The Hyde Collection’s 60th anniversary year will see “our most ambitious offering of exhibitions in years,” John Lefner, The Hyde’s incoming CEO told the large crowd gathering in the museum’s interior courtyard on January 27.
The opening of three new exhibitions – now on view through April 23 – coincided with the introduction of three new additions to the museum’s curatorial, exhibitions and conservation staff: Bryn Critz Schockmel, Curator of the Permanent Collection; Derin Tanyol, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; and Rachel Lovelace-Portal, Registrar and Collections Manager.
“Their knowledge, passion, and drive will propel us as we look forward to our next 60 years, said Norm Dascher, The Hyde’s current CEO. “I know you join me in welcoming them to The Hyde family.”
John Lefner will succeed Norm Dascher as The Hyde’s new Chief Executive Officer on May 1, the museum’s Board of Trustees formally announced February 6.
“We believe John’s leadership will mark a new era of growth and civic engagement for the Museum. John is deeply committed to pursuing the vision to bring exceptional exhibitions and programming to The Hyde. He is poised to work alongside our three new, extremely talented curators to deliver outstanding art experiences for members and visitors alike. John is the leader we need at this transformational moment,” said Jason Ward, chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Lefner currently serves as The Hyde’s Chief Operations and Development Officer. Before joining The Hyde, he served as District Executive Director at Capital District YMCA, Director of Operations at Saratoga Independent School, and Assistant Director of Operations at Double H Ranch. He holds a B.A. from Champlain College.
Dr. Bryn Critz Schockmel
Bryn Critz Schockmel earned her B.A. from Skidmore College, her M.A. from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and her Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance art history from Boston University in 2019. Schockmel became the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s curator in 2020, where, among other things, she coordinated a traveling exhibition, “The Painters of Pompeii: Roman Frescoes from the National Archaeological Museum, Naples.” She has also held positions at The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She was a Hyde intern in 2013-14.
“I am excited to return to The Hyde Collection, now in the role of curator, and I welcome the opportunity to engage with an exceptional collection of art and develop exhibitions that can foster interdisciplinary conversations,” said Critz Schockmel.
The core of the Permanent Collection, which Critz Schockmel will oversee, was acquired by museum founders Louis and Charlotte Hyde and includes works by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, El Greco, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Edgar Degas, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and American artists Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer and James McNeill Whistler.
Dr. Derin Tanyol
Derin Tanyol spent fifteen years as an arts administrator in museums and galleries and has curated or produced more than sixty exhibitions at the museums at Vassar College and at SUNY New Paltz, among other places. She has also taught art history at Vassar, Wesleyan and New Paltz. Tanyol received her Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and her B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University.
The Hyde Collection’s holdings of modern and contemporary art doubled in 2016 when the museum acquired works collected over the course of decades by Schenectady architects Werner Feibes and James Schmitt, among them, pieces by Josef Albers, Dorothy Dehner, Sam Gilliam, Adolph Gottlieb, Grace Hartigan, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, George McNeil, Robert Motherwell, Ben Nicholson, Robert Rauschenberg and Bridget Riley.
“I look forward to working with the staff and board to create shows that will highlight the superlative collections at The Hyde and introduce audiences to some of the most important artists working today,” said Tanyol.
Rachel Lovelace-Portal “is a museum professional with a passion for the caring of museum collections and making them accessible to the public,” said Norm Dascher.
Lovelace-Portal has spent the past seven years living in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where she worked as the curator of collections for Deadwood History, Inc. Prior to that, she was a curator at the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg, PA. Lovelace-Portal earned a BA in English and history from Southern Adventist University and an MA in Public History from Appalachian State University.
“The Hyde has many great exhibitions planned for this year and I’m looking forward to helping make them a memorable experience for our visitors,” said Lovelace-Portal.
“The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper,” a traveling exhibition of work by African American artists, is one of the three shows that opened January 28.
“It’s a very special collection of nearly 70 watercolors, pastels, drawings, and prints by leading artists,” said Derin Tanyol. “The show chronicles the lives of Black Americans through a series of representative themes: labor, landscape and cityscape, portraiture, community, and entertainment.”
Tanyol continued, “The Kelleys focused on uplifting, positive themes, although a small section of the show confronts racism and injustice.”
“Jean Arp: Nature Without Measure,” thirteen pieces by the key figure in the Dada and Surrealist movements from The Hyde’s own collections, will be displayed in the Whitney-Renz Gallery.
