Sculpture Park

Town receives $400,000 matching grant for Opus 40 purchase

by David Gordon
November 24, 2010 03:12 PM | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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One of the largest and most beguiling works of art on the North American landmass moved one step closer to becoming a town park last week, as the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced the award of a $400,000 matching grant to go toward the purchase of Opus 40, the sprawling bluestone sculpture in Highwoods.

Town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel said he was confident the town could find donors to match the grant. He reiterated the town’s pledge not to spend any taxpayer dollars on the purchase of the property, though the Town Board did allocate $5,000 in attorney fees to set up the non-profit earlier this year. No further expenditures of town money are planned. More funds are needed to make the purchase, but that will have to come from donations and grants, Helsmoortel said.

If the property becomes a park, the town’s role will be to perform routine maintenance, like mowing the grass and plowing the driveway. Management will be left entirely to the non-profit. “It will be a town park, but not a recreational park as we know Cantine is,” said Helsmoortel. “It will be more of a cultural park.”

The supervisor said making the property a park would not necessitate hiring any new employees, nor would it increase the town’s insurance significantly. Although the details have not been worked out, he believed the park would be unstaffed, free and open to the public most of the time, with admission fees and staff necessary for large events.

The name, Opus 40, refers to Fite’s estimate that it would take 40 years to complete. Three years short of the goal, he died in a riding-mower accident at the sculpture. Fite’s stepson Tad Richards and his wife Pat have been managing the sculpture park through a non-profit corporation for more than 20 years.

The asking price for the property, which includes the house, had originally been over $3 million. Though the sale price would likely be less, Helsmoortel acknowledged the effort has a ways to go. He said the non-profit group is seeking recognition as a New York State Museum. If that happens, grant money would be much easier to get, he said.

The Opus 40 town committee includes: Jennifer Schwatz Berky, the deputy director of the Ulster County Planning Department; Tad Richards; Town Councilman Jim Bruno; Michael Sullivan Smith of the Saugerties Historic Preservation Commission; Brigid Walsh, Walsh Events Group; Cornelia Seckel of Art Times; Marjorie Block, Saugerties Historical Society president; Hans Gunderud and Gary Bischoff. The secretary is Johanna Hall and the treasurer is Cynthia Saporito.

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