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Director’s Message – April 19, 2024

Dear Friends,Extraordinary. It’s not something you see everyday.

I am overjoyed to share that we have teamed up with a devoted partner to bring you just that.

Last night, Bank of America announced 24 projects around the globe selected to be part their 2024 Art Conservation Project. It is a stellar list: Musée d’Orsay, National Gallery in London, the Guggenheim, Smithsonian, and…Hill-Stead, sandwiched between Rome’s Galleria Borghese and the Louvre!

The Louvre Pyramid, Paris. Photograph by Anders Bengtsson.

With the Bank’s support, in July we will host two titans of art conservation, David Bull and Teresa Longyear, who will treat three of our Impressionist masterpieces, Degas’s Dancers in Pink, Manet’s Toreadors and Monet’s Fishing Boats at Sea.

Fishing Boats at Sea, Claude Monet

They will set up shop in our bespoke glass room, named for our longtime supporter David Dangremond and his sons Sam and Gus. In this conservation “fishbowl” they shall – right before your eyes – remove 125+ years worth of dirt, grime and discoloration. And at the end, we will all have the chance to see these artworks anew, in their original vibrant states, as perhaps only the artists themselves did. Until now.

I imagine it will feel like having cataracts removed from your eyes. Do carve out a day between July 10th and 31st to come see for yourself.

The honor of being selected and the gratitude we feel for our inimitable partner is beyond what I can describe. However, I would like to highlight the singular and crucial role that Bank of America occupies here. As the successor bank entrusted with the funds Theodate left to care for Hill-Stead, it provides the one unbroken chain of this museum’s life, from 1947 to today. Supporting the hard, worthy work of preserving and sharing this wondrous place, they are a beacon of commitment, faithfulness, and devotion.

We are both humbled and elated!


Dr. Anna Swinbourne
Executive Director & CEO

P.S: if you are curious about the other 23 art projects, you can learn about them here.

Director’s Message – February 29, 2024

Dear Friends,A favorite art story is Marcel Duchamp‘s transformation of the Mona Lisa.In 1919, he took an image of Leonardo’s beloved lady and embellished it, adding a delicate beard and moustache and a new title – the letters L.H.O.O.Q. – underneath.

While the gender-bending facial hair is clever, it’s the lettering that is the stroke of genius. L.H.O.O.Q is gramogram. Pronounced in his native French these letters form a sentence, Elle a chaud au cul, which translates roughly to She has a hot ass. While millions had gazed upon this iconic face, who, pray tell, had ever contemplated her backside? And what, exactly, had Duchamp done through this modest yet shocking intervention? Made his viewer giggle, or gasp, or realize that there was more to Mona than her beguiling smile. Maybe he went deeper and helped one think about the nature of idolatry, and preciousness, and why we even look at art of the past in the first place. He plucked a 416-year-old painting from its distant Renaissance day and gave it a new satirical life in his own post World War I era, a time of devastation, shock, and profound questioning. He took something old and gave it present-day relevance.A favorite work in Hill-Stead’s collection is Edgar Degas’s The Tub. A young contemporary artist named Meredith Maher recently asked if she could use it to create her own artwork, converting the imagery into puzzle pieces from which to build her own version of a bather.Intrigued by her vision, we granted permission and are now delighted to share the results. Watch her video below, entitled The Muse. It is less than 2 minutes long, and worth every second of your time.

Great art has the power to do this – to inspire us to do something. It could be making your own artwork, or so much more. Take, for instance, one of today’s artistic It Girls, Hokusai’s The Great Wave, which could inspire you to… take rowing lessons, read Daniel James Brown’s book The Boys in the Boat, watch the new television series Shōgun, paint your bedroom that marvelous blue, breathe deeply and carry on when the storm comes… the possibilities are endless. And the only requirements are that you get your fanny in front of an artwork and open your mind and heart to what the artist has created.

After that, you are free to run, or, better, leap with it.


