Kids’ Almanac (October 17-24)

Dia:Beacon courtyard (photo by Julie O’Connor)

Dia:Beacon courtyard (photo by Julie O’Connor)

“I hold onto my integrity while holding out my authentic self with dignity and pride. This is what has made the biggest difference.”
– Julie Novak


Community Free Day at Dia:Beacon this Saturday

It took me forever, but my family and I finally made it to Dia:Beacon and it was incredible. Dia:Beacon is an epic modern art museum housed in an old Nabisco box-printing plant. The sensory experience is so well-thought-out that I feel invited into the space, beginning with the turn into the parking lot. The trees are planted in neat rows, suggesting an orderly pattern for the eye while drawing the viewer closer to the museum. The entryway is designed to prepare your senses to arrive into the grand galleries. Illuminated by natural light, the works look completely different depending on the season or even time of day when you visit.

I was lucky enough to get a tour with Michelle Alumkal, whose excellent reflective questions made the art come alive. Alumkal helped me to identify my own reactions to what I was seeing, which is purposely labelless to remove any filter between the art and the viewer. I don’t feel that confident about my art appreciation skills, but Alumkal showed me ways to bypass a knowledge-based approach to the art and just experience each piece directly, based on my own reflexive feedback.

A perfect example is Michael Heizer’s Negative Megalith #5, a tall boulder set into a wall. About half a second after I saw it, I thought, “Are you kidding me? A rock in a wall – this is art?” Alumkal invited me to come closer and notice any visceral response that I might have. As skeptical as I was, I was shocked to feel my stomach get butterflies and my skin flush: My body reacts to art simply by adjusting my distance from the piece? I had no idea that could happen to someone like me.

To say I enjoyed going from one room to the next is an understatement. I was eager to see what questions or feelings would emerge with every new experience.

After our tour, my friend Chantal helpfully pointed out the picnic tables on the far side of the parking lot that I hadn’t seen, and the kids and I had a wonderful lunch together underneath a shady tree. We couldn’t wait to go back in and see more art!

But for this second round, we were on our own, without the magical Alumkal to guide us. It was a lot more effort to feel my reactions without her helpful prompts, but I could do it if I remained still long enough.

I was thrilled to know that the employees dressed in black in each room aren’t just bodyguards to protect the art; they are knowledgeable and happy to answer questions! They were so patient with me. In one gallery featuring a row of boxes on a wall, I felt overwhelmed and helpless and wanted to give up. I shyly confessed to the young woman in black standing by the wall, “I don’t know what to feel or do with this.” Her well-chosen guideposts helped me regain my confidence and interpret the art for myself again.

Eventually, the kids and I made it up to the third floor to see the big cool spider sculpture, then finished our visit with a stop at the café for a flourless brownie and chocolate-covered cheesecake.

Good news, locals: Dia is hosting a Community Free Day on Saturday, October 19, which means free admission for residents of Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties. The special events scheduled for that day include a family-friendly tour at 12 noon called “Making Your Own Meaning,” and teen programming throughout the day in conjunction with Museum Teen Summit, as well as lectures and other activities.

Dia:Beacon is a must-see, in my opinion. Just remember that photography is prohibited, and to be extra-vigilant with all ages of kids, because the open access to the exhibits, including pencil drawing installations on some of the walls and large floor displays, makes it so temptingly easy to touch, especially accidentally. If you’re looking for a place for kids to burn off some steam, rock-scrambling at nearby Breakneck Ridge is just a few minutes down Route 9D South at the tunnel.

Dia:Beacon is located at 3 Beekman Street in Beacon. For more information, call (845) 440-0100 or visit To learn more about this cool rock-scrambling trail with fantastic Hudson River views, visit


Ulster Publishing’s Halloween coloring contest

Speaking of art: Ulster Publishing just announced a new Halloween coloring contest (see template in this week’s Kids’ Almanac)! Get your pictures in by 3 p.m. on October 24 to the Ulster Publishing office by mail at P.O. Box 3329, Kingston, NY 12402, or drop off at 322 Wall Street in Kingston or at the Hudson Valley Mall Customer Service Desk.

The contest is open to children age 12 or under, and the submissions will be displayed in the Mall before Halloween. Winners from each age category will receive a $25 Hudson Valley Mall gift card: ages 1 to 3 years, 4 to 6 years, 7 to 9 years and 10 to 12 years. For the contest picture or for more information, pick up a print copy of Ulster Publishing’s Almanac Weekly.


Historic Graveyard Tour at St. James’s Church in Hyde Park

I know that you’re reading Kids’ Almanac right now, and I appreciate that; but you may need to take a break from reading and go online for a matter of grave importance: acquiring tickets to the St. James Historic Graveyard Tour in Hyde Park!

During this season full of opportunities to spook and scare, how about something off the beaten path? The St. James Historic Graveyard Tour is an hourlong lantern-lighted tour of the Episcopal church’s 200-year-old cemetery, with six narrated stops by graveyard residents in period dress describing their lives and times before they died. The tour groups are kept small so everyone can see and hear, and the speakers cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on local history as well as that person’s particular connection to St. James’s Church.

These reenactments are based on real people right in the cemetery. I especially enjoyed the couple of humorous interactions among a few of the characters. Before this tour, most of these individuals were nothing more than a park name or familiar reference to me, if I’d even heard of them before. During the tour, their stories captured my interest and helped me understand our local history in an entirely new way.

I asked Scarlet Rush, 15, of Staatsburg her impressions of the evening: “I had such a great time. It gave me such a neat perspective of life: how every grave in a graveyard has its own story; and how the story lives on, even when the person doesn’t. It was also a great way to learn local history; the way it was set up and performed really stuck with you.”

I agree with Scarlet: This is a high-quality event, so well-organized and presented. I highly recommend it as a new annual fall tradition, since they change the characters every year. The hourlong tours run every Saturday through November 2 at 7, 7:30 and 8 p.m., and dates are already selling out. Tickets cost $15 general admission; ages 12 and under get in free. The tour is suitable for children age 10 and up. Strollers, wheelchairs and walkers are unable to be accommodated due to the uneven ground.

St. James is located at 4526 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park. For tickets or more information, call (845) 845-229-2820 or visit




Share this article
Submit your comment

Please enter your name

Your name is required

Please enter a valid email address

An email address is required

Please enter your message

Hudson Valley Almanac Weekly © 2013 All Rights Reserved

An Ulster Publishing publication