“Around Town With Amy Modesti”: Art Omi
Written by Amy Modesti on June 16, 2020
There is something about the combination of outdoor art and nature that is calming and peaceful to one’s soul. To spend your day walking through high field grass and tiptoeing through the forest to take in the beauty of outdoor art is a beautiful adventure. Art, in times of stress, turmoil, and chaos in a challenging and changing world, is powerful in its ability to connect and make a powerful statement with its viewer through text, symbolism, overall message, and physical appearance. My time visiting Art Omi in late May was amazing, inspiring, and very much needed for my body, soul, and art fix.
My first time at Art Omi was in Fall 2009. I was completing my final semester at H.V.C.C. as a Fine Arts major. My class assignment for my Intro to Gallery Management class was to go to Art Omi to view sculptures and write an assessment about an outdoor sculpture that captured my interest. My dad and I spent our day walking around Art Omi in the rain, viewing these sculptures as I took notes about a Vincent Mazeau sculpture made out of stone, cement, a small frosted table, and a chandelier hanging from stone walls. Who knew at the time that eleven years later, I would return to Art Omi, and this time, under a global pandemic?
I deeply miss being around art and being involved in anything that is musical and creative since mid-March. The corona virus has put a halt to viewing art in museums, art galleries, historical buildings, and other cultural attractions. Live music and the arts are slated to return to the “new normal” in phase four. I also miss traveling. I miss travelling to new places I never visited or have not been to in forever. It is not the same. Not having these cultural things in my life, at this moment, leaves me feeling depressed. When my friend asked me to meet with them on Memorial Day to celebrate their birthday at Art Omi, I accepted their offer. I am glad I did that. It had re-awakened me out of the slump that I have been in these past few months. It got me out of the house, and I became re-inspired by art.
Art Omi, located in Ghent, NY (Columbia County), is a contemporary non-for-profit sculpture and architecture park spread over 120 acres of land. Art Omi hosted more than 2,000 artists from over 100 countries, ranging from artists, writers, musicians, and dancers. Over sixty works of art and architecture are currently on view in The Fields Sculpture Park, the Newmark Gallery, the Charles B. Benenson Visitors Center, and galleries, and through The Art Omi: Architecture Residency program. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk and is free and open to the public.
Art Omi was founded by Francis Greenberger, a real estate investor, entrepreneur, literary agent, and art enthusiast. Greenberger wanted to be connected to the artists and the art that he enjoyed experiencing. Through his love of art and owning his father’s literary agency, Greenberger founded the Ledig House residency for writers and translators, and later on through the encouragement of his wife, Judy Willows, founded Music Omi, a residency for music and dance. Soon enough, The Fields Sculpture and Architecture Park came into fruition.
Besides its residency programs, Art Omi features a series of educational programs for children and adults. Due to COVID-19, the summer camps offered to young children are held online and the children can work on art projects at home. The exception to those programs is the Plein Air Painting Society, an outdoor painting activity slated to take place at The Fields Sculpture and Architecture Park from July 13-24,2020. Painters and instructors taking part in the class must wear a mask and adhere to staying 6ft apart from one another. More info about their educational programs, residencies, and events can be found on Art Omi’s website.
Although the Charles B. Benenson Visitor’s Center and its galleries are closed to the public, Art Omi is open. Please be advised that to view the sculptures, you must stay at least 6’ or more from other visitors, wear a face mask in the parking lot and when you pass other visitors on a trail, avoid touching signage and sculptures, don’t share other outdoor items with other visitors, and all groups must be limited to a household. General parking is also limited on site. Visitors can park alongside the traffic circle and a small fenced in area for additional parking. If the parking lot is full, then visitors can return to Art Omi another time.
My second visit to Art Omi was fantastic! It was a beautiful, but muggy, Memorial Day to spend some quality time with my friend while viewing amazing sculptures. I spent my day walking through the sculpture fields, the forest, the Sculpture Court, and the swamp. Since my last visit, a few sculptures I recognized were present. The remaining sculptures were unfamiliar, yet, captivating.
The sculptures were captivating. A few pieces caught my eye and brought about a sense of peace and calmness that I genuinely needed. I became friends with a giant deer outside the Charles B. Benenson Visitor’s Center. I took a tour through Rob Fischer’s “Omi Pond House” (2006, steel and glass) near the swamp. It was a cool experience to explore this unique glass house. Inside the structure was a wired chair, a thin glass table, and a bed that a visitor can sleep on. Visitors who enter the structure can view the swamp at all angles through colorful glass windows. “Omi Pond House” is colorful and vibrant and its creative structure is unique and cool to view in person.
Matthew Geller’s “Babble, Pummel & Pride, II” (2019, Glass, Corten & Stainless Steel, Wood, Water, Pump, and Aircraft Cable) made me feel at peace and calm. To have one moment to sit on a wooden swing, hear the water from the swamp flow to the top of the glass roof like falling rain, and feel the soft mist hit against my face made me feel at peace, like time had frozen still. It took me back to the Quackenkill Creek, hearing the water flow down the stream as I take in nature’s full beauty. Sitting on Geller’s installation and being at Art Omi was refreshing & relaxing. It felt good to travel to Columbia County to get away from the business of things and be away from the stress and anxiety that has been plaguing me and many others out there in the world for just one moment. Having that time at “Babble, Pummel & Pride II” to myself was just what I need. Being surrounded by great art and going back out on an adventure helped get me begin to get out of the funk that I have been in since this pandemic began.
Art has a way of diving into our souls and helping us heal during the most tragic & stressful moments. It allows us to escape to another world, another place where we can feel at ease and peace with ourselves within our surroundings. My time at Art Omi was uplifting. Just being immersed in nature and being around art again brightened my day and brought a spark back into my life that needed to be re-generated.
Thank you, Art Omi, for keeping your doors open during this global pandemic and for helping to keep the local, national, and international arts alive in the Capital Region. Thank you, Art Omi, for helping me rejuvenate my love for the arts, and for sculpture art once again. To show your support for Art Omi or plan your next visit, head over to https://artomi.org/ for more information.