DIA:Beacon is a world renowned art center in a fabulous setting, about 1.5 hours from New York City by train. If you’re an art lover looking for a day trip from NYC, this one can easily be done with or without a car.
The 240,000 square foot art foundation focuses on work produced since 1960. The old Nabisco box printing plant, built in 1929, is the perfect industrial setting for the large art installations within. Wood, brick, glass and a multitude of skylights enhance the collection. The Louise Bourgeois works meld with the upstairs gallery space, as if designed specifically for the rooms.
Photography is not allowed.
DIA showcases work from major artists in a variety of media. People like Bruce Nauman, Louise Bourgeois, Joseph Beuys, Donald Judd, Robert Smithson, Richard Serra. According to the guide “each gallery is devoted to a single artist and was designed to fulfill the particular needs of the works.”
My entry to the center was through a long white gallery, lined with the large, colorful, geometric plane paintings of Imi Knoebel. It was all I could do to hold myself back from pulling out my camera (not allowed anywhere inside). Not only are the paintings in that setting spectacular, but I was the only one in the room.
Some of my favorite work were the muted geometric paintings of Agnes Martin. The Robert Smithson’s “Map of Broken Glass, 1969,” and his “Gravel Mirrors with Cracks and Dust” are 2 pieces of work I’m glad I finally got to see in real life.
From a travel perspective, you can’t get more meaningful than On Kawara’s “100 Years Calendar.” His gallery features a row of dark grey/black 3-D box-shaped paintings on each wall, each with a date in white. The paintings are done at the location in one day, with the date conveyed in the style and language of the country. Each painting is stored in a box with a newspaper clipping from the place and date where it was painted. 112 locations have been visited so far and the project will end with the artist’s death.
The entire town of Beacon is full of galleries, antique and some very unique stores. There are 2 tourism offices – one on Main Street and one on the street heading into town from DIA. I stop at the later to get directions back to the train station for my return after checking out town. The very friendly woman points out a shortcut. She also recommends I walk through town until I come to the large waterfall. It was a lot longer of a walk than I expected, but that seemed to have been the theme for the day.
Beautiful brick buildings common in the Hudson Valley and upstate New York can be found throughout the town. There are several gorgeous churches of various styles. Main Street is lined with restaurants of the world (Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Thai), America (soul food, natural food,bakeries, sandwich shops), and a good variety of stores.
Hudson Beach Glass has spectular serving pieces, vases and other glass works of art. They ship; this could become my new go-to gift store. I buy a unique, very well priced wood and glass interactive painting at a place called Morphicism. It has glass panels that move, so that you can alter or morph your piece. Jay, the artist, is the kind of guy you can talk to all day, if you didn’t have to rush back to Manhattan to bake a tart.
The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls, a new development by the waterfall that the woman at the tourism board mentioned is still in the works. There is a lovely terraced cafe built next to the brick roundhouse, overlooking the waterfall.
Since I’m not sure how long it will take to get back to the train, I leave about 40 minutes for a walk that takes about 15. The train station is across the street from the waterfront, and I hang out along the river, snapping some pictures, watching people fish. Since the sun is now coming from the river, I sit on the left (inland) side of the train, to get photos of the marshes and inlets.
One thing I couldn’t find – an eyeglass repair kit or a place to repair my Maui Jim sunglasses when the glass popped out onto the sidewalk of Beacon. Thank you to the wonderful man at Optyx on 6th Avenue at 21st Street, for fixing my glasses, free of charge!
Metro North runs hourly trains to/from Beacon. It’s the Hudson Line. Sit on the left side of the train leaving NYC in the morning for the best views of the Hudson River. If you end up on the right, there are some beautiful marshes and inlets as you get north of Tarrytown. I walked the length of the train in Grand Central, seeking the one with the cleanest windows – AND then wiped off the window from inside with paper napkins to facilitate better photography.
Don’t miss the barbed wire at Ossining, marking proximity to the infamous Sing Sing Prison.
There is excellent signage to direct you from the train to DIA:Beacon, or Main Street for shopping, antiquing and restaurants.
The walk from the train to the gallery takes 15-20 minutes, part of it uphill. This is not a great rainy day trip, as I originally suspected. Taxis supposedly meet most trains, or you can call, but you won’t get to enjoy the nice walk and the town of Beacon.
On Saturdays there is a docent lead gallery tour at 1pm. You can also arrange special tours for groups and school children.
There is a cafe with food at the art center, or plenty of restaurants nearby.
Don’t forget to get the combo train ticket/DIA entry. You’ll save $2 and a wait if there is a line for tickets.
This article was originally posted August 24, 2011.