An Educator’s Perspective: First-Order Logic

by Melanie Hasbrook

Written by A. Hufnagel, Director of Education

The Olana Partnership’s Education Department spent January and February in research, planning, partner building, fundraising, reading, and training mode. We also use the winter months to review and evaluate last year’s programs, our systems that support the public events, and resources and staff capacity. What emerges from looking backward and forward at the same time is that we try to create better systems of working while also launching new ideas and programs. The result is an even stronger weave of shared purpose and, in turn, honed content and audience impact. TOP staff, like Frederic Church, spend their winter downtime planning for the next big thing and it is in this planning that we work toward the best possible panoramic view of Olana.

It is hard to select a few tours or programs as “highlights” because we design and conceptualize the educational programs as an organism, an eco-system, serving a range of different audiences and institutional goals all interrelating for the site’s success. We see our programs just as Church saw his house and landscape- inseparable from one another with no part more important than the other. It is the sum of the parts that illustrates Church’s brilliance. To this end, I decided to filter this year’s public programs through the lens of all the “first ever” programs in place for 2018.

On April 28th at 4pm the first public program of the Spring season launches to set the stage for this year’s exhibition and overarching themes that relate to Church and the Middle East. Travelling Talks: Justyna Badach and the Land of Epic Battles shares Middle Eastern and USA landscapes/scenes in the geo-political time that spans from 19th Century Church through to now. Her illustrated talk presents both her American landscape works (pulled from early color Western films) and a new series of large, hand-made dichromate photographic prints of landscapes, made using film stills from ISIS training videos; the photographic prints use gunpowder as a pigment. Badach’s work feels both contemporary and historic at the same time. She is a Philadelphia-based artist, educator, and museum professional whose work is in numerous museum and collections. Tea & cake served. Meet at the Wagon House Education Center. Cost is Members: $5; Non-Member $10; Ages 15 and Up.

On May 2, at 3:30PM TOP launches a ALL NEW bi-monthly free tour option for people with early onset Dementia & Alzheimer’s and their caregivers called Gray Matters: Connecting Dementia & Alzheimer’s to Olana. This once a month program will be outside in Frederic Church’s artist-designed landscape; participants will be driven on the historic carriage roads in an electric carriage. The second program each month will take place inside the Persian-style Main House. Participants are welcome to join us at 3:30 for tea and cake in the Visitor Center before the program begins. The Olana Partnership is collaborating with Albany Medical Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease who is also sponsoring this program. These tours repeat twice a month throughout the 2018 season. Please make advanced reservations as this program is limited to 10 people.

In mid-May TOP will, for the first time, install honey bee colonies as we take another small step toward shoring up our landscape (and preparing a few years ahead of the kitchen garden restoration) with partner and local holistic biodynamic apiary NY Buzz. NY Buzz is helping install a new colony of bees onsite, near the farm and old orchard. Nancy Wu Houk is caring for the bees and the environment at Olana as part of this program. She says “Olana is an ideal and pristine environment. For so many visitors, Olana is all about the stunning view and the stewardship of the unspoiled natural landscape. But this landscape’s health is much more complicated and interconnected than what you see at first glance; this project is about supporting and understanding a much bigger idea of the ecosystem of this place. Church cared about farm production and ecological issues- he understood the idea of human’s place and interconnectedness with land, water and air.” Ms. Wu Houk raises her honey bees on clean forage without pesticide to provide the most delicious raw honey possible. Her product is available at TOP’s Museum Store and she will be doing programs at Olana throughout the season. Stop in and respectfully introduce yourself to our new and important bee colony, and certainly leave with honey from the Museum Store for your tea or toast!

On Saturday May 26, TOP launches another first ever with OLANA’s Facebook Book Club. If you are on Facebook, and like Olana’s online content, join Olana’s dynamic, interactive, virtual book club. TOP will launch this online book club, including occasional online appearances from the author and TOP educators, with the newly published book Embattled River: The Hudson and Modern American Environmentalism, by David Schuyler. Embattled River describes the efforts to reverse the pollution and bleak future of the Hudson River that became evident in the 1950s. Through his investigative narrative, Schuyler uncovers the critical role of this iconic American waterway in the emergence of modern environmentalism in the United States. Order your copy through the Olana Museum Store (To order your book in advance click here: link). Like Olana State Historic Site’s Facebook page to find the interactive group titled: OLANA’s BOOK CLUB. This program is free and anyone can participate.

On Saturday, July 14 (through December 1) we encourage visitors to be the first ever to see The Wander Society’s Adventure Lab in the Landscape (situated near Church’s old studio location). The Wander Society is a secretive underground organization who believes in the intrinsic power of wandering to transcend the problems of modern society, access a higher plane of consciousness, and participate in direct experiences of life. The Wander Society’s Adventure Lab, is a tent and platform that functions as a secret portal into the operations and activities of the underground organization. Designed as a space to facilitate exploration, the lab is complete with various wandering tools, images, a random assignment machine, and a wandering library. Why a tent at Olana you ask? In the 1860s when the Churches were travelling in the Middle East, Isabel Church said she “loved the tent life” while they were travelling in remote areas by caravan. They also tented in the Adirondacks, Maine, and on many of Church’s remote painting expeditions. The family’s library is filled with tales from adventurers, travel books, and particularly William Prime’s Tent Life in the Holy Land. Installed in parallel with this season’s exhibition, conceptual artist and NYT’s best-selling author Keri Smith created the Adventure Lab and in turn pays homage to the tent and adventuring from the Church’s 19th century experiences, while layering the past with contemporary participatory adventures for visitors to Olana. Designed for all ages, free and open 8:30am to sunset daily.

If individuals and families become a Members of The Olana Partnership as the touring and education season starts, you will save all season long receiving free house and landscape tours, public program fee savings, and significant discounts on purchases at the Museum Store. You will also receive special event invitations to member-only occasions like our Member’s Mimosas and Hard Hat event on April 22, in which we will sip a cocktail while seeing the current construction developments at Olana. Membership now makes the next 12 months at Olana affordable while also showing your support for OLANA’s innovation. Visit the website today to sign up, or give our Membership Coordinator Holly Kelly, 518-828-1872 ext. 102, a call now for more details.

JOIN THE FIRSTS in 2018 but also don’t ignore all the programs that are continuing this season due to their popularity. TOP will continue our Historic Landscape and special interest landscape tours, Tom Lee’s Free Family Storytelling and Questions Tour, a third iteration of Artist on Art Tours, and the ever-popular Tasty History Series. Programs through July are now live, click here.