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October 21, 2020

Dear Friends,

Mindful that none of us need another long email to read, I will this time be brief.

Hill-Stead has responded to the challenges of 2020 with adaptability and open-mindedness, keeping its grounds open to the public despite widespread closures. And our beloved Museum became much more than a place of refuge when we brought live experiences of art back into people’s lives with From the Porch. Since early summer, this incredible initiative united a diverse and dynamic group of partners across the performing arts sphere and brought an audience of more than 2,000 to the Museum’s front lawn.

As a result, our community is stronger and more vital than ever. Now, entering Q4, we invite you to give back to the place that’s been there for you throughout the pandemic.

As we embark on this Annual Fund effort, I hope you will take a close read at our fall newsletter and be inspired to participate in the 2020 campaign.

Every gift matters greatly to us, helping carry forward Hill-Stead’s mission in the best possible way during these trying times. I ask humbly that you join me in this effort.


If you already made your gift, THANK YOU!

My deepest gratitude,


Hill-Stead will be closed to the general public on October 31

SOLD OUT – Halloween on the Hill
October 31, 10:00 am – 8:00 pm

Please note, Hill-Stead will be open to Halloween on the Hill ticket holder only on October 31.

Daily Tours

  • House tours take place Thursdays through Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm More info
  • Hill-Stead Guides lead tours on the hour—the last tour begins 3 pm
  • Tours are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis
  • There may be no more than 10 people per tour
  • Tickets should be purchased upon arrival
  • Hill-Stead also offers Exclusive Private Tours with our curator by appointment
  • Hill-Stead’s gorgeous grounds and garden remain open to the public daily from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm
  • Hill-Stead is also hosting From the Porch, a performing arts series; and an afterschool workshop series—all of which are open to the public
  • Hill-Stead is now open for both in-person and online field trips.  Book yours now!
  • Please review our reopening plan


Members  | FREE
Adults | $18
AAA & Seniors (62+) | $16
Students | $12
Children 6-12 | $10
Children under 6 | FREE

Museum Members are always FREE!
Not a Member?  JOIN NOW

We recommend that all visitors make reservations in advance

Special Admission Programs

As a Blue Star Museum, Hill-Stead offers active-duty military families FREE admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and museums across America.

Hill-Stead is a part of the Museums for All program and offers FREE admission for up to four people to with the presentation of a SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Museums for All is a cooperative initiative between Association of Children’s Museums and Institute of Museum and Library Services to offer a signature access program that encourages families of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong museum habits.

Hill-Stead is a member of the Connecticut Art Trail.  Discover Connecticut’s artistic treasures with the Connecticut Art Trail Art Passport. The $25 Art Passport includes one admission to each of the 20 member museums per year. Explore diverse, quality collections rich in history and heritage, including European masterpieces, American Impressionism, ancient art and contemporary culture.

Please note: 
  •  There are no self-paced tours at this time.
  • There are no school group visits at this time.

The safety of staff and visitors is our highest priority.

To ensure a safe, inspiring experience for all, we’ve adopted new health and safety protocols. You’ll find everything you need to know about your next visit below.

Social distancing best practices are in place. All persons entering the building will be required to wear a face mask covering at all times.

  • Always wear a facemask and make sure it fits over your nose and mouth
  • Practice safe social distancing. Please keep six feet between yourself and others (outside your party)
  • Please wash/sanitize your hands at our sanitizing stations
  • A limited number of visitors will be permitted at one time
  • A one-way flow of traffic will be required in the House
  • Contactless payment is available and encouraged
  • Please let us know if you or another member of your party have traveled outside of Connecticut in the past 14 days or​ experiencing fever, chills, cough, or any other symptoms
Please note: 
  •  There are no self-paced tours at this time.
  • There are no school group visits at this time.

Construction update – October 12, 2020

As we all know, sometimes one has to take things apart to create something new and beautiful!

