Dorsky Museum Unveils Homage to Woodstock’s Art History

Many incredible pieces can be seen in the “Historic Woodstock Art Colony” exhibition, including works made from pastels, paint and crayon. Photo Courtesy: Samantha Salerno

Woodstock is widely known for music, but not many people know about the plethora of talented artists that inhabited this area for more than 100 years.

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art — located adjacent to the Smiley Art Building — features 9,000 square feet of exhibition space among the six galleries. Having the luxury of a fully functioning art gallery right on campus, entering the space will immerse you with calmness, tranquil music and thought-provoking art pieces. 

The museum features around 8-10 different exhibitions throughout the year, and the newest release is titled “The Historic Woodstock Art Colony: The Arthur A. Anderson Collection.” Open to the public from Feb. 4 until July 23, the exhibition features pieces curated by Karen Quinn, curator at the New York State Museum in Albany. This particular collection was previously on display at the New York State Museum from November 2018 until December 2019.

Arthur A. Anderson, a collector, donated his entire collection to the New York State Museum; he is also a member of the Dorsky Museum Advisory Board. 

Prior to its popularity and association with the music scene, Woodstock consisted of a year-round arts colony, which was founded in 1902 and is still active more than 100 years later. The artists emphasized diversity and uniqueness, which is apparent in their works. 

The pieces, in accordance with the theme of the Historic Woodstock Art Colony, were carefully picked for this exhibition, providing audiences with a sample of the highlights of the collection as a whole. Pieces dating back to 1900 can be seen on display in a slew of different mediums of art. From different art colonies to modernism to works from the 1930s and beyond, a timeline of life can be seen in this art, making it a very special experience. This specific exhibition has been divided into thematic elements, which were then dispersed accordingly throughout the galleries. The responsibility of this task falls on Karlyn Benson, Interim Curator and Exhibitions Manager at the Dorsky Museum, in partnership with Preparator Bob Wagner. 

According to a press release on the Dorsky website, “The Woodstock story begins when the artists’ colony called Byrdcliffe was established in 1902, focusing on the Arts and Crafts movement.” 

There’s so much to see within the high ceilings and carefully crafted wood floors. Benches are available within each exhibition to allow for visitors to soak in the art they’re reflecting on. 

A particular piece that struck me on my visit to the museum was a piece titled “Woman in Black Hat With Cigarette,” by artist Winold Reiss. The work is done as pastel on paper, which allows for the background to fade in a subtle manner, as the main subject is seen in bright contrasting colors. Created in 1917, Reiss’ piece is involved with the themed “Modernism in Woodstock” portion of the exhibition. 

“The Dorsky is special because of its connection to the community and because of the wide range of exhibitions on view at the Museum,” Benson shared. “The Dorsky Museum features historic exhibitions as well as artwork by living contemporary artists. In addition, the Museum has a permanent collection of around 7,000 objects.”

The exhibition additionally features in depth details about Bolton Brown’s works with lithography. Lithography can be defined as “a planographic printmaking process in which a design is drawn onto a flat stone and affixed by means of a chemical reaction.” Bolton conducted this process with different types of plant life and other objects. This careful artform allows images to be transferred with the use of chemicals. A step by step visual of this process is available for viewing within a display at the museum. Within a glass case lies a stone slab with imprinting on it, followed by the final product printed on a piece of thick paper. 

“There is another exhibition that accompanies ‘The Historic Woodstock Art Colony: The Arthur A. Anderson Collection,’ titled ‘Be Who You Are: Portraits of Woodstock Artists’ by Harriet Tannin,” Benson remarked. “The exhibition is curated by Wayne Lempka, Art Collections Manager at The Dorsky Museum and it features photographs of artists in Woodstock from the 1980s from The Dorsky’s collection. The exhibition is on view in the Seminar Room gallery adjacent to ‘The Historic Woodstock Colony’ show.”

This particular exhibition will be on display until July 23. If you’re unable to attend the showcase in person, the Dorsky Museum offers a virtual version of each exhibition available on their website. 

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About Samantha Salerno 81 Articles
Samantha (Sam) Salerno is a third-year performing arts major who has a passion for writing. This is her third semester on The Oracle. She spent the majority of her summer working for the publication, Fire Island News. You can reach her by emailing