Vassar Student Association

Exploring the Hudson Valley: Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center


Although the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center (FLLAC) is located right here on campus, literally joined at the hip to Taylor Hall, many students not enrolled in Art 105-106 are unaware that a world-class museum stands just a few minutes from their dormitories.

Pablo Picasso. Paul Cezanne. Frederic Church. Albrect Dürer. Works from these—and many more—recognizable names are deposited in the Loeb’s permanent collection.

The museum has a long and proud history at Vassar. The predecessor to the FLLAC, the Vassar College Art Center, was founded in 1864 by order of Matthew Vassar himself. Vassar College was the first institution of higher education in the United States to include an art museum in its original plan. In 1993, the Art Center was given a tremendous physical upgrade when it moved into the current 36,000 square foot facility located just next to the College’s main gate.

The museum and accompanying renovation of Taylor-Van Ingen Hall, the 1915 Gothic building that houses the art department, was designed by Cesar Pelli, and included an addition to the new museum and sculpture garden. The architecture alone is worth the walk over. “It’s like a symphony,” Pelli said in an interview with the New York Times. “You go through a series of movements.” Museum-goers will enter into a “whimsical” hexagonal glass pavilion complete with a green slate floor. From there, they will walk on through a curving class pathway that serves as a window onto Vassar’s campus, eventually winding up at the beginning of the galleries.

The gallery spaces are not overwhelmingly large, and can be thoroughly covered in about an hour or two. Only about three percent of the permanent collection is on view at any given time, though these pieces rotate during the year. When the weather cooperates, visitors can enjoy a compact, elegant sculpture garden just off of the main gallery space, designed by landscape architect Diana Balmori.

In addition to the permanent collection, the FLLAC hosts several rotating exhibitions each year. These are often organized by prestigious outside curators, or include well-known artworks and artists. In 2006, to commemorate the 400th birthday of Rembrandt, the Art Center displayed over 100 of the Dutch master’s prints. 2007 saw the critically acclaimed Hudson River School Trilogy exhibit, made up of works from three collectors and museums. This included the art of some of the Hudson River School’s key practitioners, such as Frederic Edwin Church, Sanford Gifford and Jasper Francis Cropsey.

Cost is no problem here; admission to the Art Center is free. And the hours, which include Saturdays and Sundays, are flexible enough to fit any student’s schedule. I recommend going on Thursday nights, when the FLLAC hosts special Late Nights and the galleries remain open until 9 p.m. Hungry students will find complimentary platters of cheese and vegetables, along with wine for those who are of age.

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