We are delighted to share that we are now at that exciting stage at Hill-Stead. The exterior fencing—in our favorite shade of green—has gone up and been decorated with colorful renditions of the renovated spaces to come. And, the interior demolition has begun. In these photographs, you can see the transition that is occurring in the museum’s entryway. The paneling on the north wall has come down, revealing a first look at the ticket desk and gift shop! For the moment, the shop serves as central command for our site supervisor, Carl (pictured above in red coat here).

What has gone up across the way is a temporary floor-to-ceiling divider wall—painted with Benjamin Moore’s Sidewalk Grey. The wall partitions the current space and allows visitors to pass through safely from the museum’s parking lot. We were thrilled to welcome former Board President and Hill-Stead champion, Mary Sargent, as one of our first visitors. She is pictured above with Executive Director, Dr. Anna Swinbourne.

What isn’t visible in photographs or on a walk-through is our continued and careful collaboration with the architects at Centerbrook, PAC Group construction management, and the State’s DECD (Department of Economic Development). A concerted effort is needed to complete the submittal process – all part and parcel of a smooth and thorough laying the “foundation” for our successful endeavor.

Please read our Case Statement validating the importance of this renovation to the future of Hill-Stead for generations to come!

To learn more, please visit Bringing Art to Life – Hill-Stead’s 75th Anniversary Capital and Endowment Campaign.

Support our Capital and Endowment Campaign today by completing this pledge form, or making an online donation.

Three Things to Know – October 9, 2020

For your Friday! In the spirit of our tech-driven times, I am delighted to bring you the fifth installment of Hill-Stead Museum’s Three Things to Know.

1) As the perfect capstone of our diverse and dynamic 2020 From the Porch performing arts series, Hill-Stead and Opera Connecticut join together on October 25 at 3 pm to honor the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her great love of opera! International opera stars Ta’u Pupu’a and Thomas Cannon and local luminary Elizabeth Lyra Ross will sing Puccini, Verdi, and more!  The notorious RBG was a legal, cultural, and feminist icon of the highest order. It is most fitting to honor her at Hill-Stead, founded by Theodate Riddle Pope, our nation’s fourth female architect and a visionary female leader in her own right. Don’t fret if you cannot be there in person. You can tune in from the comfort of your home with a live-stream presentation as it happens.

2) Join us for Halloween on the Hill on October 31 from 10 am to 8 pm. Enjoy an incredible day at Hill-Stead strolling through the gorgeous grounds all gussied up for All Hallows’ Eve! Kids and adults alike will delight as they follow a socially distanced path to numerous candy chute stations for touch-less treat delivery! Beyond safe trick-or-treating, there will be spooky displays by local businesses throughout the 152-acre campus as well as a haunted house. A spirited adventure awaits you at Hill-Stead. Hill-Stead continues to embrace the community, creating a “spooktacular” event free and open to all! Reservations are required.

3) Please check out our launched Hill-Stead’s Haystacks, the blog of the Hill-Stead Museum. The ongoing project involves the entire Hill-Stead community.  The newly-minted blog goes behind-the-scenes to discover the art & archives, people, places, and educational aspects of our incredible cultural destination. Speaking of stories, Hill-Stead continues to make the news. Recent press includes The Hartford Courant for hosting Silk City Steampunk on our campus and Channel 8 for our Birds of Prey event with the Farmington Land Trust! I hope you enjoy all the fun features!

Successful Summer Series Leads to Autumn on the Hill

by Rachel Cutler, educator and resident artist

It was the second week of June when we began our preliminary plans for an outdoor summer art program for local children. Governor Lamont set forth policies for what day camps would like in Connecticut during the pandemic. Undoubtedly, these were unprecedented circumstances, but we felt confident we could create an educational, fun, and, most of all, safe program for our youth.

Our Director of Education, Kate Ebner, and I brainstormed the lesson plans and worked out the logistics. Then, we lovingly named our new creation “Summer on the Hill.”

The weeks flew by as we finalized the details, and soon enough, the first day of the program was upon us. I’ll never forget the looks of uncertainty on the young attendee’s faces as they stood masked and distanced in the Sunken Garden. While reading out the new rules, I also felt a twinge of anxiety. I had directed and led camps before, but none quite like this. Luckily, the uncertainty and nervousness were short-lived. Laughter filled the air as we raced towards the sheep pasture, material packets in hand to sketch out the landscape on that sunny July day.

