Professor Emeritus of Art Manuel Bromberg returned to campus on May 21st for a ceremony rededicating the artwork that has become his most lasting contribution to SUNY New Paltz: the large rock-face sculpture, titled “Cliffside,” that adorns the outer southern wall of the Humanities building.
Bromberg, who recently celebrated his 99th birthday, was joined by family, friends and former students from his 1957 – 1979 tenure as professor of painting and design, for the unveiling of a new plaque noting the date of the sculpture’s installation (1970), the name of its creator and that of the man in whose honor it was originally dedicated: Martin Luther King, Jr.
With his trademark sense of humor, Bromberg explained how his work came to be donated to the College, and why as a tribute to King.
“Here I was, the owner of this 20-plus-foot cliff, and I didn’t know where to put it,” Bromberg said. “It wouldn’t fit in my backyard, so I asked the then-president, John Neumaier, if the College would like it, and he was kind enough to accept it.
“That was 1968, a time of a great social unrest that was felt on this campus as it was on many college campuses. The tragic death of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. happened around that time. I had great respect for King and was deeply saddened by his death, so once again I approached President Neumaier, to request that the cliff be dedicated to King.”
Today “Cliffside” stands alongside a companion fixture featuring a relevant and well-known phrase from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “We will hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”
Though some members of the campus community may not know the full history behind it, Bromberg’s piece remains an enduring and iconic landmark on the New Paltz campus.
“For more than 45 years, students, faculty, staff and visitors to the campus have passed ‘Cliffside’ as they go about their busy days here on campus,” said President Donald P. Christian. “The piece connects art with nature, an enduring theme in the history of art in the Hudson Valley. While generations of our New Paltz community have come to recognize this feature of our building, many don’t know the person behind the work and its dedication to Martin Luther King, Jr., so we’re pleased to have occasion to bring attention to this today. Thank you, Professor Bromberg, for this wonderful contribution. We’re very proud of your work, and hope you share in that pride.”