Also on view: “Asking,” an exhibition of work by Sam Gilliam (1933- 2022), the African American artist who embraced abstraction at a time when most Black painters privileged figuration, as documented by “The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper.”
“Edgar Degas, The Private Impressionist: Works on Paper by the Artist and his Circle,” another traveling exhibition, will be on view October 7 through December 31.
Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music and Dance
According to John Lefner, the highlight of The Hyde’s 60th anniversary season will be “the landmark, highly anticipated ‘Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music and Dance,’ the first major exhibition of the sculptor’s work in this area since 1973, when The Hyde Collection mounted “David Smith of Bolton Landing: Sculpture and Drawings.”
Jason Ward, Hyde Board chair, said, “David Smith was not only one of The Hyde’s earliest trustees, he curated The Hyde’s very first summer exhibition, installing his own sculptures on the lawn. Our intimate association with David Smith is what the Museum seeks to highlight with this 60th anniversary exhibition.”
The exhibition opens June 24 with an illustrated discussion with Smith’s two daughters, Rebecca Smith and Candida Smith, moderated by Lake George Mirror editor Tony Hall.
“Songs of the Horizon” will be accompanied by a catalog with essays by the Smiths and prominent scholars of work by David Smith and his first wife, the artist Dorothy Dehner, who will also be represented in the show.
According to The Hyde, the exhibition will be the first to focus exclusively on the influence of music and dance on Smith’s painting, drawing and sculpture.
It will include works from the Estate of David Smith, loans from important private and public collections and a selection of rare archival materials. Two tall vertical sculptures will be installed on The Hyde’s lawns for the duration of the exhibition, which closes September 17, 2023.
Dr. Jennifer Field, Executive Director of the Estate of David Smith, is the show’s curator.
“The Adirondack region that encompasses Bolton Landing and Glens Falls was inseparable from Smith’s artistic practice,” said Field. “A dialogue with nature—the mountain landscape, the change of seasons, the flight of birds—is reflected in his artwork in every medium.”
Smith, commonly regarded as the greatest American sculptor of the 20th century, bought a former fox farm in Bolton in 1929 and was a vital member of that community until his death in 1965.
In the 1940s, inspired by productions such as those staged by modern dance choreographer Franziska Boas in Bolton Landing, Smith began depicting performers – musicians and dancers – absorbed and even possessed by music.
Music was so important to the life of David Smith that he hoped his two daughters would become musicians – going so far as to hire Bolton Landing organist and harpsichordist Hugh Allen Wilson to give them private lessons.
A drawing that Smith gave to Wilson, based on a performance by the harpsichord player Sylvia Marlowe, is now owned by The Hyde Collection and will be included in “Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music, and Dance.”
“The impact of music and dance were integral to reaching a critical point in Smith’s artistic maturity,” said John Lefner.
Jason Ward credited Norm Dascher “with exceptional leadership during a difficult period for The Hyde Collection.”
Ward said Dascher’s “vision and business acumen financially stabilized our organization, reducing expenses and establishing a successful new development program. The Hyde is very well-positioned for a leadership transition.”
A Lake George resident, Dascher had only recently returned from St. Peter’s Health Partners in Albany before being named The Hyde’s CEO in 2019.
He was not yet ready for retirement, though; nor was interested in something routine, however remunerative.
“I wanted to do something that was meaningful, something that would contribute to the community,” said Dascher, “The Hyde appealed to me because of its legacy, its history and because its contributions to this community are so important.”
Unlike previous directors of The Hyde, all of whom had experience as curators – two at The Hyde itself – and who came to the museum with backgrounds in art history, Dascher played no role in curatorial affairs.
“My role was to manage the operational side of the business, dealing with budgets, personnel, fundraising, assisting the board with its strategic plan.”
Crafting a clear division of labor between management and the curatorial staff is something other museums are doing with increasing frequency, said Dascher.
“It’s a model that’s gaining traction,” said Dascher. “At The Hyde, it’s one that makes especially good sense because of the quality of the collections. It deserves the full attention of the curator. And The Hyde deserves a full-time leader.”
When John Lefner assumes the CEO role at The Hyde on May 1, he will become the 16th leader in the Museum’s 60-year history.
“John’s appointment comes at a moment of incredible transformation for The Hyde Collection, and his exceptional leadership experience will contribute greatly to further strengthening our mission and reach,” said Dascher. “John has helped The Hyde navigate through tremendous change. I am excited to see the impact John’s leadership will have on the Museum and the community.”