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Director’s Message – March 30, 2021

Dear Friends,

The miracle of birth has arrived at Hill-Stead! We are delighted to introduce adorable Ulysses, the first of this year’s group of new lambs. (welcome to the world, little guy, we are trying to make it better for you!) With many more lambies expected in the coming weeks, we warmly invite you to come for a visit to see this natural wonder for yourselves, and if desired, to join our contest to name three of the newborns (or dedicate a trail or an outdoor bench) through our Healthy Living Campaign.

Speaking of arrivals, we are also overjoyed to announce that May Market is back! In keeping with the times, it will look slightly different this year, entirely outside and spread widely across our grounds for safety’s sake. It will have an additional third day to enjoy, running from National Arbor Day on Friday, April 30 through Sunday, May 2. In spirit, however, this event remains unchanged. We are immensely grateful to be able to host this perennial favorite again, to welcome spring together. For more information and tickets, please visit our May Market events page.

Mary and Joseph Sargent at the 2005 Hill-Stead Gala Benefit

And speaking of natural wonders, during this month of celebrating women’s history, I would like to celebrate one of our longtime and leading supporters, Mary Sargent. Mary is among the extraordinary females who, across generations, have devoted themselves and their talents to preserving Theodate’s Hill-Stead. Not only does Mary hold the title of the longest-serving board president, but she also shepherded the institution through a significant period of growth in the 1990s. Mary also founded crucial organizations that are still the backbone of our financial wellbeing, including the Theodate Pope Riddle Society and the Legacy Society. At our present moment of transformational growth with the renovation nearly complete, Mary continues to support and serve to this day. Please enjoy her story, and the many reasons to include Hill-Stead in your estate planning in our newly minted Legacy Society Newsletter.

And please know you are welcome at Hill-Stead, to enjoy our resources of art and nature. The spring blossoms, artistic marvels, and lambs await your visit!

Dr. Anna Swinbourne, Executive Director & CEO

Meet Mary Sargent

We are delighted to bring you the first edition of The Legacy Society Newsletter.

The Legacy Giving Society recognizes and thanks donors during their lifetimes for including Hill-Stead in their estate plans. Since 1998, The Legacy Society members have helped support and sustain our beloved cultural hub and the larger community it serves far into the future.

Meet Mary Sargent: The Inspiring Founder of Hill-Stead’s Legacy Society

Mary Sargent and Executive Director, Dr. Anna Swinbourne touring Hill-Stead’s newly renovated spaces

Hill-Stead has a long history of fearless females, beginning with its founder and architect, Theodate Pope Riddle. Since opening its doors, a series of inspiring individuals, many of whom have been women, have worked tirelessly to keep Theodate’s dream alive. This merry crew has linked hands across generations to serve the public, bettering the lives of others through our beloved cultural hub.

During International Women’s History Month, it is fitting to recognize former Board President and Hill-Stead champion Mary Tennant Sargent. The Legacy Society founder is passionate and proud of her work to support and sustain Hill-Stead.

For more than three decades, Mrs. Sargent has devoted herself to the betterment of the treasured institution that she describes as a hidden gem. “I love everything about Hill-Stead, from its storied history to its extraordinary setting,” says Mrs. Sargent.

The longtime resident of West Hartford has been actively involved in garden clubs for many years. She helped with the 1986 restoration of Hill-Stead’s Sunken Garden, designed by Beatrix Farrand (America’s first female landscape architect). It was then that Mrs. Sargent became smitten with both the museum and its glorious grounds. She went on to serve as President of the Board of Governors for four years from 1991-1995, the longest tenure to date.

Mary and Joseph Sargent at the 2005 Hill-Stead Gala Benefit

Mrs. Sargent attended Smith College and met her husband, Joseph Denny Sargent, at the Farmington Polo Club when she was just 17 years old. The pair would marry when she was 19 and enjoy 57 years of wedded bliss, splitting time between Connecticut and Vermont.

Along with another couple, the two helped found the Killington ski area. This once-little-known peak grew into one of our country’s largest winter sports resorts. Many treasured moments were spent outdoors with their four children on the slopes at Killington and summer wilderness trips filled with fishing and backcountry hiking, and family time at Trail Creek and Red Rock Ranch, Wyoming.

Over the many years, Mrs. Sargent has dedicated much of her free time and resources to Hill-Stead’s growth, and she is excited about the next chapter. Now on the brink of its 75th anniversary as a museum, Hill-Stead has a significant renovation project well underway. The incredible project will result in a state-of-the-art exhibition gallery, a new media space, a museum shop, and elevated educational & arts programming.

“I want to see Hill-Stead thrive and go on for the future,” says Mrs. Sargent.

To this end, Mrs. Sargent has supported both the current capital campaign and generously included Hill-Stead in her estate plans. We are immensely grateful for Mrs. Sargent’s extraordinary leadership and for leaving an indelible mark on Hill-Stead for generations to come.


Fresh Voices 2021 Judges Announced

Meet our Fresh Voices Judges

Hill-Stead is delighted to announce our 2021 Fresh Voices judges, Frederick-Douglass Knowles II, Luisa Caycedo-Kimura, and Sophie Spaner. The judges will review the poems by this year’s finalists. Please enjoy their incredible bios.

