SUNY breaks ground for new Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art

NEW PALTZ — The State University of New York at New Paltz broke ground today for the construction of a new $2.4 million art museum, named for the man who gave the lead gift and has donated and loaned numerous works of art to the College since the mid-eighties. Construction on the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art is expected to begin immediately, and to be completed in the fall of 1999.

“The new museum, though modest in size, has immense presence,” said Neil Trager, director of the museum. “The scale of the facility is impressive, and its location in the center of the campus will allow it to serve as a symbolic gateway to the College,” said Trager. He also noted that the new exhibition space addresses the Museum’s program and mission extremely well.

“We are indebted to the late Samuel Dorsky for the generosity and vision that has enabled this unique and successful collaboration to go forward,” said SUNY New Paltz President Roger Bowen. “Not only are we able to construct a magnificent centerpiece for our campus, but with it we continue our long lasting partnership with the Hudson Valley.”

Samuel Dorsky, a self-made millionaire, was the son of Russian immigrants. At the age of 15 he went to work in his father’s sweater business and ultimately founded his own apparel company, financing it with $500 he collected from his wedding gifts. He built a business which survives to this day as Garan, Inc., a publicly owned clothing company.

Samuel Dorsky was introduced to the world of art in the early 1960s, and he took to it with enthusiasm. He soon opened his own gallery in New York City and used it as a vehicle to showcase modern masters and champion emerging artists.

Dorsky’s relationship with the College Art Gallery started in the mid-1980s when he began to loan the College works of art on a regular basis. Eventually he made gifts of a number of paintings, drawings, and photographs by such artists as Walter Gaudnek, Hank Virgona, Angelo Titonel, and Frank Gillette. Shortly before his death, in 1994, he extended his loan to include a major sculptural work, Large Hybrid, by Chicago-based artist Richard Hunt.

Following a series of successful collaborations between the College Art Gallery and the Dorsky Gallery in New York City, Samuel Dorsky made a major gift to construct a museum with exhibition space worthy of the College’s rich and growing permanent collection. Samuel Dorsky died before he could see plans for the museum finalized, but his passionate interest in art and commitment to public education stimulated matching gifts and generous support from the state and other private donors.

The new museum will provide more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space, making it one of the largest art museums within the SUNY system and the mid-Hudson region. It will absorb the facilities and the programs of the existing College Art Gallery. When completed, the total project will amount to 17,116 square feet.

“The new museum will have a commitment to the art and culture of the region,” said Trager. “There is an important artistic heritage in the mid-Hudson Valley, and I feel it is important that a major institution formally address that legacy,” he added. “The Museum will include historical and contemporary art, and it is our hope that the central gallery will always feature these works. “

Opened to the public in 1964, the SUNY New Paltz Art Gallery was the first or its kind in the State University of New York. For more than three decades, exhibitions developed at the College Art Gallery have traveled to prestigious sites, including the Art Museum at Princeton University, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University, and the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House.

The collections are encyclopedic by design, spanning a period of almost 4,000 years, with strengths in American and European paintings and works on paper, Asian prints, pre- Columbian art and artifacts, African and Pacific Island art, contemporary metals and photographs.

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art has a special interest and commitment to collecting and interpreting important works of art created by artists who have lived and worked in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains. This unique aspect of its mission distinguishes it from other art museums in the region. “Building upon a strong foundation of paintings and prints by regional artists, the Museum aspires to become the principal cultural repository and research facility for regional studies in the Hudson Valley,” said Trager.

“Furthermore, we anticipate that the Museum will be a magnet creating new partnerships between the intellectual and artistic communities of the College and the region,” stated Patricia Phillips, dean of Fine and Performing Arts. “We are committed to expand our community service by working closely with teachers from local schools and community organizations to provide related enrichment activities for their students and members,” she added.

The new museum is designed by SUNY New Paltz campus architect, David L. Smith. Contractor for the project is Arris Contracting Company, Inc. of Poughkeepsie. Civil, mechanical and electrical engineers are Fellenzer Engineering of Middletown, and Ryan-Briggs Associates of Troy are the structural engineers.