A Three-Day Master Class on the Hudson River Valley: Art, History, Ecology
On three separate days (two Mondays and a Saturday), teachers will explore the Hudson River through three lenses: the sublime landscape paintings of the Hudson River School, the 19th-century historical forces that shaped the Hudson River Valley, and the ecological and environmental changes the river has undergone. Participants will attend all three sessions. Scholarships will be available.
Day 1: The Hudson River School of Art
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The Hudson River’s wooded peaks and verdant valleys inspired New York’s early landscape painters. Together with like-minded writers, they forged a self-consciously “American” landscape vision and literary voice, grounded in American scenery as a resource for spiritual renewal and an expression of cultural and national identity. Many of their works signal a romantic awareness of the tension inherent in preserving the pristine wilderness while pursuing the national ideal of progress. Participants in this class will have a private tour of Hudson Rising, the New-York Historical Society’s new exhibition charting two centuries of ecological change along the river, with examples from the Society’s renowned collection of Hudson River landscapes, including Thomas Cole’s Course of Empire.
Linda S. Ferber is senior art historian and museum director emerita at the New-York Historical Society. Prior to her tenure at the Society, she was Andrew Mellon Curator of American Art and chief curator at the Brooklyn Museum. Ferber received the 2002 Lawrence A. Fleishman Award from the Archives of American Art, the 2010 Henry Allen Moe Prize for The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision, and the 2017 Frederic Church Award from The Olana Partnership. She is guest curator for The American Pre-Raphaelites: Radical Realists at the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C).
Day 2: Economic and Social Development in the Hudson River Valley
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
This master class will examine social and economic changes in the Hudson Valley during the nineteenth century. Using contemporary sources and recent academic writings, we shall explore how agricultural, industrial, and political developments intersected with the Hudson River’s key role as a national transportation corridor, shaping the region’s distinctive cultural and ecological significance.
Christopher Clark is professor of history at the University of Connecticut, where he teaches eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American history. Among his books are The Roots of Rural Capitalism: Western Massachusetts, 1780-1860, which won the Organization of American Historians’ Frederick Jackson Turner Award; Social Change in America from the Revolution through the Civil War; and (as a co-author) Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s History.
Day 3: The River That Runs Both Ways
9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
The Hudson River Estuary provides many services to New York, including shipping and transportation, fisheries, and water supply. It is also a depository for our treated and untreated sewage. Each year, an estimated twenty-seven billion gallons of raw, untreated sewage and street runoff is washed away from the city into the ocean, threatening the ecological health of the estuary and the health of those living near the water. We will spend most of the day outside as we immerse ourselves in this arena, where the estuary meets people, industry, and sewage. Focusing on Newtown Creek, a historic shipping canal declared a Superfund site in 2011, we will learn about community, city, state, and national efforts to repair the Hudson River Estuary, as well as global struggles to keep water clean. We will visit the Kingsland Wildflowers Green Roof, meet the Newtown Creek Alliance, collect samples of water and air (with the Bard College Water Lab), and tour the Newtown Creek Nature Walk and the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Eli Dueker is an environmental microbiologist and director of the Environmental and Urban Studies program at Bard College. He recently formed Bard’s Center for the Study of Land, Air, and Water to put academic knowledge (science, art, writing, social sciences) into the hands of communities making tough decisions about natural-resource management. He has worked with community groups like the Newtown Creek Alliance, the Saw Kill Watershed Community, and the Roe Jan Watershed Community for more than ten years.