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