It is incredible how quickly kids can adapt to circumstances. The students who participated in our program handled the new guidelines thoughtfully and graciously. They respected one another’s space and took full advantage of our sprawling grounds.

Our program helpers, Ben McGowen, a student from the University of Rochester; Annie Wertheimer, a Hobart College student; and Angela Yuan from Miss Porters, were attentive and upbeat. They brought smiles each day and successfully aided attendees at a distance. We were farther apart, but we still shared our love of art, humor, and experiences.

The program ran for four weeks in July and August on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 am to noon. During these mornings, students ages 9 to14 would gather and participate in a variety of activities. Each session would begin with a short hike and field sketching. Then we would create the masterpiece of the day, focusing on a new medium, whether that is watercolor, pastels, markers, pencil, and crayons. Fun games included one-minute modeling with goofy poses, create a new animal, and art jeopardy.

Summer on the Hill was such a success that it is now a seasonal staple: Our current program, Autumn on the Hill, is running until late October. Nature hikes, animal identification, outdoor art, and games compose each week!

Last week, I spent the afternoon hunting frogs with a group of nature savvy youngsters. It made me realize how important getting outdoors and having a little adventure can be!

If you would like to join our Autumn on the Hill program, please visit Autumn on the Hill.  Each week is a new theme and new adventure!




Painting on the Hill: Drawing Inspiration from the French Impressionists

by Rachel Cutler, educator and resident artist

On Sunday, September 20, the trees around Hill-Stead were tinged with orange and red. With a slight chill in the air, it was a perfect day for painting. En Plein Air is the French term for creating art “outdoors,” and was popularized by the Impressionists.

Historically, the studio was the setting for most painting endeavors. Materials were not suitable for long hikes along the countryside. The “box easel” came into being in the mid 19th century, and artists ventured outdoors more frequently to paint, especially the Impressionists. They wanted to create art at the very moment they were looking upon a scene. They were capturing the essence, the impression of that moment.

Looking out at the West Lawn at Hill-Stead, one can draw a parallel to the rolling fields around Monet’s home in Giverny. The hills behind the trees are soft blue; the lawn is crisp and boasts an assortment of yellows, golds, oranges, tans, and greens. The trees are ablaze with autumn colors, creating a fantastic place to paint En Plein Air.

Guests arrived and found their favorite vantage points. Tables spread across the lawn with materials provided: canvas, paintbrushes, water cups, painting boards, and paints. With the guidance of Hill-Stead’s Education Specialist and local artist Rachel Cutler, aspiring painters learned about the advantages of working out in nature. The wind could blow over paint cups, leaves could drop into the paint, but it was worth these struggles to sit outside with friends and family, inspired by the local landscape. 

The event lasted two hours, and it was broken into two parts, hashing out basic shapes and colors first, then adding details. This process builds confidence for new artists as they bring their paintings to life; guests were happy to add their personality to their work.

Painting on the Hill drew inspiration from the French Impressionists’ belief in staying in the moment of celebrating spontaneity. In today’s times of turmoil and change, it is essential to appreciate the moment. Reflecting on the Impressionists, we can learn a lot about their determination to capture their local environment’s beauty and stay present during their work.

As we move into fall, we celebrate with more fun and inspiring events with our From the Porch Series. Don’t miss the many incredible performances and events we have lined up in the coming weeks!


Day 1

The big day is finally here!

From left to right: Dave Perbeck, Operations Director at Hill-Stead; Lavell Thompson, President of Hill-Stead’s Board of Governor’s; Frank Giordano and Chuck Mueller of Centerbrook Architects.

After a decade in the making, Hill-Stead launched our highly anticipated strategic endeavor to enhance our sustainability. As you can see from the photos, the construction phase of our Carriage Barn renovation kicked off this past Friday, September 18 with work on the Entry Hall, Gift Shop, and Media Space now underway.

Please stop by Hill-Stead to check on progress or visit these pages every two weeks as we continue to post project updates.