Dr. Anna Swinbourne
Executive Director & CEO

Director’s Message – January 18, 2024

Dear Friends,I recall like yesterday the first time my request to borrow a painting for an exhibition was denied. A young curator at MoMA, I marched down the long hallway to my boss’s office, letter in hand, plopped myself down in the Mies van der Rohe chair – without an appointment. (I had temporarily lost my mind.) I raved. How on earth could this be? This is MoMA. The show is a birthday party for the masterpiece that launched 20th century art, Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon. The owner was a descendant of the artist! I went on and on, practically undone, for as long and as far as words would take me. When I hit the end, I stopped, and pleaded silently with my eyes, please please explain this to me. The answer was brief and a sentence I will never forget: sometimes “no” means work harder.

That opinion has been rattling around in my head the entire time we’ve been organizing our present exhibition, Born in 1867: Theodate’s Generation. Researching these brave women, choosing which to feature in the show, selecting objects to tell their stories. All of them with enough strength to defy the “Nos” and move instead in the direction of their dreams, however inconceivable they were. “No” would not stop these women pioneers from accomplishing what they had set their hearts upon.

Every time I enter the gallery and listen to its soundtrack of music by the first American female symphony composer, Amy Beach, whose controlling husband only let her perform twice a year, I think of “work harder.” Or when I stare at Annie Nathan Meyer’s wall of shame – we chose a handful of her countless rejection letters received in response to her lifelong attempts to get her writings published, including one from the institution she founded, Barnard College! – I see “no” fanning her inner fire. And these are just two of the many examples on view, all standing by and ready to be appreciated.

Whether you like medicine or arts or money, we invite you to come and see for yourself. A recent visitor called the show “a voyage of discovery of incredible women” and another declared that “every young girl in Connecticut should see this!”

Consider spending one of these cold days here at Hill-Stead. Warm yourself. Spark your curiosity. Then leave a little bit different. Inspired to follow your own dream.

AnnaDr. Anna Swinbourne
Executive Director & CEO

P.S: for opening hours and exhibition details, please visit our website.

Director’s Message – September 22, 2023

Dear Friends,Happy. How I love those moments that can only be described by that word. Travel + Leisure named Hill-Stead the best small-town art museum in the country. To see in print what I’ve long believed as well as the 14 others behind number one Hill-Stead… made for a lot of happy!Autumn here at this small, mighty place is going to be wonderful. In addition to the breathtaking foliage coming soon are two new programs.Our fall exhibition, Born in 1867: Theodate’s Generation, opens in late October with a special event with award-winning author Deborah Goodrich Royce on October, 26 at 6 pm. The exhibition will showcase 20 women who share our founder’s birth year. Hailing from all parts of the country and all different fields, these women all refused to let societal norms dictate their lives. Instead, they designed their own paths and became pioneers of great accomplishment. From Laura Ingalls Wilder and Madame CJ Walker to Nellie Charlie and the unsinkable Molly Brown, they wove a tapestry of change to better our world. And together they present a smorgasbord of inspiration for anyone inclined to follow their dreams.

One ongoing dream we have is to connect contemporary artists with the museum’s extraordinary masterpieces and setting. So we’re thrilled to announce Hill-Stead’s First Annual Juried Members Exhibition, which we’ve titled Modern-Day Monet. Calling all artists inspired by nature and light, we invite you to submit a piece(s) from your outdoor scenery of choice, or visit the museum to work here. Hill-Stead offers a visual feast of gardens, meadows, sweeping vistas, trails, barns, sheep and brand-new haystacks.

When considering these new programs, I can’t help but think about a widespread misconception of Hill-Stead, namely that it’s a stuffy old historic house that you visit once. How very untrue! As recent years have shown, this museum uses its incredible assets and its imagination to create new, exciting reasons to visit. Hill-Stead is not a One and Done; it’s a beautiful place where you can learn, experience awe, and feel more alive.Please come and see for yourself.

Looking forward to welcoming you,

Dr. Anna Swinbourne
Executive Director & CEO

Giving Tuesday 2023

Giving Tuesday is a global movement which unleashes the power of radical generosity–a day that encourages hundreds of millions of people to collaborate in support of worthy causes.

For the second year in a row, this Giving Tuesday (November 28), the Hill-Stead Museum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art are joining forces to collectively raise funds for our museums. With one click, you can support all three museums with a gift of any size, which will be split equally and acknowledged by all three museums.

The decision to collaborate, rather than compete with one another – rare in the world of fundraising – was highlighted in the Hartford Courant last year.  Subscribers can click here to read more about our newsworthy collaboration.

