Extending Olana’s relationships into downtown Hudson

by Melanie Hasbrook

Amy Hufnagel, Director of Education

“It feels like the artists, both the teachers and the students, are at Olana again.”
— Laurie Anderson Moserman, attendee, Deep Air Lecture Series in March

As a new addition to The Olana Partnership team last spring, I was charged to extend Olana’s relationships into downtown Hudson and with local schools. This goal was linked to the desire to strengthen Olana’s education programs through strategic constituency building and in turn increase audiences.

After nearly a year, we have made significant progress toward these goals. We have increased overall visits to the site by 3.8 percent, while tripling our student visitors. In the prior year 463 students visited, and in my first full year 1,420 students will visit. Olana now has an Education tab on its website, and we have re-designed the field trip model to keep students on-site for the whole school day rather than only coming for a 40 minute house tour. So, while we have increased the number of students, we have also increased the depth of the content delivered, improved relationships with local schools, and created a new income stream to support our broader educational work. All the statistics are marvelously positive; but when I am in the field doing the work, I am most excited by the fact that being at Olana makes young people happy, inspired and expands their sense of seeing “place.” This is the first step in youth gaining a lifelong understanding of the value of culture and preservation; getting young people to fall in love with Olana is the best way to create the site’s future stewards and patrons.

Using the same method where good content leads to increased audiences, TOP’s Education staff is forging a number of new partnerships with businesses and non-profit organizations in Hudson and the Valley (while also maintaining dozens of current partnerships).

One example is our work with Columbia Memorial Hospital and a project to use Olana’s landscape to encourage health and wellness, and specifically preventative medicine awareness. Starting this fall, we will host a series of hikes called Pathways to Prevention. These hikes will be after work, one Wednesday a month, and will be led by doctors. Hikers will receive advice, and can ask questions about how to exercise for maximum impact and minimal harm, or how to properly recover from injuries or incidents. We are certainly excited that Olana can be a part of healthy solutions within Hudson.

The Olana Partnership is also supporting the work of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation by hosting a 3 day conference for teachers in the Wagon House Education Center. Twenty participating teachers will explore arts education models (national in scope), and they will also use Olana as a model for practicing curriculum integration. This is a partnership that is helpful for funders, teachers, students, and Olana while also supporting the Common Core Curriculum goals of NY State Department of Education.

Finally, in addition to dozens of public programs like music and film on the lawn, art making workshops and week-long summer programs for kids, we are launching two new programs as part of River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home (our May-November exhibition); each program builds new constituencies and partnerships while also providing educational AND entertaining public experiences. The first program is Artists on Art Tours, every Saturday at 11am (June-Oct); these are tours led by Hudson River Region working contemporary artists who will give very different tours than the traditional docent tour.

The second program, the Mystery Box: Student Artists at Work, turns the Coachman’s House Gallery into an experimental workspace for recent BA recipients from Bard College. The students will be working every weekend this summer- using an archival box full of materials relating to Olana- and specifically the topics of trees, art, and tourism- as the departure point for their creative work. Every aspect of this project is educational from Bard, to TOP, to visitors! There are so many reasons to visit Olana this season, so help us by being one of many “word of mouth media outlets” and visit soon!