OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole

Installation view. Photo by Michael Fredericks

Installation view. Photo by Michael Fredericks

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is pleased to announce the start of a new series of contemporary installations entitled OPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole. The inaugural exhibition was Jason Middlebrook: Nature Builds / We Cover, on view August 14 – October 30, 2016. See a video about the exhibition and listen to the artist here. The 2017 project will be announced soon.

Open House: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole is a new series of contemporary art projects at the Thomas Cole National Historic site that explore the continued power and influence of Thomas Cole’s art and ideas. Operating from the concept that all art is contemporary, the program activates conversations between artists across the centuries.

Program Description

Open House is collaborative by nature. Each year the Thomas Cole staff will invite one or two contemporary artists to create a site-specific project that engages with the art, writings, home and story of Thomas Cole. Projects may take the shape of an installation, a performance, a guided walk, or other format reflecting the artist’s practice and ideas. This program will seek artworks and ideas of the highest artistic merit, drawn from newly created or relevant pre-existing works, that shed light on the connections between 19th-century American art and contemporary times, and that specifically speak to the historic environments in which they are presented. That dialogue takes on a special significance because the artworks will be placed into the very spaces where Thomas Cole launched this country’s first major art movement, now known as the Hudson River School. This context offers artists working today a unique venue in which to realize a project. The goals of the project are to engage both current and new audiences with a presentation that departs from the expected “house museum” experience, to enable visitors to access the historic spaces from a new angle, to provoke new ideas about the meaning of the art and history of the mid-19th century, and to encourage audiences to confront the vast cultural shifts that distinguish Cole’s time from our own.

Project History

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site was established as a creative and flexible institution from its beginnings. With the writing of its General Management Plan in 2004, the traditional “house museum” model of a static display of decorative arts was specifically rejected in order to accommodate a variety of educational initiatives. The Thomas Cole site’s senior staff members have a background in both historic and contemporary art: the Executive Director, Elizabeth Jacks, formerly worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the site’s Curator, Kate Menconeri, has worked with contemporary artists for over a decade and holds a degree from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. In 2015, the Thomas Cole site in partnership with the nearby Olana State Historic Site organized and presented an exhibition of contemporary art that spanned the two sites that face each other across the Hudson River. The exhibition, entitled “River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home”, was curated by the artist Stephen Hannock and the professor Jason Rosenfeld, and featured work by 28 artists including Chuck Close, Maya Lin and Cindy Sherman, whose work was integrated into the historic interiors of the two historic sites. The exhibition drew attention to the story of this part of the Hudson Valley as the place where American art was born in the early 19th-century, a place that continues to spark creativity and innovation among artists working today. The initiative also shattered attendance records at both sites and brought unprecedented media coverage including a feature on CBS Sunday Morning.

About the Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Thomas Cole National Historic Site (TCNHS) preserves and interprets the home and studios of Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting, the nation’s first major art movement.  Located on 6 acres in the Hudson Valley, the site includes the 1815 Main House, 1839 Old Studio, the newly reconstructed 1846 New Studio, and several other buildings. It is a National Historic Landmark and an affiliated area of the National Park System. Following a restoration of the Main House, the TCNHS opened to the public in 2001. TCNHS activities include guided tours, exhibitions, printed publications, extensive online programs, activities for school groups, free community events, lectures, and innovative public programs such as the Hudson River School Art Trail—a map and website that enables visitors to see the nearby views that Cole painted. Each year, the TCNHS organizes a loan exhibition of Hudson River School paintings, providing a first-hand experience with the art movement that Cole founded. The goal of all programs at the TCNHS is to enable visitors to find meaning and inspiration in Thomas Cole’s life and work. The themes that Cole explored in his art and writings—such as landscape preservation and our conception of nature as a restorative power—are both historic and timely, providing the opportunity to connect to audiences with insights that are highly relevant to their own lives.

Betsy JacksOPEN HOUSE: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole

Postcards from the Trail


The 7th Annual Postcards From The Trail | OPEN CALL for ARTWORK

for exhibition at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site
Sunday, September 30, 2018

ARTWORK DUE: Friday, September 7, 2018
Please read all instruction guidelines before submitting work | In 1818, Thomas Cole arrived in the United States
and embarked on a journey to record, experience, and celebrate American landscape. The locations that he and
other artists explored in the Hudson Valley are honored today with the Hudson River School Art Trail, a program
with maps and directions allowing people to visit the places that Cole and his fellow Hudson River School artists
painted. Cole’s most well-known works reflect on the American landscape, and subjects of change, cycles, and the
natural world. In 2018, the bicentennial year of Cole’s arrival in America, we look to carry on the contemplative
spirit of the artist. For this call, we invite all artists to walk in the footsteps of Cole and to visit one of the 23 sites
along the Art Trail to make their own postcard size artwork of the same spots. Has the landscape changed since
Cole’s time, or in your own time? What about the landscape makes it matter to you, now? All interpretations are
welcome. Your submitted work of art will be a part of the 2018 pop-up exhibition at the Cole Site.

