Opus 40 Sculpture Park

Opus 40 Sculpture Park in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Entrance to Opus 40 Sculpture Park (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

In this one life that we have, it is important to do the things that feed our soul. To make time and take time to spend with those you love and do the things that make you feel happy. The things where time simply slips away because you are so entranced with what you are doing or seeing or experiencing. There are many things that feed my soul, from long quiet walks in the woods to having lunch with a friend or playing with my grand daughters. This year I even went up in a hot air ballon for the first time! But one of my very favorite soul feeders is visiting new places where I can explore, with camera in hand, for hours on end. This year, I found another great place to visit, a sculpture park called Opus 40. (www.opus40.org)

View of the Opus 40 Quarry in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

View of the Opus 40 Quarry (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

“Founded in 1978, Opus 40 is an earthwork sculpture park and arts center dedicated to preserving the integrity of its living artwork, making the artwork available to the public as a museum, performance space and educational facility, and to enlivening the legendary story of its creation with a range of events and programs.”

To see Opus 40 is to see what the determination of one man can create.

Designer and Builder, Harvey Fite in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Designer and Builder, Harvey Fite (Photo from Opus 40 Website)

You see, Harvey Fite, one of the founders of the Bard College Fine Arts Department, had a vision. And in 1938 he pursued that vision by purchasing a 12 acre abandoned quarry in the town of Saugerties, NY, about 100 miles north of New York City. Using the skills he learned from his cabinet maker father and later from restoration work on the ruins of the great Mayan civilization at Copan, Honduras, Fite went to work using those techniques to build an outdoor sculpture park. Over the next 37 years, until his death in 1976, he built several structures, including a beautiful large wood home, a studio, garage, blacksmith shop and the Quarryman’s Museum, all while continuing the breathtaking 6 ½-acre bluestone sculpture now known as Opus 40. 

Rear View of Opus 40 with Monolith in the Background in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Rear View of Opus 40 with the Monolith in the Background (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Opus, the Latin word for work, and 40, referring to the number of years Harvey Fite expected to complete the work, is described as many things, from masterpiece to awe inspiring, but I find it hard to sum up in a word or two. What makes Opus 40 awe inspiring is the fact that one man took millions of pieces of indigenous bluestone and patiently and skillfully laid each stone strategically to create formations that wound around, rose up and down, and flowed to various levels where plateaus became foundations for his collection of sculptures. Yet, after more than twenty years of constructing terraces and ramps for his sculptures, Fite realized that a 9-ton bluestone pillar discovered in one of the stream beds would make the ultimate artistic statement. Thus began a monumental endeavor to install his true masterpiece, a piece he would never carve, the Monolith.

The Monolith stands 3 Stories above the Ground in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The 9 ton Monolith stands 3 Stories above the Ground (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Incorporating principles that date back to the Egyptians, Fite formed a four foot deep crater and used guy wires attached to a winch to raise the Monolith inches at a time, propping with heavy wooden blocks until gravity took over and the stone slid into the hole. Once there, Fite built a 30 foot A-Frame structure to hoist the stone and, with the help of a local man considered an engineering genius, they calculated the center of gravity so that the Monolith would stand entirely by its own weight. Evidently, those calculations were correct, as the Monolith hasn’t moved in over 50 years.

Opus 40 with Majestic Mountain Views in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Opus 40 with Majestic Views of Overlook Mountain (Photo by: Kathy Diemer)

But let’s set aside all the technical and engineering skills necessary to pull off such a feat, and simply look at this incredible structure; a rhythmical assemblage of stone designed to enhance its surrounding landscape, with graceful rock formations woven around trees and areas that delve 16 feet deep into subterranean pathways, while other sections rise up to elevations allowing you to view the majestic backdrop of Overlook Mountain. Opus 40 is a compilation of delightful labyrinths, leading you to surprises around every turn. There are numerous pools of water, many with steps down to the edge, and a section where you can walk inside the original quarry and view the marks where stone was removed decades ago. You can stroll through, around and over this incredible structure, yet no matter where you stop there is almost always a view of the Monolith, which towers three stories above the ground. And I think that is exactly how Harvey Fite planned it ♥

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