Frederick-Douglass Knowles II (left) is an educator and activist passionate about achieving community augmentation through literary arts. He is the inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of Hartford. His works have been selected as finalists for the New England Association of Teachers of English (NEATE) Poet of the Year Award. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize, has received various poetry awards, including the Nutmeg Poetry Award and the 2020 Connecticut Arts Fellow in Artist Excellence for Poetry/Creative Non-Fiction. Knowles holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Eastern Connecticut State University and penned BlackRoseCity, a poetry book. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of English at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT.

Luisa Caycedo-Kimura (center) is a Colombian-born writer, translator, and educator. Her honors include a John K. Walsh Residency Fellowship at the Anderson Center, an Adrienne Reiner Hochstadt Fellowship at Ragdale, and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, she has received various poetry awards. A former attorney, Caycedo-Kimura left the legal profession to pursue her passion for writing. She holds an MFA from Boston University. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in The Cincinnati ReviewSunken Garden Poetry 1992-2011, RHINO, Diode, Shenandoah, Mid-American ReviewNashville Review, The Night Heron Barks, Louisiana Literature, among others. Currently, she is an Assistant Editor for the Connecticut River Review.

Sophie Spaner (right) is an 18-year-old writer, singer-songwriter, and artist from Deep River, Connecticut. She was a Fresh Voices Poet in 2017. She is currently taking a gap year and will be attending Yale University in the fall, where she plans to major in Film and Media Studies. During her gap year, she has been working as a quality control consultant for both foreign and American independent films with the international film distributor Kino Lorber. In her free time, she enjoys learning new instruments and expanding her artistic practice.

Construction update – March 23, 2021

Onward and upward!

As the beautiful weather arrived this past week, so too did many milestones in our renovation project!

With all the stone pavers laid, we now have a gorgeous new terrace, ready to host visitors and gatherings galore. Just behind it, glazing has been placed in the openings of the former Drive Shed to transform this open-air space into a glorious, light-filled interior. From this vantage point, one can still appreciate the breathtaking natural views to both the south, toward the sunken garden, and the north, looking to the red barn, farm complex, and lush hills beyond.

And together with beauty, we have power! A brand-new generator, which will henceforth service both the historic house and the renovated spaces, was installed thanks to this majestic crane on Friday, March 19. We couldn’t help but interpret this machine built to soar high as a metaphor for the elevated heights Hill-Stead will reach thanks to this long-planned renovation!

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Three Good Things to Do – March17, 2021

In the spirit of our tech-driven times, I am honored to bring you the second installment of “Hill-Stead’s Three Good Things to Do” on St. Patrick’s Day.

1Please join us this Saturday to celebrate the first day of spring with Walktail Hours from noon to 6 p.m. Enjoy the gorgeous grounds as you safely sip and stroll with a warm drink in hand. The Liquorist will serve up craft cocktails from their mobile bar (once a 1970’s horse trailer!). Grillin & Groovin will provide creative and delicious comfort food. While onsite, take a guided tour of the 1901 house museum with masterworks by Monet, Manet, Degas, Cassatt, and Whistler.

2As the snow melts and birds’ return signals the beginning of springtime, we are kicking off our Healthy Living campaign. We invite you to name a lamb, a trail or dedicate a bench. A naming opportunity is a lovely way to memorialize or honor a loved one or share as a meaningful gift for a birthday, anniversary, new baby, or graduation. Our beautiful 152-acre campus has remained open and accessible to all throughout the pandemic. We hope you have enjoyed Hill-Stead’s exceptional natural environment. Now is your chance to support our beloved cultural hub and preserve the land for the enjoyment of future generations.

3There are more than the sweet sounds of birds chirping at Hill-Stead. Noisy, invigorating construction began in September and is on track to finish in late May! Without altering its footprint, the major renovation is well underway to adapt our historic carriage barns into an exhibition gallery and a new media space for topical and thought-provoking presentations. We are immensely grateful for the various crews and teams working together to realize the project ahead of schedule. Please enjoy the incredible animation video here and contribute to our transformation by joining our campaign. We would be happy to speak with you directly about this possibility.

I am eager to hear from you. Please email or post a comment to our social media channels.

Best always,

Beth Brett, Chief Advancement Officer

Construction update – March 12, 2021

The work on site is happening fast and furious.

Please enjoy a glimpse of both the brand-new doors that will fill our space with light and the laying of the pavers in the courtyard. They are symbolic of a strong foundation as we lay the groundwork for an exciting new chapter.

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Virtual Programs at Hill-Stead

Hill-Stead is pleased to offer brand-new virtual programs for all learning levels–kindergarten through college.

Recent programs include everything from a 300-person session to highly customized tours to meet specific curriculum goals.

This winter, Hill-Stead welcomed 300 Metropolitan Museum of Art volunteers for a virtual tour. The Manhattan-based group is part of the VX Volunteer Enrichment Committee in cooperation with the Met’s Volunteer Organization.

