With a Little Help From Our Friends: Olana’s National Advisory Committee

by Melanie Hasbrook

By Sean Sawyer, Washburn and Susan Oberwager President

Members of The Olana Partnership Board and National Advisory Committee gather for lunch on Olana’s Ridge Road in May 2015.

It’s great to have good friends, especially when they are brilliant, worldly, and well-placed AND willing to share their experience and expertise freely. Olana has just such a group of allies in our National Advisory Committee (NAC), who are listed below. This is an estimable assembly of national leaders in the fields of American art (art history and contemporary artists), history, historic preservation, decorative arts, and landscape design and history. NAC members constitute a standing advisory group to which The Partnership can turn for advice on a wide range of matters, both individually and as a group.

For instance, since starting as TOP’s President last May, I’ve discussed preservation and viewshed stewardship issues with Wint Aldrich, Bonnie Burnham, and George McDaniel, who is a national leader in “whole place preservation,” a fundamental concept for Olana. I’ve sought advice on exhibition development and museum operations from Betsy Broun, Barry Harwood, Frank Kelly, and Laurie Norton Moffatt. Stephen Hannock was the Co-Curator of last year’s River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home exhibition, and Valerie Hegarty’s Picnic with Downy Woodpecker and Table and Chair with Pileated Woodpecker were featured works at Olana; both artists are central to our engagement with contemporary art. David Schuyler has led the way in celebrating Olana’s 50th anniversary by writing an essay that documents Olana’s remarkable, nationally-significant preservation story and will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Hudson River Valley Review. Moreover, David constantly advances Olana as a focus of both research and philanthropy, as do many of his NAC colleagues.

As a group, the NAC holds an Annual Meeting focused on discussing issues of larger significance for the direction of our work. This year’s meeting took place last month and concentrated on how the revitalization of Olana’s historic farm complex could enhance and expand TOP’s mission. It was a wide-ranging discussion from which individual conversations are continuing, and I will be visiting Leslie Bowman at Monticello and Alec Webb at Shelburne Farms in the near future to see their historic farms first-hand.

TOP’s work to preserve and interpret Olana in partnership with NYS Parks has many elements, and I am extremely grateful and fortunate to have such a great group of wise friends to help guide our work and to learn from.

National Advisory Committee Members
J. Winthrop Aldrich, Former NY State Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation
Leslie Greene Bowman, President & Chief Executive of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Elizabeth Broun, Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Bonnie Burnham, President Emerita of World Monuments Fund
Linda S. Ferber, Senior Art Historian and Museum Director Emerita at the New-York Historical Society
Stephen Hannock, Artist
Barry R. Harwood, Curator of Decorative Arts at The Brooklyn Museum
Inge Heckel, Former President of the New York School of Interior Design
Valerie Hegarty, Artist
Franklin Kelly, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the National Gallery of Art
George McDaniel, President Emeritus of Drayton Hall
Laurie Norton Moffatt, Director/CEO of the Norman Rockwell Museum
Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, President of the Foundation for Landscape Studies
David Schuyler, Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of Humanities and American Studies at Franklin & Marshall College
Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Curator of American Art, Emeritus, Harvard Art Museums
Elliot S. Vesell, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology, and Professor of Medicine
Alec Webb, President of Shelburne Farms