In the meantime, please read our Case Statement validating the importance of this renovation to the future of Hill-Stead for generations to come!

To learn more, please visit Bringing Art to Life – Hill-Stead’s 75th Anniversary Capital and Endowment Campaign.

Support our Capital and Endowment Campaign today by completing this pledge form, or making an online donation.

What Matters Most Photo Contest Winners

And the winners are…

Everyone has a story to tell and this contest provided a forum to capture unexpected outcomes, epiphanies of personal discovery, and moments of pure joy and connection. We invited photographers to submit their best work. The public voted on the submissions based on their ability to capture four themes:  Art In All Its Forms, Creature ComfortsSummertime Funand Victory Gardens. Because there were so many wonderful photos, we are also highlighting a staff pick for each category.

Winners receive $50, promotion of their photography via Hill-Stead’s website & social channels, a certificate for a personalized VIP Tour of Hill-Stead Museum, and bragging rights!

Art in All Its Forms

Loving Summer, Lauren Krupnikoff

WINNER: Loving Summer, Lauren Krupnikoff

My friend and I were by the water not too long ago, and we saw that the sun was starting to set. So we decided to try this cool idea of doing a heart with our hands surrounding the sun as it sets.

She Dances Anyway, Nora H.

STAFF PICK: She Dances Anyway, Nora H.

This is Kiersten. Her beloved dance studio was shut down and the recital she was starring in cancelled because of COVID. But she keeps dancing. She records dances in her backyard to songs like “Six Feet Apart.” She and I dance in the rain together and throw rocks into the river because we’re so angry at the way our lives have been put on pause. She dances in public parks with a mask. Because this is her art. And it is what matters most to her.”

Creature Comforts

Bobcat NeighborRobert Trafford

WINNER: Bobcat Neighbor, Robert Trafford

This fellow sat outside my just slider and just stared.

Serinity, Sofia A.

STAFF PICK:  Serinity, Sofia A.

Bird on the dock at Cozumel Island

Summertime Fun

Summer Croquet at Hill-Stead, David Ciriello

WINNER: Summer Croquet at Hill-Stead, David Ciriello

Our son and a friendly pup played and danced the night away under the sun as we played croquet and caught the sunset.”

Bronx Sprinkler, Barbara O.

STAFF PICK:  Bronx Sprinkler, Barbara O.

Summer in the city..near Yankee Stadium

Victory Gardens

Tulips in the Sunken Garden, Rachael Ann

WINNER: Tulips in the Sunken Garden, Rachael Ann

“Hill-Stead Museum and Sunken Garden, July 2019. Shot in the infrared range of light.”

Brighter Days,  Emi Z.

STAFF PICK:  Brighter Days, Emi Z.

As I wandered the sunflower maze with my friend after the hurricane, we noticed many of the sunflowers had been pushed over. This one however, stood tall and upright. It’s a great reminder of staying strong, positive and bright even when things in the world are dark and difficult. There are always brighter days ahead.”

September 22, 2020

Dear Friends,

After the long, bright sunlit days of summer brimming with activity, I find autumn – with its earlier sunsets and longer shadows – to be an ideal time for thoughtful introspection.

There’s been plenty to reflect upon over the last six months. On the spring equinox, I wrote to confirm that Hill-Stead would keep its grounds open to the public despite the widespread closures due to the coronavirus. Our 152-acre grounds became much more than a place of refuge when we brought live experiences of art back into people’s lives! To coincide with the summer solstice, we launched From the Porch, an inaugural initiative, radiating with beauty and creativity as we extended our hand to a diverse and dynamic group of partners across the performing arts sphere.

Now the autumnal equinox—equal parts night & day, and a favorite season of artists and poets—reminds us to embrace change while finding balance in our own lives. On this crisp morning marking the red, orange, yellow, gold, and rust tones of autumn’s palette, I must admit that I don’t have anything new to share beyond the exciting coverage for the series highlighted on our News Room.

