Art Education

There was no room for art at 300 Main Street, but when the Museum opened at Courtland Park, Stamford artists were among the first exhibitors. Space was limited however, and on good days volunteers would hang art work outside on the patio in the morning and take it in at night. This inspired an anonymous donor to provide funds for enclosing the patio, making space for "all-weather" exhibits. Art classes for all ages were introduced. One of the teachers and volunteers for hanging exhibits was the late Karl Lang who had been an apprentice of Gutzon Borglum, and whose sculpture graces parks and buildings throughout the country. Borglum's most well known work, of course, is Mount Rushmore.

The Studio Building, the former garage on the Bendel estate, was converted to classroom and studio space. This became the center for art and dance classes and included a ceramic studio with a kiln, dark room, dance studio, classrooms, and a small gallery. The natural surroundings have played an important role in the classes. Adults have sculpted their pieces outdoors behind the Studio building, drawn and photographed the unending variety of flora and fauna in the woods and on the farm. Children have collected objects in their explorations of the grounds to be used in their artwork.

Rebecca Schulman donates collection, 1961.
A large room was also set aside in the main building for art exhibitions. In 1961, the Museum received as a distinguished gift the Shulman Collection of American paintings which became an exceptional centerpiece for the museum's permanent collection. As the collection grew and more exhibitions were planned, space was in demand for galleries and storage. In June of 1973, an enlarged and modernized art gallery opened in the main building. Art exhibitions continued to grow in stature, featuring the works of artists of international reputation, selections from outstanding collections, as well as works from local art organizations, and from permanent collection.

For the next nine years, the Museum and the community grew at a rapid pace and the Museum sought ways to fulfill its commitment to provide more exhibits for its increasing number of visitors. With a major matching gift in 1982, the museum felt it now had the means to go ahead with plans to create more gallery space plus the much needed storage area for the collections. Not only did the museum match the gift, but far exceeded it through donations from the private sector and corporations, making possible the creation of a new wing which would provide over 2,000 square feet of art exhibition space with gallery and a sculpture terrace, while freeing the existing art gallery for rotating exhibits without closing down galleries. To house the collection, a 900 square foot storage area with the necessary temperature and humidity controls was created. The new wing opened on September 8, 1985 with "Reuben Nakian Sculpture and Drawings" exhibition.

In the ensuing years, the Museum's collection grew. It now fits into five different categories: American art of the 19th century; Native American art from pre-history to the 20th century; natural history of the northeast from the turn of the 19th century through the 20th century; American history and culture (19th and 20th centuries); and farm implements from the late 19th century through the 20th century. The Museum now maintains a permanent collection of more than 20,000 works of art, artifacts, specimens, and living collections.

In recent years, the Museum has presented a series of engaging exhibitions in our galleries in the Bendel Mansion. These exhibitions have included: Pedal to the Metal: A History of Children's Pedal Cars; From Goodnight Moon to Art Dog: The World of Clement, Edith and Thacher Hurd; Creative Contraptions; Consuming Desires: Modern Marketing Posters, 1880-1918; and BUILT TO SCALE: Auto, Plane & Boat Model Masterpieces.

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