All artists who submit work according to the theme, that follows the guidelines and arrives by the deadline of
September 7 will be included in the exhibition that will take place at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site on
September 30, 2018.

+ Artists may submit original painting, drawing, work on paper, collage, photography or other medium work that
fits on a 5×7” canvas or hard board (size must be inclusive of image area, margin, and borders).
+ NOTE: A complimentary 5×7” canvas panel is available while supplies last for pick-up at the Thomas Cole
National Historic Site Visitor Center. Artists may also use their own canvas/materials. Entries must be made on
provided canvas, your own canvas, stiff board, or paper mounted on board. Loose works on paper cannot be
included. All works must be unframed, and will be hung with hook or removable, non-staining adhesive attached
directly to the back of your work.

Artists may submit 1 or 2 original artworks. To be included in the exhibit, work must fall within the theme, meet
required size, and arrive with a completed entry form on or before September 7, 2018. Entry forms may be
downloaded at There is no fee to enter.
Artworks from artists age 18 and over will be offered for sale for $100. Artworks from artists age 17 and under will
be offered for sale for $25. Artists may choose “not for sale.” The artist may choose to donate 100% of the
purchase price or share 50/50. All proceeds directly support programs at the Thomas Cole Historic Site.

MAIL: The Thomas Cole National Historic Site / Attn: Postcards Exhibition, 218 Spring Street, Catskill, NY 12414
IN PERSON: Deliver to the Visitor Center at 218 Spring Street, Catskill, NY / Tues-Sun, 9:45-5pm.
Please note: All work that does not sell will need to be picked up from the site at the close of the exhibition. The
Thomas Cole National Historic Site is not responsible for returning works. In the case that a work does not sell, we
will notify participants and provide a two week timeframe to pick up work. Any work not claimed and picked up
after that time will be considered abandoned property, unless alternate arrangements are made in advance. If you
need to have your work mailed back, please make sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope large
enough and safe for its return.



#1 Thomas Cole National Historic Site. 218 Spring St, Catskill, NY 12414
#2 Olana, 5720 NY-9G, Hudson, NY 12534
#3 Catskill Creek. Site coordinates: 42.223621 Lat., -73.887604 Long.
#4 Kaaterskill Cove. Site coordinates: 42.184711 Lat., -74.074028 Long.
#5 Kaaterskill Falls. Site coordinates: 42.192982 Lat., -74.062698 Long.
#6 North- South Lake. Site coordinates: 42.200039 Lat., -74.041588 Long.
#7 Sunset Rock. Site coordinates: 42.205063 Lat., -74.030685 Long.
#8 Catskill Mountain House. Site coordinates: 42.194729 Lat., -74.034744 Long.
#9 Mount Merino and the Caskills. Site coordinates: 42.256215 Lat., -73.797097 Long.
#10 Albany From East Side of River. Site coordinates: 42.63459 Lat., -73.749496 Long.
#11 Hudson River from Hasbrouck Park. Site coordinates: 41.922038 Lat., -73.980442 Long.
#12 Mohonk Lake. Site coordinates: 41.76814 Lat., -74.15532 Long.
#13 Eagle Cliff near Artist’s Rock. Site coordinates: 41.76814 Lat., -74.15532 Long.
#14 Shawangunk Mountains from Sky Top. Site coordinates: 41.76419 Lat., -74.15637 Long.
#15 Hudson River from Vanderbilt Mansion. Site coordinates: 41.795673 Lat., -73.943329 Long.
#16 Hudson River from Croton Point Park. Site coordinates: 41.181519 Lat., -73.893356 Long.
#17 Jasper Cropsey Home and Studio. Site coordinates: 40.992691 Lat., -73.881813 Long.
#18 Platte Clove. Site coordinates: 42.133094 Lat., -74.085437 Long.
#19 Storm King from Long Dock Park. Site coordinates: 41.50475 Lat., -73.98594 Long.
#20 Hudson River Skywalk. Site coordinates: 42.224528 Lat., -73.854861 Long.
#21 Echo Lake at Franconia Notch. Site coordinates: 44.178418 Lat., -71.693516 Long.
#22 Crawford Notch Across Saco Lake. Site coordinates: 44.218816 Lat., -71.411133 Long.
#23 The Oxbow, Connecticut River. Site coordinates: 42.300592 Lat., -72.587733 Long.