Instead, I would like to thank you for coming out to enjoy the summer’s performances, for confirming our instincts that art does make a difference; and for telling us, in the sweetest of ways, how much you appreciate what we’ve managed to create. My personal favorite was the visitor who marched out of the darkness after the Real Art Ways film screening to say that we “made her feel alive again.”

We couldn’t be happier that these collective efforts have helped many of you during this incredibly trying time. We, too, feel these difficulties – from grief and restrictions to uncertainty and fear; yet, we’ve done our best to rise above them, taking a deep breath, and tap dancing our little hearts out to stay the new course. What has resulted is a cultural hub with 26 events, 12 collaborators*, over 90 performers, and an audience of nearly 2,000 visitors (and counting, as we’ll carry on with this series for as long as the weather holds!).

Thank you to all those who supported this initiative, from individual donors to corporate sponsors. These events were big on service but not on fundraising, as we insisted on paying the performers fairly and allowing our collaborators to keep their ticket revenue (how could we make money on the backs of other arts organizations suffering as we were?!).

Should you wish to help on this front, please click on the button below. Hill-Stead is an expensive place to run – roughly $4,700 per day – and we bear the responsibility of raising a strapping sum of 90% of the operating expenses every year. Every dollar counts, and every dollar is VERY appreciated.

We wholeheartedly believe the talk about getting through this together, and we are proud of having spent the past thirteen weeks walking that talk – with art, service, and hope as our guides.

Take good care,


Dr. Anna Swinbourne, Executive Director & CEO


* Including Hartford Symphony Orchestra; Hartford Stage; Real Art Ways; Capital Classics; Opera Connecticut; Hartt School Vocal Department; Playhouse on Park; Sonia Plumb Dance Company; Judy Dworin Performance Project; Yale Opera; Sea Tea Comedy Theater, and the Farmington Land Trust.

X Marks the Spot – A Lesson in French Impressionism

By Dr. Anna Swinbourne

There is a spot in the drawing room, marked with an “X” in the nearby photograph, which is one of my favorites at Hill-Stead, if not the whole world. Standing on that spot, facing south to gaze at Monet’s haystacks in summertime, one can rotate clockwise to appreciate example after example of the magnificent paintings the Pope family acquired and installed in this room.

What is so very extraordinary about this particular arrangement is that within a single 360-degree rotation, the visitor can, through first-hand study of masterpieces, have a complete overview lesson in French Impressionism.

The introduction begins with the movement’s revered mentor, Edouard Manet, and his embrace of mid-19th century ideas about modernism – namely that to be modern one must attempt to place their finger on the pulse and particularities of the Now, and in so doing, an artist can assure their importance and appreciation by future generations.

This quest for modernity was sought by Degas, albeit through deceptively created scenes. Looking at Dancers in Pink, I feel as though I occupy the artist’s shoes, standing at an easel set up backstage and observing these performers as they wait in the wings, when in fact Degas could not have occupied this spot, as no man other than ballet professionals were then allowed in such places. The painting was actually carefully and imaginatively constructed in his own studio, fusing individual sketches of young dancers he had hired to serve as models there.

Degas’s traditional practice of creating the painting in his studio was anathema to his Impressionist contemporaries, who carried canvas, easel and materials out of doors to paint before the actual motifs that inspired them, which we see in full glory in the exceptional pair of haystacks, exquisitely positioned at 12 and 6 o’clock.

In fact, pausing my clock-hands-self at either hour and turning to the other, I can, with every bit of my being, understand an essential Impressionist aspiration: to revisit the same motif repeatedly and under different conditions – of day, season, weather – in order to capture a fleeting moment. The low, pale light of haystacks in a winter frost versus those set afire by midday summer sun. Perfect.

And pausing to savor that perfection, my eyes fall on Monet’s seascape of Antibes over the fireplace, an exquisite ending note. Through their dozen years of exhibiting together, from 1874-1886, the young rebellious Impressionists accomplished what they set out to – upend established norms about the type of subject that could be painted, the techniques used to do so, and the opportunities for their work to be appreciated by others – then they went their separate ways. Monet’s soon led him to the south of France, where he found favorite spots of his own, like this one on the Mediterranean.