Cortlandt Supervisor Exhibits a Municipal Taste for Culture 

Cortlandt Supervisor Dr. Richard Becker and Curator Eren Johnson take in Fading into the Sunset by Joseph Middlebrooks in Town Hall’s meeting room. Photo > Steve Pavlopoulos

When Town Supervisor Dr. Richard Becker created the Art in Cortlandt program last year, his goal was to showcase the rich pool of local creative talent in Cortlandt. The concept was “a rotating art gallery that would exhibit artwork from the community,” Becker said. To bring the concept to life, he brought in curator Eren Johnson to head the open calls for submissions and select the works and artists to feature in each themed exhibition at Cortlandt Town Hall at 1 Heady Street. With a dedicated program leader and a population of 45,000 residents who can submit art, Art in Cortlandt has grown into a substantial force, promoting cultural enrichment, engagement, inspiration and joy in the community. 

 The exhibition space has expanded since the inception of the program. It began in the meeting room and now spills out into the main hallway. Having a professional curator at the helm has helped make the program a success. Johnson is excited to give local artists a platform to elevate their visibility. “There’s a growing number of artists – visual artists, dancers, performers, you name it, they’re here in Cortlandt,” she said. “I’m actually astounded and amazed,” said Becker, “how our citizens are involved in art. The response to Eren’s open calls is always very strong.”  

Both Becker and Johnson appreciate how the opening receptions transform the municipal building into a true gallery where the artists share their work and interact with the public that comes out for the events. What makes it unique is that the artists you are meeting might just be your neighbors. 

So far, there have been four exhibitions since the program kicked off in August 2022 with Got Art? There have been a total of 395 works submitted by 168 local artists, with 203 exhibited works from 90 artists. An opening for Towards Abstraction held in May saw artists engaging with the 60-70 attendees who came out for the show. Johnson feels this type of connection is an important offering for local artists and the community. “There’s a real dearth of interaction for artists in Cortlandt,“ she said, “so these receptions give artists a chance to meet other artists and interact with the public.” 

Becker enjoys what the art on display does for the space that was previously decorated with relics and pieces that he felt didn’t necessarily represent the town. “What I enjoy outside of the actual receptions,” he said, “[is that] people come to Town Hall to conduct their business and they get to see what their neighbors are doing and stop to interact with the artwork.  

Visitors appreciate the art adorning the walls of Town Hall’s main hallway. Photo > Elvia Sinchi

“Sometimes folks will have conversations and say, ‘Oh, I know this guy, he lives two doors down.’” The program also helps increase the exposure of creativity coming from local children. The student exhibition is open to all students. Whether they attend schools in the Hendrick  Hudson district, Croton-Harmon, or Lakeland, private or home school, they are welcome to answer the open call for submissions. 

Every week, in the message from the Supervisor on the town website and on Instagram, the program features an artist from the current exhibit along with a sampling of their work. It’s an added layer of showcasing the creative process and giving the artists a forum to introduce themselves, their art and speak about their proces.

Art in Cortlandt delivers a strong sense of community connection and strives to make the conversation about art accessible to everyone. There have been sales from the exhibitions and all the proceeds go directly to the artists so they can truly feel like they are part of a gallery without having to deal with any fees or commissions. It’s a perfect arrangement for the artists and an especially fun bonus for any student artist who experiences the thrill of a sale (big or small, the validation is real — even if the buyer is grandma). 

The current exhibit continues until July 28 and may be viewed at town hall during office hours. The next exhibition will focus on the iconic people and places of Cortlandt as experienced by employees of the town. Other future exhibitions in the works will be focused on fiber arts and the medium of textiles followed by another selection of artwork by students in the area. Exhibits change regularly and any local artists interested in submitting their work can find the open calls on the town website and social media channels. 

Steve Pavlopoulos is a freelance writer and producer living in Cortlandt Manor.  



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