- Lisa Ven Vertloh
- "Liquid Sky," taken at Opus 40 in Saugerties
The bluestone obelisk of Opus 40 silhouetted against a clear sky with Overlook Mountain towering in the background is one of the Hudson Valley’s most iconic vistas. The Saugerties sculpture park, Harvey Fite’s 6.5-acre masterwork maze of ramps and platforms, itself encapsulates the region: a marriage of nature, history, and art. Fite toiled at his creation until the day of his death in 1976. Now, the 46-year-old masterwork needs a hand.
“A wall in the area called the amphitheater is very clearly listing,” says Opus 40 Executive Director Caroline Crumpacker. Fixing that wall will be the first priority for the $300,000 grant the nonprofit just received from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation. This grant matches another from the National Parks Service’s Save America’s Treasures initiative. Both will go towards ensuring that Fite’s beautiful work stays intact, safe, and usable for generations to come.
“I can say that, on behalf of our Board of Directors, staff and the many people from all over the world who spend time on our site admiring Harvey Fite’s work each year, we could not be more pleased to be working with the wonderful staff of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to realize a multi-year program of sculpture repair and conservation at Opus 40,” says Jonathan Becker, President of the Opus 40 Board of Directors.
Receiving these grants was a lengthy process. Opus 40 applied for the National Parks Service grant in January 2021 and didn’t hear back until September. “There was a lot of waiting,” Crumpacker says. “We were hopeful, but we had to make sure we had a plan B just in case.” Luckily, the grant money came through. “We were overjoyed when we found out we got it,” Crumpacker says, adding that the Mellon Foundation grant was a quicker but equally gratifying process.
Given the stipulations of federal grants, Opus 40 staff is engaged in a competitive bidding process, interviewing groups to find the leadership team that will guide the historic conservation effort. According to Crumpacker, the nonprofit has found the group they hope will spearhead the repair process, and are waiting on final approval. “The group we’ve chosen is extraordinarily skilled,” Crumpacker said. “I’m hoping that, because bluestone masonry is a very esoteric skill, they’ll be approved.”
Opus 40 also received a grant of $49,500 for general operating in 2022 from the New York State Council on the Arts. Taken all together, the nonprofit is well-positioned to move into a new chapter using the repair process itself as a jumping off point for increased community engagement. Since joining Opus 40 team in 2019 as the first full-time executive director, Crumpacker, who has a background in the nonprofit arts leadership, has brought a gust of fresh energy and ideas, She says, “Our great hope is that we can make this project a real part of the cultural, physical, and historical landscape of the Hudson Valley with mentorships, public programs, and guided tours of the process.”
Opus 40 is open to visitors May through October. Check their website for exciting new programs to come.