Click Here For More Information on the Art Trail 

QUESTIONS? Email Peter Fedoryk at or call 518.943.7465 xt 118

Image: Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow (detail), Oil on canvas, 1836, 51 ½ x 76 in, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1908, 8.228

Betsy JacksPostcards from the Trail

Historic Grounds & Gardens

It is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are learning, speaking and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the Muhheaconneok (or Mohican) people, who are the indigenous peoples of this land. Despite tremendous hardship in being forced from here, today their community resides in Wisconsin and is known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. We pay honor and respect to their ancestors past and present as we commit to building a more inclusive and equitable space for all. A statement from the Thomas Cole National Historic Site developed in conversation with the Stockbridge Munsee Cultural Affairs Department


The gardens and grounds of the Thomas Cole site are open from dawn until dusk, free of charge. We invite you to take a walk around the property, enjoy the flower garden, and take in the view of the Catskill Mountains from the porch of the Main House.

In Thomas Cole’s time, the home and surrounding property were referred to as “Cedar Grove.” The Cedar Grove property has a long history that began with a 1684 land grant, followed by a land subdivision in 1773. Beginning in 1797, the Thomson family (ancestors of Thomas Cole’s wife, Maria), started with a small parcel and developed adjoining lots. In 1815, they built the Federal-style Main House that remains today, and quickly compiled a substantial farm property of about 110 acres. Despite the property’s frontage on the Hudson River, the Main House and infrastructure were built along a local turnpike road – today’s Spring Street – that crossed through the western portion of the property, where the land sloped away from the river. As such, Cedar Grove has always enjoyed an orientation towards the western prospect of the Catskill Mountains.

Flower Garden

The formal garden was restored in 2002, and consists of two flowerbeds flanking a central gravel path that is aligned with the front door of the Main House. Cole’s wife Maria and her sisters tended the garden, and period accounts describe it containing a variety of flowers, including hollyhocks, larkspur, poppies, roses, china asters, dahlia, and valerian.  A massive honey locust tree, planted when the house was built nearly 200 years ago, anchors the garden.

Honey Locust and Orchard Trees

In autumn 1817, John Alexander ordered a wide variety of fruit trees, enough to plant a sizable orchard of about 80 trees. The 1817 nursery order includes fifteen varieties of apples with such fanciful names as Seek No Further, Sweeting, Ox Noble, and Siberian Crab. The order also included four varieties of plums, five of peaches, five of pears, and three varieties of cherries. Most notable for us now in this tree order was the inclusion of “12 three thorned acatia (sic).” Today, the acacia is called honey locust (Gleditsia tricanthus) with its distinctive three-branched thorns. Today, a large specimen of this tree continues to grow close to the front porch of the house. If this tree is indeed one of the twelve planted in 1817, it is now about 200 years old.

Although Thomas Cole came to love Cedar Grove for its beauty and its views of the Catskill Mountains, his involvement with running the family farm was minimal, with only a few references to it in his extensive correspondence and journal entries. He occasionally mentioned the grove of trees east of the main house, and he referred several times to the flower garden south of the house, but his sole occupation continued to be his art. After John Alexander’s death in June 1846, Cole lamented that Thomson had not been “spared to see a little longer the luxuriant growth of the vines and fruit which he had planted and pruned with so much skill and pleasure. He had a passion for Horticulture, and was skilled above most men and it was amusing to hear him [speak] on a peach or apple, a pear or strawberry.”

Kitchen Gardens

An extensive kitchen garden was located along the south side of the Storehouse. Originally a quarter acre in size, it was cultivated with a wide variety of vegetables, bush fruit, and grape vines. A small portion of it has now been restored, and you can see evidence of the larger kitchen gardens in the terraced land.


At one time the Woodlot encompassed about four acres of mixed trees that were periodically thinned for firewood. Following the picturesque style, it was kept rough and unmanicured. Paths and wagon drives led through the woodlot to open fields and Cedar Grove’s frontage on the Hudson River. About one acre of woods remains today on the east end of the historic site.

Reference: Toole, Robert M. and Heritage Partners, Cultural Landscape Report for the Thomas Cole National Historic Site: Cedar Grove, Catskill New York, 2004.

Betsy JacksHistoric Grounds & Gardens

Summer Party Live Auction

Live Auction

The 2016 Summer Party will feature a live auction of four first-class vacation destinations, and all proceeds will benefit of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. If you wish to place an absentee bid, please call Carrie at 518-943-7465 extension 4 before Friday the 24th at 4 pm.

