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Art Comes Alive At The New David Rockefeller Center

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September 30, 2022

By Barrett Seaman—

Like the elegant structure on the grounds of the Palace at Versailles that was its model, the Orangerie on the grounds of Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, is filled with light that pours through skylights and the arched windows that line its façade. Built by John D. Rockefeller in 1908, it had been long dormant.

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Now newly refurbished and fully powered by an adjacent solar array, the Orangerie re-opens this month as the David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center (DR Center), reconfigured to serve artists of all kinds—and in turn to serve the public.

The exterior of the Orangerie (photo by Dean Gallea)

Art has long been a feature at Kykuit, notably through Nelson Rockefeller’s collection of modern art housed on the lower level of the main house. Since 2012, there have been music, dance and theater performances on the lawn of the estate through the Culpeper Summer Performance Series. The new DR Center will allow those performances to double each year, from four to eight.

The veranda at the rear of the building (photo by Dean Gallea)

The real difference the DR Center brings, however, is in its flexible interior that offers gallery space for temporary art exhibits, retractable seating for theatrical productions and a working studio that provides space for a series of artists-in-residence who will have it as their own for two months each. These artists will also be provided housing on the property for the duration of their residency. The building’s rooms can expand or contract to fit the needs of artists; the wall to the veranda at the rear of the building can be retracted to create an indoor-outdoor theater experience.

The DR Center’s gallery opens to the public October 1st with an inaugural exhibit entitled Inspired Encounters: Women Artists and the Legacies of Modern Art. Courtesy of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), one of the family’s foundations, the exhibit pairs earlier works from the post-war period, mostly from the Kykuit collection, with new commissions by a dozen contemporary women artists. “With this show,” said Katrina London, manager of collections and curatorial projects at the RBF. “we aimed to highlight the diverse stories and voices of brilliant women who relentlessly pursued artistic success despite the discrimination they faced.”

A glimpse of the new inspired Encounters exhibition (photo by Dean Gallea)

The gallery will be open to the public Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and Thursdays from 3:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. Visitors must reserve a free timed-entry ticket prior to visiting. Tickets are available here.

Flexible theater seating (photo by Dean Gallea)

On October 15th, the Center will open to the general public. In addition to the Inspired Encounters exhibition, visitors will be able to meet Athena LaTocha, a native Alaskan, now living in Peekskill and the first artist in residence in the studio. At 2:30 p.m., local musician and composer Pablo Mayor will offer a sneak preview of his work Untold Tales, which will make its premier at the DFR Center on November 16th.

“My hope,” says David Rockefeller Jr. “is that the David Rockefeller Creative Arts Center will inspire and nourish a new generation of artists by providing high-quality, low-cost access to cultural events and performances, as well as a venue for community arts activities.”

The Center’s solar array makes more power than the building consumes (photo by Dean Gallea)

Along with its commitment to the arts, the DR Center also reflects the family’s commitment to environmental sustainability. The Center will be “net-zero” in terms of its carbon footprint and aims to win certification as a platinum LEED building. In addition to the solar array, which will produce more electricity than the building can consume, it will have a rain garden that will both conserve water and reduce runoff pollutants.

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