Hill-Stead’s team came together to create a thoughtful and thorough virtual tour. Director of Education Kate Ebner created a slideshow and served as the program’s host. After greeting everyone, she provided an introduction. She then turned the program over to Curator Melanie Bourbeau, who led a fascinating discussion on Mr. Pope’s collecting practices.

Dr. Anna Swinbourne provided a deeper dive into the collection and shared her expertise on French Impressionism. Ms. Bourbeau concluded the tour with a closer look at Mary Cassatt’s painting and a brief history of her friendship with Theodate, as well as her consultations with Mr. Pope on buying art. The concluding slides also provided a glimpse of the gorgeous grounds, the farm complex, the Beatrix Farrand-designed Sunken Garden, and extensive walking trails.

Of the virtual tour, Judy Winzemer, Chair of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Visitor Experience Enrichment Committee said: “I want to add to the chorus of kudos you received from the Zoom Chat by thanking you for your outstanding presentation. We had a maximum of 302 attendees—nearly the largest number we have ever had for an event. Hill-Stead is such a unique and special place. You did a superb job conveying its history – the people, the home, and the art.”

On a more intimate scale, Hill-Stead’s Director of Education Kate Ebner provided a virtual tour for a Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) art class.  Fifteen students from Art 491: Aesthetic and Critical Dialogue class attended the virtual presentation. Professor Broadus-Garcia, Associate Professor of Art Education, has brought her students to Hill-Stead Museum for many years. Ms. Ebner shared highlights from the painting collection, including contextual details as well as a thorough examination of the formal elements of the compositions. Afterward, the class had an in-depth discussion about Monet’s Grainstacks White Frost Effects, 1889.

Please contact Kate Ebner, Director of Hill-Stead’s (860-677-4787 ext. 136 or Our goal is to supplement and enhance your learning goals for classrooms large and small (kindergarten through college)! The Museum is happy to accommodate virtual and in-person tours including vibrant outdoor sessions on our 152-acre grounds.

Construction update – March 4, 2021

A Birthday Surprise

At the end of their weekly construction meeting, Hill-Stead Board President Lavell Thompson and Dr. Anna Swinbourne conspired to throw a surprise birthday party for two special collaborators.

They celebrated Hill-Stead renovation project architect Chuck Mueller, senior director and principal of Centerbrook, and construction project manager Joe Sosnicki of PAC Group. The project leads share the same birthday on Saturday, March 6th! For Chuck, it’s the big 6-0!

They surprised them with meaningful gifts. For Chuck, they gifted him with Chick Austin’s biography and a private tour of Chick’s celebrated home (now owned by the Wadsworth Atheneum). For Joe, it was a gift certificate to Millwright’s, his favorite restaurant. It was significant as it’s the place where he proposed to his wife – and it included a handwritten card by Chef Tyler Anderson.

The icing on top was an incredible construction-themed chocolate cake made by Lavell!

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Spring on the Hill – A Nature Series for Kids


Meet new friends and enjoy the great outdoors!

Balance your child’s screen time with some outdoor fun at Hill-Stead’s winter afterschool program.  Children ages 9–14 will explore Hill-Stead’s expansive property, hike the trails, create natural artworks, and much more!

Each session introduces new adventures, games, and challenges.

Register for one or more days or the entire program!


$35 per day

Program details

  • For young people 9 to 14 years old
  • Program will be on site. Campers must dress appropriately for outdoor activities and bring snacks.
  • Hill-Stead will provide art supplies and water and juice during snack.
  • All campers must wear masks, keep at least six-feet apart from other campers and staff, and wash hands regularly.
  • Questions?  Contact


Upcoming Sessions

There are no upcoming events at this time



The Unwavering Power of Art

Maggie Foster best describes the indelible impact of an authentic experience at Hill-Stead.

Dancers in Pink, Edgar Degas

She toured the Museum nearly 25 years ago and never forgot it.

”I visited your museum in the mid-nineties when I was 16. Seeing Dancers in Pink by Edgar Degas was one of those life-changing moments. Unfortunately, I lost the museum shop memento I purchased back then and couldn’t recall the museum’s name. Twenty-four years later, I mentioned my quest during a conversation with a client since she lived in the Hartford area. She found you after a quick Google search, and here I am. I am wondering if the museum still has a store that I can purchase a print? I would love to see a version of this vital art to be in my life again.”

Dr. Anna Swinbourne, Hill-Stead’s Executive Director & CEO, was so moved that she went above and beyond to gift Ms. Foster with a poster of Dancers in Pink. In a genuine team effort, Hill-Stead Educator Rachel Cutler mobilized to have a poster created to fulfill her request. Dr. Swinbourne personally brought it to the UPS Store in the heat of pre-holiday, pandemic-era shipping madness to fulfill Ms. Foster’s dream.

Dr. Swinbourne said, “We were thrilled to help Ms. Foster realize her long-term and devoted quest. In doing so, it reinforced my own deeply held belief in the magical power of art.”

We are happy to report that the piece arrived safely and now resides at Ms. Foster’s home in the Midwest. She had the work custom framed, and it now hangs in a place of honor above her bed.

The poster is pictured here, along with Ms. Foster’s beloved puppy, Osito.