Rockefeller Preserve Gallery resumes art exhibitions

Photographer Michael Garber, left, and structural painter Mimi Kim Gutschmit display some examples of their work at last Saturday’s reception for the Rockefeller Park Preserve gallery exhibition “Symbolic Images of Nature.” Marti Wilbur photo

Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of visitors have taken advantage of the open space at Rockefeller Park Preserve, an opportunity to spend time safely outdoors after being cooped up at home.

What the park lacked, however, was the schedule of art exhibitions in the park’s popular gallery, which often featured local or emerging artists, many of whom focused on aspects of nature.

Last month, the wait for his return came to an end. The gallery hosts “Symbolic Images of Nature,” featuring five artists – Mimi Kim Gutschmit, Michael Garber, Elaine Dalto, Alain Diot and Dorothy Gillespie – each expressing their interpretation of natural elements.

“We all try in one way or another to find some peace of mind, some peace within ourselves and bring it into our gallery because we have a lot of people trying to s ‘get away from everything that’s going on, and just so we can get to a place where we can find relief, just relief, and I think we’ve done that,’ said gallery curator Audrey Leeds.

Last Saturday, Gutschmit, who had more than a dozen sculptural paintings in the gallery for the exhibition, and Garber, a photographer whose current work features birds, were on hand for the exhibition reception.

Gutschmit and Garber’s artistic endeavors are shaping up to be late careers, both having retired. Gutschmit, who has always loved art, spent many years in international marketing while Garber was the director of the New York Foundling Hospital, a New York child welfare agency.

Moving to Tarrytown two years ago, where Gutschmit’s husband grew up, helped inspire his artwork with the everyday view of the Hudson River. Life on the river is constantly changing, Gutschmit said, which inspired her to create so many works of art that she not only had to rent storage space locally, but she also rented a studio in Tribeca. where she now goes to do her painting.

Before Gutschmidt retired from the corporate world, she could never imagine waking up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. every morning. Now she can’t wait for the sun to come up to start painting.

His Riverwood collection is featured in the gallery’s current exhibition.

“The Hudson is just amazing,” Gutschmit said. “The way it changes every day, looking at the water, the lighting. It’s so beautiful, and of course my husband wanted to live near the Hudson because he wanted to fish and kayak, but I’m not really an outdoors person. It’s, for me, just looking out the window, that’s just enough inspiration.

Garber has always been an amateur photographer, taking pictures of people, nature and landscapes. But after his retirement, he enrolled in the International Center of Photography, which offers photography education programs.

For the Rockefeller Gallery exhibition, Garber focused on close-up images of birds. He was inspired by his wife, Stephanie, a member of the Rockland Audubon Society. The couple lives in Blauvelt.

“She was a board member (Audubon Society) and she loves birds, and I’ve always loved them too,” he said. “But it was more her interest and it was something I could do with her.”

Garber said he looks for shots that capture each bird’s personality or character, because similar to humans, they are all different. Then the right lighting and a healthy dose of luck also come into play.

Two of Garber’s photographs in the exhibit were taken at Rockefeller Park Preserve. His wife helps identify the species.

Since the pandemic, Rockefeller State Park Preserve has become one of New York’s most popular state parks, said park superintendent Peter Iskenderian. In each of the past two years, annual attendance has increased by 50%, from 400,000 to about 600,000 visitors, he said. The park has 1,800 acres and 55 miles of motorable roads.

Last Saturday, the parking lots were overflowing and a long line of cars was parked on the shoulder of Route 117.

“Our trails are 16 feet wide, they’re all motorable roads,” Iskenderian said. “People can social distance on our fields so that’s what made it a great location, plus we have Phelps Hospital right next door and we have all the doctors and nurses who come here after work, during their lunch break just by walking.”

“Symbolic Images of Nature” will be exhibited until May 1. The gallery is located at 125 Phelps Way (Route 177) and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission to the gallery is free; parking for the reserve is $6. For more information, call 914-631-1470 ext. 0 or visit


William E. Bennett