We would be so grateful if you would consider including the arts in your holiday giving this year. We know how difficult it can be to choose among the many worthy arts organizations in the region, but your gift today will help all three of us continue to provide world-class art to our communities throughout Connecticut.

Thank you for your support and wonderful generosity, which helps keep our museums alive and thriving!



Director’s Message – July 25, 2023

Dear Friends,

Meet Kathanne and Elena, our brand new Hill-Stead haystacks. How they came into being is a fun story:Our partners from Clatter Ridge Farm, Bobbie and Anne, who own the sheep here asked “wouldn’t it be great if we used the hay right under our noses (from museum’s fields) to feed the animals, rather than buy and import it from elsewhere?”We replied “Yes! Sustainable. Environmentally friendly. And if Hill-Stead-made, certainly delicious.”Then a clever board member, Susan Chandler, mused further: “If you’re going to make hay, you also need a haystack.”We immediately saw the wisdom and brilliance of their collective ideas. After all, with two Monet haystack paintings in the museum, this would bridge past and present and honor our founders, who believed well-being is achieved by cultivating the life of the mind indoors and a direct relationship with nature. Perfect!

But how? None of us had ever done anything like this before. So we researched – interviewing farmers, watching videos on Youtube – wow did those Romanians make this look easy. Then we raised the money for the new equipment we needed. Then, we waited for the rain to stop, and waited, and waited, as one needs hot and dry to make hay.The stars just aligned, and over two separate sessions we made two stacks. Each night a mighty team of five – two farmers, two staff members and even a board president named Lavell – got to work.

Not only did the crazy experiment succeed, we created a whole new (old) world of possibilities. An educational program, a team building exercise (it was immensely satisfying to wield a pitch fork in the presence of my boss), and, a favorite of all, a new exhibition idea. We will make more stacks all over the property in the coming summer days and then an open call to artists. Come use the stacks and their surroundings to inspire your own art making, just as Monet did 130+ years ago. With these new masterpieces we will create a contemporary art show in our new gallery.As I shoveled hay last evening, I kept thinking of Ralph Waldo Emerson and his idea that to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. Why this thought? Because what we were doing was so very Hill-Stead, to its core, to its soul. This museum is not any old art place or historic house filled with stuff and surrounded by beauty. Hill-Stead is a rare and inimitable combination of art, nature and inspiring founders – a combination you simply cannot find anywhere else in this country.

Those of us who love Hill-Stead work hard to sustain and preserve it, and every day we hope that more and more people will come visit and be touched by its magic.See you soon?


Dr. Anna Swinbourne
Executive Director & CEO

Free Museum Admission for Kids Summer 2023!

CT Summer at the Museum is back!

From July 1 to September 4, Connecticut children ages 18 and younger, plus one accompanying adult, can visit Hill-Stead Museum for free as part of the Connecticut Summer at the Museum program.*

No advance registration is required. Please check-in at the Museum Shop when you arrive.

*Does not apply to ticketed events such as From the PorchVisual & Performing Arts STEAM Academy, or the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival.

With the support of Connecticut Humanities and the Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, which also receives support from the federal ARPA.

Director’s Message – May 12, 2023

Dear Friends,

A masterpiece to me is a creation that never stops giving – no matter how well I think I know it; it will reveal something new every time I encounter it. I then walk away a different person, always richer from the experience, every time.

Beginning three weeks ago, Hill-Stead again proved itself a masterpiece, this time by allowing us to turn back the clock and recreate the rooms as they were when Theodate’s parents lived there – rooms filled with (even more) paintings that we passionately hunted down and brought back, to return them to the exact spots where they once hung. Now we can marvel at them exactly as Alfred and Ada did. We can imagine what it was like to eat dinner while sandwiched between Impressionist glories. And we can better appreciate the success of Theodate’s loving intention: to design a home as an ideal backdrop for her father’s exquisite art.

We warmly invite you to come and experience this installation, Hill-Stead anew, before the paintings we borrowed are returned to their present owners and the magic of the rooms circa 1910 disappears again forever.

This exhibition, like all our work at the museum, is sustained by those who believe in and support us. Honoring and celebrating these individuals is one of our top priorities, and we are thrilled to be hosting many of them at our annual gala next weekend on Saturday, May 20th. This event is the single biggest fundraiser of the year!

