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Two Exhibitions are First for Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz

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NEW PALTZ -- The State University of New York at New Paltz and the School of Fine and Performing Arts announce the opening of the new Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art on Saturday, March 31, 2001. In anticipation of the museum's official opening in October 2001, a series of exhibitions are planned that will introduce the museum and its collections to students and faculty, regional art educators, the local arts community, and the general public. The museum is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday, March 31 for this special event and 11:00am to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday throughout the spring.

The two premiere exhibitions emphasize the collaborative efforts responsible for the museum's creation. Building For Art: Tradition, Transition, Vision traces the significant role that patronage has played in the creation of the permanent collection and the metamorphosis of the College Art Gallery into the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art. Engaging Pictures: Aesthetic Choices from the Center for Photography at Woodstock Collection is a photographic exhibition featuring important works selected from the CPW collection that explore the very notion of aesthetics and expose the artistic process involved in the creation of exhibitions.

These exhibitions will allow the museum staff to adjust to the new space and will introduce educators and the public to the educational services that the museum will provide. Furthermore, as curriculum-based exhibitions, the exhibitions have been planned in cooperation with teaching faculty in order to strengthen students' ability to utilize a cross-disciplinary approach to understanding the arts.

Building For Art: Tradition, Transition, Vision March 31 - September 15, 2001

This comprehensive survey of the museum's permanent collection honors the distinguished tradition of collecting art at SUNY New Paltz, traces the evolution and development of the collection over a period of 60 years, and articulates the vision that will ultimately define and distinguish the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art. Above all, it is a celebration of a remarkable new building, made possible by an unprecedented public and private partnership developed to enhance both the educational mission of the university and the cultural life of our community.

Over the past 20 years the museum world has seen a dramatic shift in attitude, with the most progressive institutions moving away from emphasis on the "object" and the unchallenged authority of the curator and moving towards asserting the primacy of their public service and educational functions. Underlying this change in thinking is the widely shared understanding that museums are ultimately inventions of men and women, and that they are not inevitable, ideal, or eternal. The collections found in them, and the meaning ascribed to those collections change as each generation decides how to see, use, and interpret them. The museum experience is evolving into a dynamic relationship, between the curator, the object, and the visitor, changing from being passive and adulatory to becoming dynamic and democratic.

Building For Art breaks with the conventional approach to museum display by freely juxtaposing objects in order to emphasize their aesthetic and narrative qualities. The exhibition tells a story that provides insight into the nature of the universal creative experience and sheds light on the unique role that that curators, directors, and donors have in defining the unique personality of museum collections.

As is often the case in museums, only a small portion of the collection can be exhibited at one time, leaving important objects unseen. In an attempt to address this problem, the museum staff has approached this project as a "work in progress." During the course of the exhibition, objects in the galleries will be replaced with objects now in storage, and on occasion, the entire contents of galleries will be changed. This organic approach affords an opportunity to share more of the collection with visitors and aligns the museum more closely with the curriculum of the university.

Engaging Pictures: Aesthetic Choices from the Center for Photography at Woodstock Collection March 31 - July 8, 2001

Museums in general have an important role in providing educational services to visitors. University Museums have a unique advantage since they already exist within an institution dedicated to education. In college, students are exposed to a wide range of ideas, a variety of disciplines, and multiple resources. They acquire the skills necessary for their own intellectual and emotional growth and if the university has performed its job well, it will have promoted a life-long desire in the student for a continual pursuit of knowledge.

Like universities, museums are didactic in nature. The exhibitions they produce and display, most often, provide a thesis and the physical evidence to back it up. Usually, there is something they are trying to tell you. The best ones do not dictate what you should know once you exit, but rather they give you the information necessary to make your own critical assessment of the material presented. Museums continue to grapple with their own definition and with their role in the future. According to Nicolas Serota, Director of the Tate Museum in London:

The best museums of the future will seek to promote different modes and levels of 'interpretation' by subtle juxtapositions of 'experience' In this way we can expect to create a matrix of changing relationships to be explored by visitors according to their particular interests and sensibilities. In the new museum, each of us, curators and visitors alike, will have to become more willing to chart our own path, redrawing the map of modern art, rather than following a single path laid down by a curator

This exhibition, based upon works from the Center for Photography at Woodstock Collection, is an exercise in what Serota calls "charting your own path." By a process of collaboration between Nadine Wasserman (Curator of Exhibitions), Wayne Lempka (Assistant to the Director), Barbra Ehlers (Student Intern), and David Cavallaro (Director of Art Services) a number of works were chosen from the more than 1000 photographs available in the collection based on their visual quality. These works were then arranged in a way that emphasized their aesthetic or narrative qualities through placement or through complementary or contrasting juxtapositions. In this fashion this particular exhibition makes transparent one of the guiding principles used in object arrangement: the aesthetic.

General Information

More information regarding the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art is available at the museum's web page,, or by calling the museum at 845-257-3844. Information on other arts events at SUNY New Paltz is also available online. Go to For a campus-wide calendar go to

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Note to editors: selected images from the two current exhibitions are available online at