Luxury in the Black Forest

Indulge your wanderlust for three nights for two at the 5-Star Traube Tonbach, nestled in one of Europe’s most magnificent landscapes, the Black Forest National Park in Germany. Feel the forest with all your senses, leave your daily routine behind, enjoy the scent of the firs and the stunning views. Let tension disappear in the fragrant floral steam of the bio sauna. Includes elaborate breakfasts, dinners with wine pairing, and two spa treatments per person. No restrictions on dates. Value: $2500


Antique Maison in the Loire Valley

Since the reign of Louis XIV, the 3-storey, 2-bedroom “Maison du Soliel” has graced the square in Pontlevoy, a charming and quiet village in the heart of the Loire Valley, about 2 1/2 hours from Paris. Nearby are the chateaux at Blois, Leonardo da Vinci’s Amboise, plus Chenonceau, Villandry (known for its gardens), the massive Chambord, and many more. Enjoy a full week in the region of Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre, delightful small restaurants, plenty of brocantes for antique-hunters, and a goat cheese farm right in Pontlevoy which New York Magazine once called “the best chevre in France.”  Available year-round. Value $2000


True Parisian Experience at Quartier Latin

Enjoy an entire week in the hip and lively Latin Quarter of Paris in your own studio apartment in a 17th-century building located at 24, rue de l’Arbalète in Paris, 5th arrondissement, just off rue Mouffetard. Pantheon, Sorbonne and Notre Dame are a short and lovely walk away. Quartier Latin’s winding streets are filled with ethnic eateries, second hand bookstores and bohemian history. The flat features a double bed and high-speed internet. A bottle of champagne and a platter of cheese and fruit will be ready for you upon your arrival. Value $2100


A Week at Pezula Ridge, Private Estate

This cliff-top architectural masterpiece with 180-degree views of the Indian Ocean, sparkling pool with waterfall, stone fireplaces and easy access to the spa, golf course and clubhouse is located along the “Garden Route” in Knysna, an old artistic village south of Capetown, South Africa, in the spectacular wine lands. Sleeps 8-10! Includes housekeeper and house manager. Available July 1-Oct 30, 2016, and again May 1-Oct 30, 2017. Value $8000. Additional photos below:

Pezula- 5

Pezula- 3

Pezula- 4

Betsy JacksSummer Party Live Auction

The Grand Opening!

On Sunday May 1, the grand opening and official ribbon-cutting for the New Studio took place at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Pictured here, left to right: Anne Miller, Chairman of the Capital Campaign Committee; Lisa Fox Martin, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, George Amadore, State Senator; Elizabeth Jacks, Executive Director; and John Mesick, Architect.

Betsy JacksThe Grand Opening!

Finishing Touches

November 25, 2015At last the beautiful, hand-made, bright green shutters have arrived. The architect John Mesick designed them to be exactly like the originals, with smaller louvers on the top half of each shutter and larger louvers on the bottom half. The color was taken from two sources: one is a pencil drawing by Frederic Church from 1848 in which he indicates the colors in his hand-written notes on the drawing. The second is from a recently discovered painting of the building by Charles Herbert Moore, which will be on view inside the New Studio as part of the 2016 exhibition that will open on May 1, 2016.

Betsy JacksFinishing Touches

Preview for Supporters Coming Up

On Saturday September 19th we will open the doors of the New Studio for the first time for a special preview for everyone who has donated to the campaign. This is a truly thrilling moment for all of us. Please donate now and join this incredible celebration. Cocktails will begin at 5 pm, followed by remarks by the building’s renowned architect John I Mesick at 5:30. The event is free for anyone who has donated to the campaign at any level. Become a part of this historic moment.

Betsy JacksPreview for Supporters Coming Up

The New Studio Hits The New York Times

The lovely reporter, Eve Kahn, visited us a few weeks ago and just fell in love with the New Studio. As luck would have it, the exterior scaffolding had just been taken down, and the exterior painting just completed, revealing the beautiful little building in its full glory at last. She exclaimed, “It combines grandeur with adorableness!”, which I had to agree with. Here is her wonderful article that appeared in print today:

Betsy JacksThe New Studio Hits The New York Times

Siding, trim!

The construction crew of Dimensions North continued work through the weekend to get up the siding and trim along the roofline. Every day the building looks more and more like the photograph.  The 2015 photo is taken from the south-east corner, while the 1900 photo is taken from the north-west.



Betsy JacksSiding, trim!

The Windows Are In

This is the view of Thomas Cole’s house from the brand-new window on the north side.

Betsy JacksThe Windows Are In