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A Century of Olmsted: Utica and Beyond

August 14, 2014 - January 4, 2015

In the early 20th century, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (1870-1957) and Thomas R. Proctor (1844-1920) led the way in the transformation of the Utica landscape, creating beautiful and naturalistic recreational spaces that provided escapes from the city and enhanced the quality of life for its inhabitants.

A Century of Olmsted: Utica and Beyond, on view in the Otto Meyer galleries August 14 through January 4, is the first exhibition to explore the creation of some of Utica’s most beautiful natural places.

During the late 19th century, American cities—stifled by their inherent industrial landscapes and high population density—incorporated park systems to provide pastoral and woodland escapes for the public’s enjoyment. The Utica parks and Parkway neighborhood stemmed from this national trend. Proctor—a prominent citizen, businessman, philanthropist, and one of the Institute’s founders—believed that the city deserved parks comparable to those in nearby urban centers. His vision manifested itself in the City of Utica’s beautification efforts directed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the son of America’s most celebrated landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. (1822-1903).

As noted by guest curator Amanda Manahan, who wrote her Master’s thesis on the Utica parks, Utica has benefited from this series of expansive and unique parks for more than 100 years. Through period imagery and contemporary art photographs, this exhibition will explore the development of the park system (concentrating on Roscoe Conkling and F. T. Proctor Parks), the changes to the landscape over time, and the recent restoration efforts.

Stunning contemporary photographs by artist Lee Friedlander will also accompany the exhibition. Drawn from Friedlander’s book Lee Friedlander Photographs: Frederick Law Olmsted Landscapes, the images chronicle the dramatic impact of the vision of Olmsted Sr. and how his foresight influenced his son and the parks of New York State.

We thank our generous exhibition sponsors: Adirondack Financial Services; Christopher and Virginia Kelly; and The F.X. Matt II Memorial Fund, the James C. O’Shea Family Fund, and the Joan B. and William F. O’Shea Family Fund—each a donor-advised fund of The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Inc.

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New York State Council on the Arts with the support of
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.