Best of 2020: Opalka Gallery looks back at their Top 10 Moments

The Opalka Gallery is the formal exhibition facility of Russell Sage College. Located on the Albany campus, the Opalka’s primary focus is on modern and contemporary art and design from nationally recognized artists. An important part of the cultural life in the Capital Region, the Gallery frequently hosts lectures, films, concerts, and other events in conjunction with its exhibitions.

#10Ambitious Public Art Installation

In 2020 we installed the first phase of Erratics, a public art installation by Adam Frelin, featuring imagery related to the geologic history of the Capital Region. In this moment of great uncertainty, Erratics reminds visitors that both geologic and human history are continuously shaped by unpredictable actions; this moment is merely a blip in geologic time. Stay tuned for an announcement about its completion and opening!

#9Diverse Partnerships within Russell Sage

We enjoyed partnering across our Russell Sage College community for events including the Artists Lecture Series with the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Stage & Stanza with the Theater Institute at Sage, Pop-up Yoga and Guided Meditation with Thrive @ Russell Sage, voter registration with Sage Votes and an artist conversation with The Women’s Institute. Looking forward to more collaboration with our fabulous colleagues!

#8Going Virtual

While we can’t say the transition was flawless (there’s recorded evidence of many early flubs), we successfully moved our spring exhibition online and most of our 2020 programming to virtual. Our exhibitions have never been more accessible, something we hope to make possible for future shows. Visit our events page and exhibition websites to find images, virtual tours and publications:
High School Regional
Infinite Uncertainty

#7Celebrating HS Artists

Jamiah Williams, Albany HS, Window Lit, 2020

Speaking of transitions, we hated having to move the High School Regional exhibition online, but through a virtual opening and awards ceremony, a printed catalog, comprehensive website, and robust programs to prepare HS artists for applying to and attending college art programs, as well as for careers in the arts, we made the most of the situation and celebrated our Region’s talented young artists.

#6Exploring this Unprecedented Time

Norm Magnusson, On This Site Stood, 2020

Wanting to fully explore how 2020 was impacting our region’s artists and their practices, we scrapped other plans and created a juried show, Infinite Uncertainty. With over 250 submissions, we were introduced to many new artists and presented an exhibition that provided an important read on our current moment and a window into how artists are responding.

#5Mounting Unraveling Exhibition

Maybe it’s front of mind since we are currently taking down this show (which we always dread), but Unraveling was a truly memorable show. We finally nailed our virtual opening, saw our lofty space maximized for 4 large, site-specific installations, safely welcomed/delighted hundreds of guests, and enjoyed a fun, collaborative creative and installation process with four outstanding artists. Thanks to curator Yura Adams for sharing her vision, and to her fellow artists Joan GrubinRuby Palmer and Christina Tenaglia. Missed it? You can still visit the exhibition website.

#4Reopening (safely) in Fall 2020

Nothing gave us more pleasure than to reopen the gallery in September 2020 and to serve as a safe escape for visitors. Thank you to everyone at Russell Sage for allowing us to reopen and helping us figure out how to do so safely. Special thanks to our wonderful cleaning and maintenance crew and our student front desk staff. This fall we safely welcomed over 600 visitors.

#3Blockbuster Show: JoAnne Carson

JoAnne Carson, Wishful Thinking, 2019

While it seems like YEARS ago, we welcomed 2020 with a survey show of artist JoAnne Carson. Her colorful, animated paintings and sculptures filled the gallery, setting attendance AND sales records. If and when things return to “normal,” we hope we can replicate the energy, success and overall good vibes this show produced.

#2New Public Art at Albany Public Library

Eight Plums (artist duo Gracelee Lawrence and Ben Seretan), 
A Beneficent Fluid Bathes Us, 2020

Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade… when it became clear APL couldn’t fully reopen its Pine Hills Branch, where we curate the Art @ APL program, we quickly came up with a way to showcase regional artists on the OUTSIDE of the library – Creative Curbsides. Through a public call, we selected artist teams to transform the facades of APL’s Bach Branch and Arbor Hill/West Hill Branch.

#1$35,750 in direct payments to artists

This matters. Especially in 2020, as many artists’ opportunities evaporated overnight. This year, we made several strategic decisions in order to support more artists and provide more opportunities. It is an important part of our mission to not only showcase outstanding contemporary art but to support the individuals who make it.

Simply put, we value the role art and artists play in our society, in our region, in our cities, and in our neighborhoods. We are committed to adequately compensating artists, never asking them to do things for free, relentlessly promoting their work, and creating an ecosystem that values art, artists and arts institutions. Thank you for partnering with us in this important work.

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