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.

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.

February Marks a Special Month for Hill-Stead

By Kate Ebner

February marks the birth month of our founder and architect, Theodate Pope Riddle (b. 2/02/1867). However, we did not always know her actual birthdate—the grave marker and death certificate list her birth year as 1868. For the first few decades of the Museum’s opening, the Hill-Stead story began with Theodate’s birthday as February 2, 1868.  It was not until years later that we learned her actual birthdate.

The Pope family bible, which served as a record keeper; and which was collected by Polly (Pasternak) Huntington and Sandra Wheeler while establishing the Museum’s archives in the 1980s, notes Theodate’s correct birth year, 1867, as well as her birth-given name, Effie. This led to a search for other documents with her recorded birthdates. At least four of which include Theodate’s signed testimony as having been born in 1877!

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Alfred Pope, the Collector

By Melanie Bourbeau

Hill-Stead Museum, in Farmington, Connecticut, was formed in 1946 (officially opening to the public in April 1947), when Alfred Atmore Pope’s daughter bequeathed the entirety of the household, including her father’s unparalleled collection of paintings. During Pope’s active collecting years (1889-1907) he amassed some 40+ works of art, the vast majority of which were French Impressionist. Due to Pope’s ​careful pruning through ​sales and exchanges, ​in order to retain only those works that elicited a profound emotional reaction, and his daughter’s subsequent dispositions, only a small fraction—albeit perhaps some of the finest—are part of the collection today.

Pope, born on July 4, 1842, hailed from modest means. He was the son of a Quaker woolen mill operator. After working alongside his father and two brothers for several years, he came to the realization this was not the life he envisioned for himself. He secured his release from the family’s business obligations and borrowed funds to invest as an officer in the Cleveland Malleable Iron Company, a manufactory then specializing in agricultural-related products. Within a short time, and by the age of 37, he was appointed President of the company remaining at the helm until his death in 1913. He oversaw operations as the company grew exponentially with the advent of railroad expansion that resulted in development of an automatic coupling device, just one of many designs produced nationally.

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“Volume of Light (Hill-Stead)”

Purchase of Artist Fritz Horstman’s Sculpture Supports Hill-Stead

Fritz Horstman’s sculpture, The Volume of Light (Hill-Stead), depicts the sunlight cast through the windows and doors of Hill-Stead Museum. It has been on view as part of Wadsworth Atheneum’s exhibition, Made in Connecticut, which runs until February 7. A Hill-Stead neighbor and art collector has graciously purchased the piece, which was part of Hill-Stead’s recent benefit auction to support the treasured cultural institution.

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Communicating with the Spirts on Grating the Nutmeg

Kicking off 2021 with a new episode of Grating the Nutmeg on Hill-Stead founder Theodate Pope and her fascination with Spiritualism.

Please tune in to hear a lovely podcast with our curator Melanie Bourbeau and Mary M. Donohue, Assistant Publisher of Connecticut Explored.

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