American Academy of Arts & Letters
633 West 155th Street
New York, NY 10032
Hours: Thursday-Sunday-1:00pm-4:00pm/Open During Exhibitions times only or by appointment (Mid-March-Mid-April; Mid-May-Mid-June)
My review on TripAdvisor:
I was finally able to visit the American Academy of Arts and Letters on the last day it was open for the year to the public. It was for the ‘Ceremonial Exhibition: Work by New Members and Recipients of Awards’, an exhibition on members art that was chosen specifically for the show. Most of the work was very contemporary and some a little political. It was interesting work by new artists that filled the small gallery rooms.
One of the buildings was used for the contemporary art while the one across the courtyard was used for the more architectural pieces. The galleries are small but the art was impressive. What I liked when I talked with one of the women who worked there said to me that after the show, the pieces would be donated to galleries and museums all over the country. The galleries are only open four months out of the year and this was the last day of the exhibition so the work being shown will be gone.
Some of the pieces that really stood out were by Judith Bernstein, a contemporary painter who seems to not like the current administration too much. The themes were on power and money and corruption in the administration. Her work really shows what she personally thinks of our President. Her ‘Trump Genie” was very clever and I can see this in a major museum in the future.
Judith Bernstein’s work
Other work in the main gallery were by artists Stephen Westfall with ‘Solid Gone’, Hermine Ford with ‘Paris, France’ and Paul Mogensen with several ‘Untitled’ pieces. The contemporary works I was not sure what the meaning of them were but they were colorful.
The works of the artists of the front gallery
One of the pieces in the front gallery that really stood out was by artist Francesca Dimattio, ‘She-wolf’ which was a classic Greek character made of porcelain, enamel, paint and steel.
‘She-wolf’ by Francesca Dimattio
There were light installations that were very interesting by artist James O. Clark. He had one piece, ‘Wunnerful, Wunnerful’, which is a work that just keeps being creating itself by bubbles and ink markers moving along a turntable that stops and starts.
There was a permanent exhibition of Charles Ives home in Connecticut that was transported and recreated here. His studio and works are featured here as well as his family life. There are copies of his works in the display cases and his career.
When it is open, the galleries are very interesting filled with works of new artists being featured. Now you just have to wait until March of 2020.
The American Academy of Arts & Letters was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers and writers. Charter members include William Merritt Chase, Kenyon Cox, Daniel Chester French, Childe Hassam, Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Vedder and Woodrow Wilson. The Academy;s 250 members are elected for life and pay no dues.
In addition to electing new members as vacancies occur, the Academy seeks to foster and sustain an interest in Literature, Music and the Fine Arts by administering over 70 awards and prizes, exhibiting art and manuscripts, funding performances of new works of musical theater and purchasing artwork for donation to museums across the country.
The Academy’s collection, which are open to scholars by appointment, contain portraits and photographs of members, as well as paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and decorative art objects. The library has more than 25,000 books by or about members. The archives house correspondence with past members, press clippings, institutional records and original manuscripts of musical and literary works.
The National Institute of Arts & Letters, the parent body of the Academy, was founded in 1898 for “the advancement of art and literature”. The Institute met for the first time in New York City in February 1899 and began electing members that fall. Architects, artists, writers and composers of notable achievement were eligible and membership was soon capped at 250. In 1913, President Taft signed an act of Congress incorporating the organization in the District of Columbia.
American Academy of Arts & Letters
In 1904, The Institution created the American Academy of Arts & Letters, a prestigious inner body of its own members that modeled itself on the Academie francaise. The first seven members of the Academy were William Dean Howells, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Edmund Clarence Stedman, John La Farge, Mark Twain, John Hay and Edward MacDowell. Those seven then chose eight more and so on, until the full complement of 30 and later 50 was reached. Only after being elected to the Institute, was a member eligible for elevation to the Academy. This bicameral system of membership continued until 1993, when the Institute dissolved itself and all 250 members were enrolled in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The Academy inaugurated its annual awards program in 1909 with the Gold Medal for Sculpture. Since then, over 70 awards and prizes have been endowed through gifts and bequests or established by the Academy’s board of directors in the fields of architecture, art, literature and music. There are conferred each year at the Ceremonial in May when new members are inducted and a distinguished speaker is invited to deliver the Blashfield Address.
In 2005, the Academy purchased the former headquarters of the American Numismatic Society, the neighboring building on Audubon Terrace. A Glass Link now connects the Academy’s existing galleries to newly renovated ones in the former Numismatic building. These new galleries house the permanently installed Charles Ives Studio.
(The Academy of Arts & Letters Website)