Art History students help curate Mohonk retrospective at The Dorsky

F. D. Lewis, “Mohonk Mountain House,” 1899, vintage gelatin silver print

A new exhibition on view at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art tells a story of entrepreneurship in Ulster County, with a curatorial assist from SUNY New Paltz students and faculty.

“Mohonk Mountain House at 150,” a collection of art, photographs, postcards, and ephemera related to the resort overlooking campus, was curated by Art History Professor Kerry Dean Carso and includes commentary and other contributions from students in her fall 2018 course, “Art of the Hudson Valley”

A century and a half after Albert Smiley purchased Stokes Tavern on the banks of Lake Mohonk, the property has evolved into Mohonk Mountain House, famous for its eclectic architecture and picturesque hiking trails.

To mark the occasion, Carso was invited to collaborate with leaders at Mohonk, the Dorsky Museum and the Elting Memorial Library to study and gather objects from their archives. She recognized an opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in the curation process

Professor Kerry Dean Carso’s “Art in the Hudson Valley” class on a Sept. 28 site visit to Mohonk Mountain House

“The architecture and landscape design at Mohonk Mountain House fit nicely into the course, which focuses on regional art and architecture from the Colonial period through 1940,” Carso said.

The exhibition quickly became the primary focus of the fall course. Carso worked alongside students to conduct research, collect artefacts and prepare them for gallery display.

“I think the most interesting thing about the exhibition is that it includes a wide array of objects that you wouldn’t necessarily expect,” said Tess Ferguson ’20 (Art History; Digital Media Production).

“There are photographs taken at different points in Mohonk’s history, but there are also brochures, post cards, and contemporary works of art. I’ve lived in the Hudson Valley for my whole life, so it has been extremely interesting to learn about all the different art and architecture movements that have come out of this particular region,” she said.

Ferguson, who is considering a career in the museum field, was one of a number of students who composed original commentary for the exhibition. Their work adds color and context for museum-goers, exploring themes including art and architecture, landscape design and recreational activities in the Hudson Valley.

“I appreciated the challenge of writing a label for an object in a museum exhibition, which has to be much more direct and succinct than the academic papers I’m more used to writing,” she said.

Ferguson will join Carso and fellow student Lauren Diener ’20 (Art History) in leading a gallery talk about the “Mohonk Mountain House at 150” exhibition, Friday, Feb. 22, beginning at 12:30 p.m. at The Dorsky. The event is free and open to the public.

Use this link for more information about “Mohonk Mountain House at 150” and other spring 2019 exhibitions on view at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz.