A Brief History of the Museum
The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum was established in 1957 by the Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation, a legacy of the late Hiram Blauvelt, philanthropist, conservationist and collector. Through the contribution of his private wildlife art and big game collections, he hoped to promote the cultural value of wildlife art and the need for conservation of its subjects and their habitats.
During the early part of the 20th century, wildlife was believed to be abundant. Many dedicated conservationists, notable Theodore Roosevelt, gathered animals from their natural habitats for museums. The beauty of the animals could then be viewed by many.
Like Roosevelt, Hiram Blauvelt realized the value of his collection and wanted to share it with the public. It was his interest and desire to share his far ranging adventures, his stories of explorations and his collection of these animals. Hiram hoped to educate the coming generations to the diversity and beauty of the wildlife kingdom. He especially wanted to enlighten the public to the challenges we face to preserve the marvels of wildlife and their natural environments.
Founded in 1957 as a natural history museum, it introduced students, scouts and youth groups to the need to support wildlife and habitats conservation. Visiting artists created drawings and paintings from close observation of the specimens.
Twenty-five years later, the Board of Directors of the Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation decided that the original objectives would be best achieved by redesigning the museum to feature the works of contemporary wildlife artists, built on the artistic foundation of the Blauvelt’s early collection of works by Charles Livingston Bull (notably a resident of Oradell at one time), Carl Rungius and a complete Audubon Folio of extinct birds.
The Blauvelt Museum, located in an 1893 cedar shingle and turret carriage house, underwent extensive renovations to accommodate its new and expanded mission. The original carriage house was re-designed to include a large reception area, four mini galleries and museum offices, all with original materials from the historic building, and preserving its aura.
Four new galleries were added, providing wall space for mounting museum quality flatwork, and generous room for pedestals to hold creative sculpture. Substantial artificial lighting is augmented by natural light from the north.
High on a hill overlooking the Hackensack River, the Oradell Reservoir and parklands to the east, the entrance to the museum is through a curving stone and slate terrace, framed by large oak trees and other indigenous foliage, which serves as a natural sculpture garden.
Many of its visitors today, accompanied by their children, are re-visiting the museum which they first visited with their parents in past decades. The Blauvelt treasures their comments remarking on the greater beauties of its collection, while preserving the ambience of their memories.
Established in 1985, The Blauvelt’s Artist-in-Residence program continues to draw some of the world’s most celebrated artists. They are selected on the basis of their artistic ability and promise, and on their commitment to the museum’s mission to protect and conserve wildlife and its habitats. The museum provides a furnished home for the artist, on museum property, which includes a studio, painting supplies, etc. Artists-in-Residence give lectures, lead round-table discussions, visit schools, demonstrate painting and drawing techniques – all to promote the museum’s mission and enhance its community outreach.
In November 2010, the Artist-in-Residence program was renamed the Marijane Singer Artist-in-Residence Program, in honor of its Museum Director, Marijane Singer who was affiliated with the museum for 25 years. Our current Artist-in-Residence is Aaron Yount. Other artists include Guy Combes, son of the late artist and conservationist Simon Combes, Dwayne Harty, Geordie Millar and Terry Miller..
One of only five museums in the United States to exclusively display wildlife art, the Blauvelt is recognized internationally. The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum is pleased to partner with the Artists for Conservation and its member artists, in their campaign to protect endangered species and their habitats and we welcome the public to visit our museum and enjoy the inspiring works of our wildlife artists.
James Bellis, Board President