Discover Contemporary Art in the Hudson Valley and Catskills While Taking in the Fall Foliage

Hudson Valley Photo by Tyler Donaghy
Hudson Valley Photo by Tyler Donaghy

Table of Contents

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to visit bountiful fall foliage and want to add art into the trip, the Hudson Valley and Catskills are perfect destinations. You will not be disappointed.

In these regions of New York State, the leaves on the maples, oaks, and birches turn a brilliant array of colors, from red and orange to yellow and gold. The air is crisp and cool, and the leaves crunch underfoot as the sun shines down, casting a dappled light on the ground. The only sound is the wind rustling through the leaves. It’s a time of peace and tranquility, a time to reflect on the beauty of nature.

The Hudson Valley and Catskills are also home to a thriving art scene: art museums, galleries, and studios. You’ll find plenty to inspire you.

Hudson valley photo by juliana malta
Hudson Valley Photo by Juliana Malta

Hudson Valley and Catskills as Artist Communities

“There are certain constants to the Hudson Valley, even as its borders emotionally extend to past the Catskills and over into the Litchfield hills. Nature, farming and art are the big top three (if you ask me); and their often-impassioned pursuit is what drives the land around here,” Julie Baumgardner, editor of Upstate Art Weekend’s The Guide.

The Hudson Valley and Catskills have long been a haven for artists. The region’s stunning scenery, affordable living, and proximity to New York City have made it a popular destination for creatives of all stripes.

The Hudson River School of painters flourished in the mid-19th century and was among the first to put the region on the map as an artist colony. Artists like Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, and Frederic Edwin Church drew inspiration from the Hudson Valley’s dramatic landscapes, and their work helped to popularize the region as a place of beauty and inspiration.

In the early 20th century, the Hudson Valley and Catskills became popular destinations for writers and poets. Authors like Edith Wharton and Henry James lived and worked in the region, and their work helped cement the region’s reputation as a place of literary creativity.

In recent years, the Hudson Valley and Catskills have seen a resurgence of interest from artists. The region’s affordable living and proximity to New York City have made it a popular destination for young artists, painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, and filmmakers. Their work is reinvigorating the region’s cultural identity, with artists inspiring each other and building supportive communities. The region’s rich history and natural beauty provide a stunning backdrop for artistic expression.

When to Go to See Upstate New York Fall Foliage

I LOVE NY’s video, 2022 New York State Fall Foliage Map Timelapse

The fall foliage in the Hudson Valley and Catskills began to change color in mid-September last year, reaching its peak in middle to late October. The Catskills saw peak foliage in early October, while Albany, Saratoga, and the Capital Region saw peak foliage in mid-October.

September’s weather is quite warm this year, so peak foliage is expected to be two weeks later throughout the state. The Hudson Valley’s and Catskills’ peak fall foliage will begin late this month and is expected to continue into late October.

For the art-loving traveler, there is no better time to visit the Hudson Valley than in the fall. Embrace the beauty of nature and art at one of the region’s many art galleries, studios, and artist-run spaces.

Upstate Art Weekend

Upstate Art Weekend is a free, two-day festival of art exhibitions, performances, and family-friendly activities in July that spans from Westchester County to Albany.

However, the Upstate Art Weekend website is a treasure trove of information on the region’s art scene.

Specifically, the Journeys section in the Upstate Art Weekend’s Guide. The guide includes a map and five route plans to help you plan a road trip or public transportation. Each route provides a list of where to go and what to see.

The Upstate Art Weekend’s map has a comprehensive list of the 130+ galleries, studios, and museums in Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester counties.

Catskill mountains in the fall photo by clay banks
The Catskill Mountains in the Fall Photo by Clay Banks

Routes to Discover Contemporary Art in the Hudson Valley and Catskills

You can create an itinerary that suits you using Upstate Art Weekend’s The Route Plan. The plan gives you five options, including four road trips and one using public transit. Each route includes a starting point, where to stay, what to see, and where to wrap up the trip. Each location is conveniently linked to Google Maps.

Reminder: The Hospitality Partners' offers and discounts on the map are for the July event, but it's a great way to see where you want to stay overnight and see your options.

The vibe of hotels and restaurants that participate in local events is pretty good. There’s a fair chance they are genuinely involved in the community and can point you in the right direction to fun, off-the-beaten-path events and businesses.

Three hotels in Hudson Valley and the Catskills Mountains are linked below: the Starlite Motel, the Maker hotel, and the Greenville Arms 1889 Inn. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing stay in a charming setting or a place to base your explorations of the Hudson Valley, these three hotels are sure to please.

Hudson valley photo by clay banks
Hudson Valley Photo by Clay Banks

Route 4: Beacon, Newburgh, Cold Spring, and Poughkeepsie

If you’re looking for a scenic and enjoyable day trip without the hassle of driving, Upstate Art Weekend’s Route 4 is the perfect option. This scenic byway winds its way through the Hudson Valley, passing through charming towns, historic sites, and beautiful natural scenery.

Dia:Beacon is a modern and contemporary art museum in Beacon. Located in a former Nabisco box-printing factory, it has been renovated and specifically designed to install one artist’s work in each gallery.

This attentiveness to the work creates a unique and immersive experience for visitors. Some of the artists shown at Dia:Beacon include Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, and Michael Heizer.

Visit the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor near Mountainville. This 500-acre outdoor sculpture park has a massive permanent sculpture and land art collection, including work by Alexander Calder, Sol LeWitt, and Maya Lin.

