YDL hosts national touring and local art exhibits for the enrichment of the community. Most exhibits take place in the Community Room at YDL-Whittaker, but exhibits are also shown at YDL-Michigan. Contact John Connaghan if you are interested in having your art considered for an exhibit at YDL.


Current Exhibit

Wild Land: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Landscape Painting

Lake with Dead Trees by Thomas Cole, 1825April 6-May 25, 2016

In November 1825, three large oil paintings by a relatively unknown artist appeared in a New York City gallery window. The three works, featuring dramatic landscapes from locations in upstate New York, immediately attracted critical acclaim. “This youth has done at once, and without instruction, what I can not do after fifty years of practice,” exclaimed one prominent American artist.

The creator of those three works was a young English immigrant named Thomas Cole. Over the course of the next two decades, Cole revolutionized the field of American landscape painting. He gave rise to a style of painting that later become known as the Hudson River School. In the process, the young, self-taught artist helped Americans rethink their relationship with the natural world around them. Wild Land explores Cole’s role as an artistic and cultural pioneer who helped give rise to the emerging concept of the American nation. How did this young Englishman see something in the American wilderness that many Americans themselves did not yet see?

Using a combination of large-scale banner graphics, immersive environments, media features, and other interactive strategies, Wild Land takes audiences on a journey with Cole through the story of his creative process. From an itinerant portrait artist to the founder of the Hudson River School, how did this landscape artist transform sketches from nature into a new vision of the wilderness?

Wild Land examines how the meaning of nature has changed over time into a source for creative and intellectual inspiration. And just as Cole did, visitors are invited to explore the concept of preservation and how societies come to value and live in balance with natural resources. In concluding the exhibit, visitors are left to contemplate whether Cole’s premature death may have signified a beginning of an American artistic legacy and an identity as a nation inextricably tied to nature.

Wild Land is co-curated by Elizabeth Jacks, the Executive Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site and Dr. Kevin J. Avery, Department of American Paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art (also the essayist). The exhibit was organized by The Thomas Cole National Historic Site/Cedar Grove in Catskill, New York. Wild Land is adapted and toured by the NEH on the Road Program, a division of Mid- America Arts Alliance and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was designed and fabricated by Flint Hills Design of Newton, Kansas.


Past Exhibits

YDL has a long history of bringing world class exhibits to Ypsilanti. Learn about a few of our past exhibits »

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