Oneida County for Art Lovers
By Michele DeBella
Taking a tour of Sculpture Space means watching works of art unfold. The artist space, located in the former Utica Steam Engine & Boiler Works building, is a hive of creative activity. Sculptures at various stages of completion take up much of the cavernous space, with artists-in-residence close at hand working on their creations.
For more than forty years, Sculpture Space, located at 12 Gates Street in Utica, has awarded residencies to sculptors from around the world. Only 20 of approximately 300 applicants are selected each year. Residencies include housing, and artists stay for two months at a time.
Artists-in-residence also have access to Sculpture Space’s industrial equipment, such as a sand blaster, a table saw, welding tools, and even a crane. Having a variety of tools available to them encourages artists to experiment and flourish.
According to Studio Manager George Hendrickson, if they’re not limited to certain tools or confined to small spaces, the artists can explore more freely. “Their ideas can be expressed larger,” he said.
For art lovers who are interested in viewing the sculptors’ projects, Hendrickson recommends attending a Works in Progress Reception, a quarterly event at Sculpture Space that’s free and open to the public. Visitors can even meet the artists-in-residence. Studio tours are also available to the public. Contact the office to arrange a tour at 315-724-8381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Griffiss International Sculpture Garden
If you’re impressed by the art-in-progress at Sculpture Space, then the Griffiss International Sculpture Garden is a must-stop on your art itinerary. This is where you’ll see the fruits of labor, where art projects created by alumni of Sculpture Space are displayed. A number of permanent, large-scale pieces are now installed in the Sculpture Garden, which is located in the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome.
Walking the grounds of the garden is a pleasant experience in itself. The paved pathways meander into wooded areas and are lined with crabapple trees, blueberry bushes, and pretty gardens. Now add to that imposing works of art rising out of the landscape, like the bright orange Pagoda Pavilion by Jonathan Kirk, the welded steel and rock Contemplating Sisyphus by Katrina Isaksson, or Persephone by Howard Kalish, which is made of steel and aluminum and looks like a tree of exploding flames in colors of red, orange, and yellow. Large, colorful sculptures jutting out of the relatively flat landscape provide a dramatic and interesting contrast. See here for a map and description of the pieces.
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute
This museum of fine arts should be the cornerstone of any art-lover’s itinerary in Oneida County. Located in Utica, it houses collections of textiles, sculptures, paintings, furniture, stoneware, and more. When the museum was founded in 1919, it originally contained art that was primarily acquired by the Williams and Proctor families. Since then, the collection has expanded greatly; however, all of the works sill reflects the artistic taste of the family. Visitors can expect to view extensive collections of American and European art, as well as Asian art and artifacts dating as far back as the 16th century.
As part of your museum visit, don’t miss Fountain Elms, the elegant Italianate mansion that Helen Munson Williams and James Watson Williams built in 1850, and where they raised their daughters. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to view period rooms furnished as they were back then, see oil paintings of the family members, and view the family’s personal collection of decorative arts.
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute also offers a wonderful line-up of special events, including movies, live music, gallery talks, yoga classes, and more. Finally, the museum is known for its world-class special exhibitions; for example, Kimono! The Artistry of Itchiku Kubota is on view now until September 16, 2018. MWPAI is the only museum in the United States that will exhibit this collection of stunning handcrafted kimono.
In addition to these renowned art venues, Oneida County is home to colleges with notable art galleries, including Barrett Art Gallery at Utica College, and the Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College.