If you purchase your tickets ahead of time, the center has a shuttle from the Beacon train station.

You can also take a boat ride on the Hudson River. Many companies offer boat rides, from short sightseeing tours to longer dinner cruises.

Dia:Beacon | 3 Beekman St, Beacon, NY 12508

Storm King Art Center | 1 Museum Rd, New Windsor, NY 12553

Jack shainman gallery: the school in the hudson valley, new york
Jack Shainman Gallery: The School in the Hudson Valley, New York

Route 2: Port Ewen, Kingston, and Catskill

If you want to drive further north to see Hudson and the surrounding towns and hamlets, look at Upstate Art Weekend’s Route 2. The route leads you to Catskill, just across the river from Hudson.

Foreland is an 85,000-square-foot art campus in Catskill. It was once a cloth mill for Union Soldiers during the Civil War, but it has been transformed into a vibrant space for art, culture, and community.

During Upstate Art Weekend, Foreland hosts NADA Foreland, a contemporary art fair that showcases the work of emerging and established artists.

The campus features artist studios, galleries, retail, and special projects, all with an eye toward progressive programming. Check the schedule to see what installations and exhibitions are happening when you plan to visit.

Stop by the Olana State Historic Site on your way from Catskill to Hudson. This historic home was once the residence of Frederic Edwin Church, a renowned Hudson River School painter. The site offers tours of the house and grounds and stunning views of the Hudson River.

Staying in downtown Hudson makes walking to shops, restaurants, and galleries convenient. The Maker is right in the middle of the action. It also has a gym, which is always a plus.

The Maker Gymnasium with founder Lev Glazman

Turley Gallery is worth stopping by to see Kelcy Chase Folsom and Jason Reed’s exhibition, With, which is open until October 1st. If you are traveling in October, the exhibition Care will be on view from October 7th – 29th with the artists Dana Piazza and Tamara Zahaykevich.

A twenty-minute drive north of Hudson, Jack Shainman Gallery is showing Michael Snow: A Life Survey (1955 – 2020) at The School until December 16th, 2023.

Michael Snow is a Canadian artist who works in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, film, and photography. His work often explores time, space, and perception. He is also known for using innovative techniques, such as slow motion and multiple exposures.

The exhibition covers Snow’s 60-year career and includes some of his most famous works. These include his 45-minute slow-motion zoom of a white wall, “Wavelength” (1967), and his rotating disk with a series of numbers on it, “Standard Time” (1967).

Also included are more recent works, such as his portrait of a group of people watching a film, “The Audience” (2013), and his 360-degree video of a human body, “Corpus” (2016).

The School is open to the public every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call or email to reserve a place before your trip if you want a private exhibition tour with gallery staff. You should arrive before 1 p.m. to see the 45-minute Michael Snow’s Wavelength film screening. The private tour will begin after at 3 p.m.

Foreland | 111 Water St, Catskill, NY 12414

Olana State Historic Site | 5720 NY-9G, Hudson, NY 12534

Turley Gallery | 98 Green Street, Hudson, NY 1253

The Maker | 302 Warren St, Hudson, NY 12534

Jack Shainman Gallery: The School | May 20 – Dec 16, 2023 | Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. | 25 Broad St, Kinderhook, NY 12106

Concrete pathway near red and yellow leaf tree
The Catskill Mountains in the Fall Photo by Courtney Read

Route 5: Ellenville, Lexington, West Kill, Stamford, East Meredith

If you want a more outdoorsy road trip, consider Upstate Art Weekend’s Route 5. The mountains of New York are a beautiful and inspiring place. The towering peaks, lush forests, and sparkling lakes are a feast for the senses.

They offer something for everyone. And even if you’re not into extreme outdoor activities, there are plenty of easy-on-the-knees and eyes options.

The New York State Outdoor Guides Association has a directory of licensed guides who can lead photography trips to some of the most stunning scenery in the state. Whether you’re looking to capture the dramatic peaks or the serene beauty of the Catskills waterfalls, there’s a guide who can help you explore.

The mountains of New York have stunning scenery and a rich history, so you should stay for a few days. Near West Kill, the Starlite Motel is a lovingly restored 1960s roadside motor lodge. It’s as though Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek designed a new life for the Rosebud Motel.

A pool and firepit add to the classic, homey feel. The dog-friendly motel was named one of Travel + Leisure’s ‘11 Beautiful Hotels in New York’s Catskills and Hudson Valley That Our Editors Love.’

Further north towards Albany is the Greenville Arms 1889 Inn. This historic inn is home to the Hudson River Art Workshops, an in-residence art program that brings teaching artists and student artists worldwide to Greenville. The inn also has Greene County’s only independent art supply shop.

Starlite Motel | 5938 US-209, Kerhonkson, NY 12446

Greenville Arms 1889 Inn | 11135 NY-32, Greenville, NY 12083

Art in the Hudson Valley and Catskills

These are just suggested itineraries; you can customize them to fit your interests and time constraints. The Hudson Valley is a beautiful and diverse region, and there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Art lovers can visit the many museums and galleries in the area, such as the Dia Art Foundation in Beacon and the Storm King Art Center near Mountainville. Outdoor enthusiasts can also hike, bike, or kayak in the Catskill Mountains or go apple picking or pumpkin picking at one of the many farms in the area.

No matter your interests, you will find something to enjoy in the Hudson Valley and Catskills in the fall.

Hudson Valley and Catskills Art Map


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