The Pollinator Pavilion

MARK DION & DANA SHERWOOD

On the Grounds

August 7, 2020 – Fall 2021

Open every day from dawn to dusk

Project Overview

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site presents The Pollinator Pavilion, a new public artwork by internationally renowned artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood. The new artwork provides a fantastical architectural setting that offers miraculous moments in which individuals can encounter hummingbirds while exploring a nurturing relationship with nature. The Pollinator Pavilion was designed specifically for the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

The artists created this interactive artwork to provide sustenance to pollinators and a place of wonder for human visitors, who may have an up-close encounter with these enchanting creatures, particularly the fleeting Ruby-throated hummingbird, an important pollinator and the only hummingbird species that lives in this region. The open-air, lavender painted Gothic style gazebo is filled with living pollinator gardens, feeders, original paintings by the artists, and seating for one guest at a time. Designed to attract pollinators and humans to share the same space, the pavilion creates a radical decontextualization in which individuals can see themselves as part of nature and understand their own capacity to foster an environment of ecological balance.

The Pollinator Pavilion is a 21 ½-foot-high, painted wood, architectural confection draped with flowers, plants, and paintings by the artists, designed as much for hummingbirds as for people. Sherwood and Dion have worked with living animals for years and their approach is to emphasize the animal as an individual that is best appreciated by an actual face-to-face encounter. The Pollinator Pavilion invites human viewers to slow down and allow the process of pollination and feeding to be observed with reverence and joy.

This work was originally inspired by the influential series of paintings known as The Gems of Brazil (1863-64) by the nineteenth-century artist, Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), a protégé of Frederic Church, who was in turn a protégé of Cole. The Gems of Brazil will be on view as part of the major traveling exhibition, Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church and our Contemporary Moment, created by the Thomas Cole Site (Catskill, NY), The Olana Partnership at Olana State Historic Site (Hudson, NY), and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, AR), which will be presented jointly and open in full at the Thomas Cole Site and Olana State Historic Site in Spring 2021. The Pollinator Pavilion anticipates its arrival and will be a part of that exhibition, which was delayed by a year due to COVID-19.

Image: The Pollinator Pavilion with Thomas Cole’s Main House shown behind it © Peter Aaron/OTTO


From the Artists

“Thomas Cole delighted in nature and fantasy, and The Pollinator Pavilion shares that sense of delight. It creates a dialogue between architecture and nature that Cole would have relished.” Mark Dion 

“We know that we have the capacity to destroy nature,” said Dana Sherwood. “Here art is enabling us to experience the wonder of co-existence with nature. It makes possible miraculous moments that can profoundly alter our sense of place within nature and our responsibility for it.” Dana Sherwood 


Audio Feature

MARK DION on “The Pollinator Pavilion”

DANA SHERWOOD on “The Pollinator Pavilion”


Read the press release

“(W)e recommend making a weekend getaway to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY. There, you’ll find Pollinator Pavilion, an interactive outdoor art installation by artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood, which is described as a “fantastical architectural setting that offers miraculous moments in which individuals can encounter hummingbirds.” —Time Out New York

“Editors’ Pick: Husband and wife artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood have teamed up once again, this time on a new public artwork designed to attract hummingbirds…The two have built a Gothic-style gazebo, painted it lavender, and filled it with their own paintings. It’s an open air space, which is a plus in the age of social distancing..” – artnetnews

“The pavilion creates a radical decontextualization in which individuals can see themselves as part of nature and understand their own capacity to foster an environment of ecological balance” – ARTFIXdaily

“[Visitors] will find a new site-specific artwork, The Pollinator Pavilion, by Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood, a lilac gazebo with gothic touches filled with plants and paintings, all arranged to entice pollinators, those unsung heroes of the natural world. Inspired by the nineteenth-century artist Martin Johnson Heade’s Gems of Brazil, a series of paintings that will be on show at the Cole house in early 2021, The Pollinator Pavilion gives a glimpse of the wonders that exhibition is sure to include.” – The New Criterion

The artist Mark Dion “shows off a newly installed project @thomascolesite” in new video The Brooklyn Rail


The Pollinator Pavilion | Curator, Kate Menconeri and Assistant Curator, Amanda Malmstrom, together with the Thomas Cole National Historic Site extend sincere thanks to the artists for their generous vision and incredible accomplishment. We are grateful to Nina Nichols of Mermaid Fabrication Co., the Thomas Cole Site staff and Board, and the many people who were instrumental in realizing the pavilion at the Cole Site: Matthew Alexander, Dave Curtis, Stipan Tadic, Grey Rabbit Dion Puett, and Pjeter Noci. Additional thanks to Peter Aaron, Adam Deen, Nora Lawrence, and Mary-Kay Lombino. 

Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment was created by the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, The Olana Partnership at Olana State Historic Site, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas. Its tour is organized by Crystal Bridges.

Support for the exhibition and its national tour is provided by Art Bridges. Additional major support is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.

The exhibition is also supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art. In New York the project is supported in part by The National Endowment for the Arts; Empire State Development’s I LOVE NEW YORK program under the Market NY initiative; and the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, and the New York State Legislature.

In New York the project is also supported by the Robert Lehman Foundation; The Bank of Greene County Charitable Foundation; the Greene County Legislature through the County Initiative Program of the Greene County Council on the Arts; The Olana Partnership’s Novak-Ferber Exhibitions Fund; and the Kindred Spirits Society of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Support for the catalogue is provided by Furthermore, a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.

Jennifer GreimThe Pollinator Pavilion