That night, we plan to transport guests to Paris of 1888 with its Belle Époque in full swing. Not just a novel party idea, this theme is deeply meaningful to the museum. The once-and-future Hill-Stead can trace its roots back to this place at this historic moment – where young Theodate saw the Eiffel Tower and famed Sacre Coeur church being built before her eyes, and where father Alfred bought his first Monet painting.

Belle Epoque Paris had legendary art, fashion, culture, vibrancy, and … nightlife (it was lauded as the best in Europe!). People from all walks of life flocked and mingled there to be dazzled and entertained by spectacles of all kinds, from dance and concert halls to shadow theater and the circus. Awe. Curiosity. Openness. Revelry. Daring. The air of Paris was thick with such things during this alluring, creative time.

Because of this, we are encouraging guests to dress in any manner they wish, an invitation to Do You. A grande dame or a barmaid. An artist or the model. A circus performer. Your favorite historic figure (then alive and likely visitor to gay Par-ee). Your best 2023 Diva. Whatever you wish, whatever makes you happy!

On May 20th, Hill-Stead will become the dance hall on the hill, beaming with life and celebrating all those who give of themselves to preserve our American treasure. Come, join us, browse the wonderful items to be auctioned that evening, and be dazzled. It will be marvelous.

I promise.


Dr. Anna Swinbourne
Executive Director & CEO

Director’s Message – March 20, 2023

Dear Friends,

I took this photograph at the Art of Shearing event last year. I couldn’t pull myself away from these two lambies.

Little yin and little yang, only a few days old and in the center of our sheepapalooza – 1,600 visitors, 50+ mama-sheep and a handful of their babies, plus one man masterfully giving them haircuts – these two find and fix on one another, as though nothing else existed in the universe. Marvelous.

Then and now, they make me think of the power of true connection. Finding and nurturing it can enable us to experience worlds so far and delightfully beyond our everyday existence.

A truly unique aspect of Hill-Stead is the countless ways we can offer visitors an awe-inspiring and transporting connection. Inside the house, one can realize that the Monet seascape at Antibes is really a series of horizontal stripes. Or outside, on the trails, one can feel that delicious well-being that comes when being full of fresh air. Or, in the space between, the house itself tells the story of its designer, Theodate. Or, in our cherished new gallery, one can delight in the discovery of her long-overlooked father and his unique combination of hard work, generosity, success, selflessness, and … modesty.

View de Cap d'Antibes, Claude Monet

Claude Monet, View of Cap d’Antibes,1888

We who work here adore the limitless possibilities of experiences Hill-Stead can offer. And we are thrilled, on this first day of spring, to share a new line-up of upcoming events!

This Sunday the 26th, the Art of Shearing is baaaaaack, celebrating all things wool in what promises to be fine springlike weather. Next week, on Thursday 30th, we’ll host a behind-the-scene discussion of the making of the Alfred Pope exhibition. Beginning April 22nd, the second phase of this show will be unveiled in the historic house, giving guests the once-in-lifetime chance to see the interiors as it looked when Theodate’s parents lived there. Then, at the end of April, the popular Star of the Bar cocktail competition returns on Friday, April 28th, as the kick-off event for our Belle Epoque-themed gala on May 20th. Lastly, we will wish Happy Birthday to Hill-Stead on Sunday, April 30th with a new event, intended for children and their caregivers, to share Theodate’s inspiring story in unforgettable fashion: a special tour of the house and a proper English tea party.

A bit of something for everyone.

Hoping to see you again soon,


Dr. Anna Swinbourne
Executive Director & CEO

Hill-Stead Receives “We’re Pulling for You” Grant from SBM Charitable Foundation

Grant Affords East of the River Students Free Educational Opportunities

FARMINGTON, CT—November 30, 2022 

The SBM Charitable Foundation (SBMCF) has awarded Hill Stead a “We’re Pulling for You” grant for $34,466.94 in support of the “Art, Poetry, and History at Hill-Stead Museum” program for area students in East Hartford, Vernon, and Manchester. This program, in partnership with the SBM Charitable Foundation, has provided valuable Fine Arts, Language Arts, and World Languages themed educational programs for thousands of underserved students since 2006.

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