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Jack Shainman Gallery: The School in Kinderhook (via Facebook)
If you've hopped around all the galleries the city has to offer, you can head out of the five boroughs and see what the more bucolic upstate towns have to offer in the way of art. From touring a former school that's now a gallery in Columbia County to a day trip to Peekskill, there are many ways to sneak in some culture during a weekend escape.
I remember running past this school when it was for sale and I pondered all the grim possibilities for the building, like high-end condos in a truly cool low-key town. When I returned to Kinderhook and discovered a large sculpture (Mark di Suvero's Chonk On) on the lawn and saw the school was now the Jack Shainman Gallery, I was excited to see what else was on exhibit. The former high school built in 1929 was redesigned by architect Antonio Jiménez Torecillas and now has a 3,000-square-foot exhibition space. It's open to the public on Saturdays from 11 a.m to 5 p.m—Winter In America is currently on view. Since the gallery opened in 2014, it's had installations from Nick Cave and other well-known artists.
Part of El Anatsui's "Five Decades" at Jack Shainman Gallery, Kinderhook (via Facebook)
Kinderhook is a rather quiet town. If you want to balance your arty trip with a local meal, stick around for an early dinner at The Flammerie, a German and French-inspired restaurant. If you don't want to hang around Kinderhook, it's a very short drive to Ghent, the next spot on the list.
Located near Kinderhook and Hudson, the Omi Arts Center is a must-visit for folks who want a leisurely stroll through a sculpture park. Omi is a not-for-profit arts organization with a residency program for international visual artists, writers, translators, musicians, and dancers. If you've got some artistic talent dwelling within and want to study in a serene and inspiring landscape, it's well worth applying for the program.
Mel Kendrick's "jacks" at the Fields Sculpture Park (via Yelp)
For those simply appreciative of art, take a walk through the Fields Sculpture Park and Architecture Omi, which are open year round during daylight hours. The Visitors Center and Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and they've got many events coming up this this fall including readings and family art workshops. Omi invites folks to picnic on their grounds, but don't worry if you aren't that organized—they have a café.
This quirky city on the Hudson River is now the hipster center of Columbia County, and you can easily fill a day perusing the galleries along Warren and Front Streets. Use this handy list of galleries to help you plot your day of art. With numerous antique shops, a fantastic independent bookstore, a host of restaurants that appeal to foodies, and easy access to public transportation (you literally step off the Amtrak and you're in the center of town), this is a quite a popular escape for weekenders who seek an art-filled weekend, but don't have a car.
For those planning an overnight trip, visit Club Helsinki, which moved from Great Barrington to Hudson a few years ago. The venue has a restaurant, performance space and club. After exploring the main drag, you should hop on the free shuttle from the Hudson Amtrak station on Saturdays to Olana. Olana is the former estate of Hudson Valley painter Frederic Church, and the Moorish style home is open to tour.
Fans of '80s television may immediately associate this town with the fictional boarding school of Eastland from the TV show The Facts of Life. Apart from its on-screen fame, Peekskill has become a haven for artists escaping the insane NYC rents. Start your day at The Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, where they're showing Peekskill Project 6, which includes site-specific art exhibitions, performances and workshops. Fill the afternoon browsing through the galleries, stopping in for a coffee at the beloved local favorite Peekskill Coffee House, where they have live music on weekends.
Bruised Apple Books (via Yelp)
When you're hungry, score some brunch and a brew at the Peekskill Brewery. I can't leave Peekskill without a visit to Bruised Apple, the used bookstore which also has a good selection of vinyl. Every year the Peekskill Artists Alliance hosts an open studios weekend, check their schedule for upcoming events and open studio tours.
Beacon, easily accessible via Metro North, is an extremely popular destination for art loving New Yorkers. Home to Dia:Beacon and just a short trip from the sculptures at Storm King Art Center, it's got a number of other galleries and shops to offer too. While you're there, be sure to pop into the Beacon Artist Union's gallery.
Storm King Art Center (via Yelp)
If you are a fan of kitsch, or are like me and weirdly obsessed with American mall chain Spencer Gifts, you should definitely visit Dream in Plastic, a gift shop on Main Street. After exploring the galleries, shops and Dia:Beacon's Robert Irwin exhibit, enjoy a meal at the restaurant inside the trendy Roundhouse Hotel. Get a table by the large windows overlooking a waterfall while you dine on burgers and baby beet salads. If you want to make a weekend out of your visit, it's worth booking a room at this hotel housed in a former factory.
Alison Lowenstein, Gothamist Getaways editor, is the author of NYC guidebooks and the Brooklyn expert at About.com. She has covered travel for National Geographic Traveler, Newsday, NY Daily News, Travelandleisure.com, etc. When she isn't planning trips, she enjoys jogging around the streets of NYC. Despite her athletic pursuits, her favorite food is the donut. You can find her on Twitter at @cityweekendsnyc .