Trending Stories

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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Director’s Message – December 26, 2022

Dear Friends,

Before moving on to resolutions, I like to savor the year coming quickly to a close. I play a little game and challenge myself to name my three favorite moments.

For 2022 it isn’t easy because there has been lots to love. There is the news from our partners Clatter Ridge Farm (their animals and know-how plus our land and barns honor Hill-Stead’s past as a working farm) that together we are helping the endangered monarch butterflies; or, finally attributing the mystery painting in the guest room to a fellow hidden gem, Henri Martin; or, removing the cataracts to (again finally) see the admirable and generous person behind our great founder, her equally impressive father Alfred. But what about that summertime Saturday ping of a clandestine video, a young man proposing marriage in the Sunken Garden? I must include that!

Perhaps I’ll let myself choose four, it is a special birthday year after all.

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Director’s Message – December 19, 2022

Dear Friends,

It is so easy to overlook what is right under our nose. For seventy-five years at Hill-Stead, we have admired the paintings on the walls without considering the bigger picture of how they got there. Realizing we ought to, we began to look more closely, and what we found is extraordinary.

The artwork now at the museum is only a fraction—a tip of the iceberg—of what was once there. Self-taught and daring as a collector, Theodate’s father Alfred bought the art of his contemporaries, the Impressionists, who were then little-known in this country. He acquired over forty Impressionist masterpieces that we have traced to their current owners around the globe: a third Monet haystack; a second Degas jockeys; landscapes by Pissarro and Sisley; even a stunning Renoir painting of a girl and her cat. More astonishing still is how many left the museum not by his choice, but rather his daughter’s, and long after his death, likely to fund her own creative endeavors, including the school she founded to honor him, Avon Old Farms. Continue reading

Hill-Stead Museum Announces New Exhibition

Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity

Dates: December 8, 2022 – May 30, 2023

Hill-Stead Museum
35 Mountain Road, Farmington, CT 06032.

Hill-Stead Museum is pleased to announce Alfred Pope: An Evolution of Ingenuity, an exhibition that presents the little-known and under-appreciated father of Hill-Stead’s founder, Theodate Pope Riddle. On view will be a group of paintings and drawings he once owned, which are now scattered around the world, as well as selected works on paper, objects, and ephemera from Hill-Stead’s collection and archives that illuminate this fascinating, generous individual. The exhibition opening will be on December 8, 2022, from 6-8 pm. Continue reading

Hill-Stead Museum Announces the First Recipient of Theodate Pope Riddle Women in Architecture and Design Award

Hill-Stead Museum is pleased to announce Deborah Berke, Founding Partner of Deborah Berke Partners and Dean and J.M. Hoppin Professor of Architecture at the Yale School of Architecture, as the recipient of the inaugural Theodate Pope Riddle Women in Architecture and Design Award. The award recognizes women who have made significant contributions to both design excellence and the advancement of women in the fields of architecture and design. Continue reading

Director’s Message – November 4, 2022

Dear Friends,

109 years ago, in November 1913, the English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst arrived in Hartford to give her “Freedom or Death” speech. Our founder Theodate picked her up at the train station and in typical take-action fashion drove her to Hill-Stead for a welcoming lunch. Later that day, Theodate also publicly pledged $100 for Pankhurst’s cause when the hat was passed in the theater post-speech. All these years later, Theodate has made it easy to honor her legacy: all we need to do is get ourselves to the polls on Tuesday, November 8th, and exercise our right to vote!

Emmeline Pankhurst (center) in Hartford, Connecticut, 1913. Library of Congress.

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