Thanks to a generous award from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, HAHS will be able to support a series of interns who will focus on the program, and assist with bringing several important initiatives to fruition. The first young professional to be selected is Dorian Sanders, a Masters in Historic Preservation candidate at the University for Massachusetts, Amherst. He will be working this summer on HAHS projects through the end of August. Dorian and HAHS Program Manager, Valerie Balint took a moment to chat about what brought him to HAHS and what the experience has been like so far.
VB: What is your background? What are you studying?
DS: I am currently pursuing my Masters degree in Historic Preservation at UMass Amherst. My undergraduate studies included design, digital media, and the history of art and architecture. Being the child of an art historian and archeologist was certainly a mold for my interest in history. I also have worked actively with preservationists in the field in Greece, The Netherlands, and a handful of countries in order to intensify my passion for keeping the past alive!
Dorian in Leiden, NL in front of a 13th century doorway.
VB: It was so great to have you proactively come into the office one day, to see what opportunities might be available; I really liked that initiative on your part. Given that you were visiting a number of other cultural institutions in the region, what interested you about working as an intern for Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios?
DS: I think my interest in interning at HAHS stemmed from my diverse studies and the eagerness to put them to use. I saw (and still see) potential at this organization to really let my knowledge of art and architectural history shine. Not only am I immersed in the inner workings of historic preservation here, but I am also around people who appreciate the importance of it.
VB: Now that you have had a chance to learn a bit more about the 40 sites in the HAHS program, what resonates with you? Why do you feel these artists’ homes significant? Why is it important for the public to see the space in which these artists created their work? What interests you about them?
DS: There is a sometimes overlooked importance to the preservation of these homes in the sense that artists mainly create in their immediate world. They find inspiration from their surroundings that brings their work to a different level of interpretation. Without these artists’ studios available to the public eye, it seems almost impossible to understand completely how an artist works and creates. The accessibility to homes and studios of the artists associated with this program allows the visitor to gain a full appreciation for the artwork they are already somewhat familiar with.
VB: Is there anything that has been especially fun for you to discover about one or more of these sites?
DS: My interest in architectural history is mainly focused in the late medieval and early colonial in the US, so in my opinion, the older the better! With this in mind, I was thrilled to see that one of the properties of HAHS (the Alice Austen House on Staten Island, NY) is a prime example of 17th century Dutch colonial architecture. I have not visited it yet, but will be sure to make it one of my next stops!
VB: The HAHS program is based at Chesterwood, the preserved summer home and studio of Daniel Chester French, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Describe what it means to you to work at this type of site.
DS: It really is fantastic to be working at a site that checks so many boxes for someone, like myself, who is passionate about history. The amount of important work done for the arts at this location is awe inspiring. Not only can you learn about French's early works like the famed Minuteman Statue in Concord, Massachusetts, but you can be present in the same space where the Lincoln Monument statue of the seated president was and sculpted! There are still working models of that famous statue in the studio, including the one with which I am standing in the picture above. In addition to that, it really is a wonderful opportunity to be working in the field of art and architectural history directly with the National Trust!
VB: What are you working on right now for HAHS?
DS: Currently Valerie has entrusted me to run the Facebook account for HAHS, which I am thrilled to be doing because it both increases my awareness of the importance of content in a media driven age, and also means I can share these inspiring sites with the larger community.
VB: Is there a favorite moment you have had so far?
DS: There is not one specific moment that has surpassed any others, but as a whole, the experience is a culmination of what I have studied for over the years. Simply being able to work closely with some of the nations’ most well preserved and important art-related landmarks is excitement enough.
VB: You are a bit of a historic house museum devotee yourself. Name a place you have recently visited that you feel is a must see:
DS: I certainly am a devotee to historic houses. I try to tour as many as I can, as it helps me get a sense of place, both in physicality and in time. I recently took a tour of the Bidwell House Museum in Monterey, Massachusetts, and was at a loss for words at the impeccable preservation of the house. Though not a lot of the original furniture remained, the amount of work that had gone into setting up the house in period pieces and décor was amazing. It seamlessly transported me back 250 years.
A few photos taken by Dorian at the Bidwell House Museum in Monterey, MA
VB: What are your own long-term goals after you graduate?
DS: My dream job has recently been to explore and study a historic house/village/property in need of some restoration and interpretation, and rebuild that location to its former glory in order to open it as a museum. It is important to me, no matter where I end up in preservation, that the community know how crucial it is to keep the past present.
Thanks Dorian for taking some time to talk about HAHS and your involvement. I’m grateful to have you here, and thank you for your hard work to date.
In the future, additional internship opportunities will be available for HAHS. Anyone interested in learning more should reach out to me here at Chesterwood.