Sterling Park Resident Abigail Gerdts, an art historian by profession, remains active and engaged in her community by exploring a treasure trove of artworks at The Osborn as she records the senior living community’s collection.
Opened in 1908 to residents, The Osborn is exceptional in its art and architectural legacy as well as its majestic 56-acre campus. The grounds feature an arboretum with expansive opportunities for plein-air painters to capture the beauty of nature.
“Art and culture along with nature are integral aspects of the lifestyle that we offer,” said The Osborn’s President and CEO, Matthew G. Anderson. “We are so honored to have an expert like Mrs. Gerdts to enhance our knowledge and appreciation of the art that surrounds us.”
The community’s founder, Miriam Osborn, left a generous portion of her estate to ensure ongoing support and care for seniors. After her death, friend and attorney John Sterling, along with architect Bruce Price, designed and built the impressive neo-Georgian structure that still stands today. One of the noteworthy paintings in the collection is a magnificent portrait of Mrs. Osborn that graces the sweep of a majestic staircase.
According to Mrs. Gerdts, “The nature of the art in The Osborn admirably suits the different buildings. At the collection's core are paintings and sculpture tracing back to Mrs. Osborn, Mr. Sterling and their circle which bring a sense of great homes of the late nineteenth century into The Osborn's founding buildings. As residency buildings have been added, the collection has kept pace with acquisitions focused on artists from the immediate area, Westchester County and southern Connecticut. This modern expansion includes the graphic arts and fine examples of photography, as well as paintings and sculpture.”
Mrs. Gerdts concentrated on nineteenth century American painting and sculpture in her career, which divided about evenly between museum and academic functions. She organized special exhibitions of American art at the American art museum division of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and then, also for the Smithsonian, created a massive research database of American paintings held in public and private collection around the world (now available on the Internet). Transplanting to New York she became curator and archivist at the National Academy of Design, before turning to editing and publishing the five-volume catalogue raisonné of the works of Winslow Homer.
According to Sterling Park resident Sandy Motland, who partners with Mrs. Gerdts on this project, “Abigail Gerdts came to The Osborn with a wealth of knowledge and experience in art history. She immediately set about bringing order to the Osborn collection. All this work has made the art more available to the rest of us and her writing about specific pieces in the monthly newsletter enriches our understanding and enjoyment.”
Mrs. Gerdts and her late husband, also an historian of American art, had access to a series of films on great European art and artists which they gave to The Osborn for showing over its closed circuit television channel. She keeps up with this series, providing new releases to The Osborn audience, and also serves on the Cinema Committee which selects new and classic films shown daily on The Osborn channel. She commented, “Those of us who are specialists in an area are encouraged to share our knowledge and find a receptive audience in our fellow residents. It is a very congenial community.”