There’s a lot to do at Vassar.
Since its establishment in 1861 by reputable brewer and businessman Matthew Vassar, the school has actively drawn visitors from far and wide to the Hudson Valley. Students come for education, city dwellers stop by for lectures, and locals visit for walks and bike rides. With picturesque grounds and a jampacked calendar of events, there is always an excuse to visit the Poughkeepsie campus.
One of the chief draws to the liberal arts institution is housed right within the main gate. The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center may not look like much from the outside, but appearances can be deceiving. Walking through the glass-paneled hallway into the museum center feels as though you are entering a secret world hidden within the heart of Vassar College.
A Mini Artistic Universe
The space, which was constructed in 1864, is a mini artistic universe. The building itself was designed by noted Argentine American architect Cesar Pelli and named after Vassar Class of 1928 alumna Frances Lehman Loeb, the project’s primary donor. With 36,000 square feet to its name, the Lehman Loeb showcases art that encompasses genres and generations. Although it has long been an academic resource for both students and faculty, it was not until the fall of 1993 that it changed its name from the Vassar College Art Gallery to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center and began offering free admission to the general public.
“What makes the Loeb Art Center exciting and distinctive among museums in our mid-Hudson region is the wide variety of time periods and artistic styles visitors can see in the permanent collection,” says Margaret Vetare, curator of public education at the museum.
As Vetare notes, variety is the name of the game. Nowadays, the artistic hotspot boasts more than 19,000 works in its collection. In addition to rotating through the in-house artwork, the gallery also showcases a number of temporary exhibits throughout the year. The current showing, titled “A Neoclassical Portrait of a Classicist,” centers on a bust created by noted French Enlightenment sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The sculpture display will run through December 22, with other collections set to unveil throughout fall and winter this year. Notably, the center hits upon a broad spectrum of artistic styles and mediums with each exhibition. The next one, for instance, exits the realm of sculpture entirely in favor of expressionism. “Fluid Expressions: The Prints of Helen Frankenthaler” will explore the late artist’s richly overcolored canvases that radiate inspiration and innovation.
Hudson River School and More
As for the permanent showings, the Loeb, as Vassar students and faculty affectionately dub it, has something to suit everyone’s tastes. There is an entire room dedicated to Hudson River School artists, with rich landscapes of Hudson Valley scenery and landmarks. Classics lovers will appreciate the numerous Asian, medieval, and Renaissance works in the museum, not to mention the treasure trove of antiquities and the picturesque sculpture garden. Visitors with more modern tastes will leave satisfied as well. With striking photography and statement-making contemporary art, it is hard not to feel awestruck.
“We have everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts and medieval religious works to Hudson River School landscapes of the nineteenth century and sculpture and painting by modern masters like Picasso and O'Keeffe – in other words, something for everyone,” explains Vetare, noting that “our photography collection is growing by leaps and bounds as well.”
Open to the Public
While the gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday during the week, Thursday nights are a special time to visit. Not only can art lovers take advantage of the extended hours from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., but they can also stumble upon one of the lectures or music performances that are often held during those evenings. Vassar’s numerous a cappella groups often make an appearance, as do the college’s esteemed faculty and visiting lecturers.
With all this art and education under one roof, the Lehman Loeb is your one-stop shop for a world of beauty right here in the Hudson Valley.
VISIT: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, 124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie
HOURS: Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Thursday, late night, 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.