage daughter caught up with me later on, she said, “Did you see those creepy word things on the trees? What was that about?” People will respond to whatever you create in different ways, just because they have different memories tucked away in their heads. And that’s OK. They can react their way, and you can create your way. (By the way, my daughter loves art and the Art Park. She just had that particular reaction to one thing.)
3) Stay a little longer after you think you’re done.
That’s when the best things happen. We were just about to head out, when Stephen Brucker, Visitor Services and Site Promotion Coordinator, happened by and offered to give us a tour of the house which was built by Dorothy and Bob Riester, founders of the Art Park. The house is one of Dorothy’s finest masterpieces. She made almost everything in it from the beehive fireplace to a sand wall, and designed the place with plenty of windows to feature the beautiful natural surroundings.
4) Do your research and believe in what you know.
Stephen shared many inspiring stories about Dorothy’s determined and creative personality. As we stepped into a lovely room lined with shelves full of small sculptures and books, he told us about the remarkable way it came to be there. Dorothy had read, researched and built models of the room with the vaulted ceiling and was determined to have it built. The only problem was no architect believed the design would actually work. But Dorothy believed. She insisted it should be built her way, and she hired people to do it. On the day it was finished the architect directed the last piece of scaffolding to be removed and he ran clear, sure the roof would fall in. But Dorothy stood right under it. I can just imagine the glint of amused determination in her eyes at that moment. Needless to say, the roof didn’t move, and it’s still there today, 40 years later.
5) It’s never too late to create.
Dorothy celebrated her 99th birthday in November 2015 and she’s still making art.
6) An artist can draw beauty from anything.
Dorothy had specialized in welding metal into sculpture earlier in life, but due to her age and some health conditions, she’s working with cereal boxes and toilet paper tubes now. Do you have doubts? You can see some of her recent pieces in this video on Syracuse.com.
7) Patience may be somewhat over-rated.
According to the stories Stephen told us, Dorothy freely admitted that she was not a patient person. When she got an idea, she wanted to get busy doing it. And look how much she has to show for her life now. She created a place of peace and beauty that many generations will be able to enjoy. She founded a center where artists can be supported in their work. She made sculptures and murals that bring delight to many people. I think I’m going give up being patient. How about you?
I highly recommend a trip to Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in any season. It’s open every day dawn to dusk – and dogs are welcome!