Some areas are ripe with art environments. I’ve already mentioned in previous posts that Wisconsin, the California desert and Kansas all have a sizable population of known, established art environments. Keep in mind that four or five art environments over a 200 mile range is a veritable bonanza. Many states, including Nebraska, Utah, Idaho and Kentucky have only one or two existing, documented, environments in the whole state. Of course, there may be a few more lurking about, just not well documented. This is why it is so exciting that in just over 100 miles, as the crow flies, in New York State, there are at least six art environments in small communities neighboring the Hudson River. It is really beyond me why there are so many environments in such a small area of the New York countryside.
The Hudson River runs through Eastern New York, roughly from the Adirondack Mountains down to NYC. If you start in the big apple and head north, you hit one small town after another and the area is really breathtakingly beautiful. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by quaintness, fudge shops and trees. This trail would make for a killer one or two day road trip from either NYC or the New England area. If you turn this into a trail and hit all six sites, you will cross the Hudson a few times and the majority of the drive is on curvy country roads, off the interstate, so you really get a great view of the surroundings.
I plan to go into more detail for each environment at some point and pinpointing other cool stops along the way, but for now here is the short of it, starting in the south and heading north.
Located roughly 40 miles north of Manhattan, you find Easter Island on the Hudson. As the name implies this environment butts up right to the Hudson river and like its namesake in the Pacific, it is chock full of giant stone heads. This site was created by Ted Ludwiczak (born in Poland in 1927). His front and back yard are swimming with faces carved into large boulders. This is private property and not a museum or tourist attraction. Be respectful. We knocked and Ludwiczak was super friendly and gave us permission to wander around his yard.
65 miles northeast of Haverstraw, crossing the mighty Hudson, you will find Wing’s Castle.
A terrific homemade castle built by Peter Wing and his family. Sadly, Peter Wing passed away in 2014; however, his wife and son are still working on the castle. They offer tours of the place seasonally and also run it as a bed and breakfast.
Check their website for hours.
The next two sites are about 45 minutes away, nearish to the town of Woodstock. A little trivia for ya – the famous Woodstock hippie-sex-fest was not actually located in Woodstock, but was 45 miles away in Bethel, NY. This does not mean that you will not see old people wearing colorful wizard garb wandering the streets of downtown Woodstock – plan accordingly.
Opus 40 – 50 Fite Rd, Saugerties, NY
Opus 40 was built over a 37-year period by artist Harvey Fites starting in 1939. This place is incredible and has quickly found a spot on my top ten art environment list. It falls somewhere between folk art environment and land-art/ earthwork (basically, it is a little “artsier” than the typical environment). It is not made up of a bunch of little sculptures, but is really just one super giant, understated sculpture that you can walk on. This place is not to be missed, it is really like nothing else. Opus 40 operates as a museum, with posted hours, gift shop and admission fees. They do close for the winter, so check their website for the latest times.
About 20 minutes west of Opus 40, you find Steve Heller’s Fabulous Furniture, a furniture store with a gaggle of whimsical sculptures made out of welded reclaimed materials out front. Heller’s sculptures include robots and giant strange vehicles. The store is open 9-5, but you can easily see all the statues on the front lawn anytime during daylight hours. We happened by early in the morning before they opened. Check out their website.
About a one hour drive northeast of Opus 40 you cross the Hudson again and make your way to Stever Hill Road in Spencertown. At the end of a dirt road is the residence of artist Roy Kanwit, who has covered the front yard and hilly side of his property with some really terrific and strange sculptures made out of marble and cement. The site is open on weekends seasonally and is located on private property. This place is a little tricky to find so make sure to use the google map at the bottom of this page to help plot out a path.
Only a ten-minute drive from the Taconic Sculpture Park you will find Bijan Mahmoodi’s Circle Museum. Mahmoodi has slowly been filling up his property over 25 years with welded abstract sculptures. Technically open year round, if the gate is open during day light hours you can venture inside. There is a donation box by the gate and if he is around Mahmoodi may invite you into his studio to see his paintings.
All in all, this is a cool art trail through the New York countryside. I have just covered the art environments in the area and have not even begun to detail all the other interesting museums and old, dead rich people mansions/castles, that you can explore in the area.
Go buy a new car, you have a lot of driving to do.