“It’s tough to be first at anything,” mused Dorothy Riester, as she summed up the ultimate lesson that she has learned during her impressive career as a pioneer in the art world. “Just as society is starting to accept what you are doing, you are on to the next unpopular thing.”
In the 1950s and 60s that ‘unpopular thing’ was the creation of an informal sculpture garden and art exhibit venue hosted by Dorothy and Bob Riester on their sprawling compound in Cazenovia. Now formally incorporated as Stone Quarry Hill Art Park, Dorothy’s idea has gone mainstream, garnering accolades from the art world and touted as a crowning jewel of Cazenovia’s community fabric. She receives calls from across the United States and beyond seeking her guidance as others attempt to replicate her trailblazing work as the founder of one of the first art-in-nature parks in the world.
Dorothy and her late husband shared a desire to preserve the 100 acre park from the residential development that they saw closing in around their beloved home-turned-park. They created an easement for the property to secure its permanent position as open space, but they knew that this was just one piece of the strategy they needed to implement to ensure the art park’s long-term success.
The Riesters turned to the Community Foundation to fulfill the final piece of their preservation plan: the establishment of an endowment to support the upkeep of the property. They knew that with the burden of physical maintenance of the grounds taken care of, the Art Park’s board and staff would be freed up to concentrate on creating quality programming to keep the park visitors coming back for more.
Dorothy was drawn to the Community Foundation because of its longevity and its unique ability to preserve the voice of the donor through the generations. Dorothy trusts the Community Foundation will provide solid financial management of the Robert & Dorothy Riester Fund for Stone Quarry Hill Art Park Preservation. Perhaps of equal importance to Dorothy and others seeking to secure their charitable legacy in perpetuity, the Community Foundation will also keep their wishes for the use of the funds at the forefront. It is reassuring to Dorothy that the Community Foundation will always stay true to her instructions for the use of the funds under its management no matter what the future holds.
The future of Dorothy now includes exploring the grounds of the Nottingham where she recently moved. She has carved out studio space in her new apartment that gives her ample room to continue creating sculpture. She has her eye on a new material inspired by her surroundings: the stalks of goldenrod that she spotted in a nearby field. It’s clear that she’s already on the next ‘unpopular thing.’
Hear Dorothy's 2012 StoryCorps Recording: She spoke with Steven Waldron, Art Park board member, about her inspirations in art and in life.
To support the Robert & Dorothy Riester Fund for Stone Quarry Hill Art Park Preservation, visit its giving page here.
If you're interested in opening a designated fund, learn more here.