FIELDWORK

Blue metal clouds hover thirty feet over the undulating terrain of Art Omi in Columbia County, New York, and they prove more compelling to visitors than the white diaphanous versions drifting by thousands of feet overhead. Elsewhere, on the 120-acre property, grain bins that once held corn now hold swaths of sky and air. Visitors trek to the top of a steep hill to spin a Modern house that rests on a concrete column. A glossy yellow beam hyphenates across a field like a punctuation mark in nature before it angles sharply upward. And a Dutch canal house stands tall in grasses—until the visitor realizes that its wavy façade replicates the effects of a reflection in water. 

To visit Art Omi is to find sculpture and architectural elements both serious and humorous, but which always encourage direct interaction—to climb over, look into and through, listen to as their parts respond to breezes. “For the thirty years that Omi has existed,” explains Co-Executive Director Ruth Adams, who shares the title with Gavin Berger, “we’ve wanted people to take a physical journey through the park, out in nature, and design their own experiences of the art and the place. There’s no clear path to take.” As Berger adds, “The magic that began here is still here. Omi has grown organically over all this time and is still growing.”

Ever since the visionary real estate developer Francis Greenburger purchased the land and began to install monumental sculptural works on it, while also stablishing an unprecedented onsite residency program for artists of multiple disciplines, Art Omi (named for the mostly nonexistent village that once stood nearby) has evolved as an internationally recognized cultural institution. Columbia County, a vast bucolic expanse two and a half hours north of New York City, has morphed into a popular second-home destination for city dwellers, while remaining the year-round home of permanent residents, some of whose ancestors began to settle the region as early as the eighteenth century. “For New Yorkers who have come up here, the big activity for many years was to fix up their homes and hold dinner parties,” says Berger, who admits to having been one of those very people, but who now works full time at Omi and lives in a historic house nearby. “This area is now where people come to have an art fix.”

This story appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of MILIEU. To read the complete story or to see all photos, visit the MILIEU Newsstand to purchase this issue in print or visit Zinio.com to purchase this issue in digital format.  

WRITTEN BY DAVID MASELLO

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALON KOPPEL, MOLLY STINCHFIELD, BRYAN ZIMMERMAN

This story appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of MILIEU