by Barbara Reina


Thomas Cole House in Catskill, NY and TurnPark Art Space in West Stockbridge, MA. Photos by Barbara Reina

While local museums and art galleries take time to safely reopen in response to COVID-19, there are many opportunities to stroll their grounds as a relaxing diversion and outdoor activity. Locally, a walk around the grounds can be a rediscovery of places to wander and enjoy a gentle breeze under a shady tree. Take a moment to quiet your mind and let your thoughts meander back in history to that landmark spot where you are standing, something that you can still touch today.

Galleries are cautiously reopening with COVID-19 social distancing protocols and timed entries of small-numbered groups for admission. Different states may also have additional mandates. In these uncertain times, a walk on the museum campus trails can lengthen your outing and give you more opportunities to de-stress. All of the museum grounds mentioned in this article are free to enter or with a suggested donation.

Berkshire County
Tucked away in a quiet corner on a small lot behind local shops and restaurants, TurnPark Art Space in West Stockbridge, MA, provides room to breathe. When it’s fully operational, the art space is a combination sculpture park, exhibition venue, and stone amphitheater for outdoor performances. During COVID-19 restrictions, the galleries are closed, but the grounds are open with a suggested donation.

At this 16-acre artistic spot next to a quarry, sculptures and chairs are spaced throughout the grassy open outdoor area. It’s a spot that inspires one to sit and sketch at leisure. In the meantime, there is still opportunity to wonder what Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr might be thinking in a statue located on the lower level of the grounds created by Russian sculptor, Vladimir Lemport. A large statue by Nikolai Silis of “Don Quixote with a Flower” faces the quarry in quiet contemplation. Sculptures come from the collection of TurnPark Art founders, Igor Gomberg and Katya Brezgunova.

Extending your visit in West Stockbridge, just a few miles away is the Norman Rockwell Museum. On the campus, guests are encouraged as artists of all levels to sketch, paint and picnic on the scenic 36-acre site with gardens and expansive Berkshire vistas. The River Path leads you down to the Housatonic River. The fanciful sculptures created by Rockwell’s son, Peter, seem to rise up from the landscape along the path, sharing the positive energy of the Rockwell family humor. The museum website has videos for sketch enthusiasts with series such as “Sketch Club” and “Sketchatorian.” In a cautious opening of the gallery space, the museum requires the purchase of timed tickets in advance of your arrival. Time segments are available every 30 minutes during hours of operation.

For longer distance trails attached to a museum site, The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, has both an open and a woodsy feel, with interpretive signs along walking trails and forest paths that cross the property. Here, also, you can find art on the grounds. A trail up historic Stone Hill offers a spectacular view of Williamstown and the Green Mountains of Vermont at the summit. The museum is open with advanced timed ticket purchases required.

Columbia County, NY

Visiting the Olana State Historic Site in Hudson, NY, you can almost picture Frederick Church inviting one of his mentors, Thomas Cole, into the studio, as you watch these iconic artists spend time together studying the Hudson River Valley landscape. In your mind, you can hear the distant echoes of Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, reading poetry to the Church family under a big shady tree. Catch an imaginary glimpse of Emily de Forest photographing the grounds and travel writer and bon vivante Susan Hale performing a charade, with the help of the Church family coachman, Michael McKenna. Frederic and Isabel Church with their four children
centered their lives at Olana and enjoyed receiving such aforementioned guests, as surviving documents show.

Church was a 19th century painter, world traveler, family man, self-taught architect, farmer and landscape designer. But his life wasn’t all landscape views and roses. Before building the estate, the Churches’ first two children died tragically in March 1865 of diphtheria. In the years that followed, the Churches opened a new chapter in their lives with the births of four more children, who were raised at Olana.

On the weekends, outdoor tours are opening up at Olana. For me, Olana has a romantic feel. When my husband and I were dating, he traveled up more than once from NYC to meet me there.

You can extend your day by taking a two-mile walk across the Hudson River Skywalk, a pedestrian walkway along the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, which connects to the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Greene County, NY.

Greene County, NY

Thomas Cole’s 19th century landscape paintings were some of the brush strokes that made the quiet natural beauty along the Hudson River famous. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY, consists of a main house, old and new studio and visitor center. The grounds are open free of charge from dawn to dusk every day.

Thomas Cole founded the nation’s first major art movement, now known as the Hudson River School. Following the Hudson River School Art Trail is a journey all its own, with 20 Hudson Valley stops along the way to sketch, paint, or just feel inspired. Historic sites such as Olana, Thomas Cole and the Skywalk are three destinations on that list.

Summer is a wonderful time to step outside and become part of the landscape. Our connection with nature is a constant reassuring reminder that this day will end and another will begin.


Olana State Historic Site
5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY
Museum Grounds open 8:30 a.m.-Sunset
Tours Saturday and Sunday.

Thomas Cole National Historic Site
218 Spring Street, Catskill, NY
The grounds are open free of charge from dawn to dusk every day.

TurnPark Art Space
2 Moscow Road, West Stockbridge MA
The grounds are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Route 183, Stockbridge, MA
The grounds of the Norman Rockwell Museum are available to the public during operating hours, with no charge.

The Clark
225 South Street, Williamstown, MA
The Clark’s campus and walking trails on the grounds remain open daily from dawn to dusk at no charge.