How many pavilions does it take to make art?

CHATHAM—Last month the Town Planning Board held a public hearing on an application for Art OMI Pavilions @ Chatham, a proposed 191-acre parcel on Route 66 for 12 to 18 “pavilions” for artists. The board has been reviewing the project since last May. The public hearing closed two weeks after the October 12 meeting.

The planning board meets again November 9.

Art Omi currently has a site in Ghent that includes a sculpture park, visitors center, site for a summer camp, artist studios and housing on 120 acres. A recent plan by Art Omi to expand the visitors center in Ghent, being reviewed by the Ghent Planning Board, was withdrawn and a short time later they filed a new proposal with the Town of Chatham Planning Board.

Francis Greenburger, chairman of the board and founder of Art Omi, wrote a white paper on the Chatham site, saying, “The premise of the Pavilions Project is that many accomplished and highly distinguished artists would welcome the opportunity to create a legacy stand-alone exhibition of their work in a setting that they control and help design, but that is also part of a larger art center which provides cultural context, a wonderful nature experience, and visitor services management.”

According to information from the town’s website, the Planning Board received an application for a Site Plan Review and Special Use Permit for Art Omi Pavilions last spring. The pavilions, which would range from 2,500 to 5,700 square feet, will occupy less than 10% of the site.

“The entire project is designed so the affected acreage maintains its natural state as much as possible,” according to the Planning Board’s minutes from the May meeting.

Minutes are posted on the town’s website,

According to Mr. Greenburger, “The Pavilion Project will be developed in affiliation with Art Omi, which will provide visitor services support, land acquisition, land planning and site permitting, security systems monitoring, and shared maintenance to approximately 12 to 18 artists or pairs of artists, or collectors, who will be offered the opportunity to create individual pavilions devoted solely to their work….

“In addition to the 12 to 18 individual pavilions, the project will also include a visitor center. The visitor center will provide visitor services, a cafe, exhibition space and administrative offices. A green belt will be established at the base of the property along Route 66, so that the visual experience from the road will not change except for an appropriate entry road. The pavilions and visitor center will be located on the upper portion of the property and will be sited so that they are not visible from Route 66.”

‘A green belt will be established at the base of the property…’

Francis Greenburger

Founder of Art Omi

In the minutes from past meetings, the board said it would look at “a storm water report, traffic impact, parking plan, full project build out.”

At a Town Board meeting in August, residents came with a petition signed by 10 neighbors of the Chatham site with concerns about traffic and road safety. They also had concerns about the water and run-off. In the letter the neighbors wrote about the long history of PS21, the performance space, which is also off of Route 66. The letter says that for 10 years the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals promised that if PS21 was allowed a temporary tent for performance, their final building would be enclosed, “eliminating the intrusive noise imposed on our living spaces.” But, the letter says, an open air space was built and, “It is loud, intrusive and disrespectful of our rights.” The letter says the neighbors are asking that the Planning Board not “let history repeat itself.”

Spencertown resident Bob Johnson has concerns that people did not know about the project and that information was not available. In a letter to the editor he asked that Art Omi and the Planning Board “please extend the process to improve its prospects.”

Mr. Greenburger wrote in his white paper, “It is our belief that the Art Omi Pavilions project will enhance the life of Chatham and Columbia County residents and that of their families by providing all with access to this extraordinary natural landscape and art experience. Omi has a long track record of being a good land steward to its Ghent campus and will do the same here,” he said.

In March of this year Art Omi announced it was withdrawing its application pending before the Town of Ghent Planning Board for an expansion of the visitors center at its Sculpture Park in Ghent. The plan would have doubled the size of the building to include an education center, offices and another gallery.

About that application Mr. Greenburger, said, “Art Omi has officially withdrawn its application to improve and expand the Sculpture & Architecture Park facilities. It does this because of the lack of support shown by the Ghent Planning Board, despite overwhelming support from the community. We regret this decision but have decided to pursue alternative plans.”

Information about where the Chatham Planning Board meeting will hold its next meeting November 9 and how the public can attend will be on town’s website at

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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