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Nyack Sketch Log: Lenape Nation Women and Public Art Celebrated at River Hook

by Bill Batson

In a year when Upper Nyack is commemorating 150 years as an incorporated village, an exhibition of works by Lisa Levart honoring the women of the Lenape Nation is fittingly taking center stage.

Mayor Karen Tarapata will present Ramapough Lenape Nation Ambassador Grandmother Clara Soaring Hawk with a land dedication plaque at an opening reception on Saturday, June 18 at 4 p.m. at River Hook: The Hester Haring Cason Preserve, 611 North Midland Ave.

“Still Here: Women of the Ramapough Lenape Nation”, is an outdoor installation of photographic portraits of the women of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, descendants of the original inhabitants of the New York metropolitan area and the Hudson Valley.

“The purpose of ‘Still Here’ is to inspire visitors to River Hook to reflect on and honor the Lenape people who cared for this land long before the Dutch and English settled the banks of the river. ‘Hudson, and remember that their ancestors still live among us,” said artist Lisa Levart.

“We’ve been in these northeastern forests since time immemorial,” said grandmother Clara Soaring Hawk. “Every woman featured in this installation heard directly a call to honor our ancestral matriarchs. It is through the choice of every human being who is willing to “walk the right path” that hearts can heal and new relationships begin,” she continued.

Visitors to River Hook will also enjoy a sculpture trail featuring works by six local artists displaying pieces integrated with the natural beauty of the preserve.

“River Hook is a nice addition to the many carving sites found throughout Rockland County. Myself, along with Peter and Cassie Strasser, are thrilled to help Friends of River Hook get this inaugural sculpting journey started,” said sculptor Mark Attebery. Other sculptors on display are Janet Rutkowski, James Tyler and Sarah Haviland.

“Supporting the arts is central to the mission of Friends of River Hook, especially artists who celebrate the splendor of this land and the history of the people who have lived here. Lisa Levart’s ‘Still Here’ and the artists on our inaugural sculpture journey are prime examples of the kind of work we will welcome here at River Hook,” said Friends of River Hook President Paul Curley.

Still Here was made possible by funds from the Statewide Community Regrant, a granting program of the New York State Council on the Arts with support from the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by ArtsWestchester.

The event is sponsored by Friends of River Hook and Long Path Outfitters, located on South Broadway in Nyack. Refreshments will be served by Salonnière Coffee Bar.

About River Hook

The village of Upper Nyack bought the River Hook property, which had fallen into disrepair, in 2018, ensuring access for generations to come. Conversations with the community sparked ideas of regeneration, reimagining and reinvention and led to the formation of the Friends of River Hook.

The reserve, located at 611 North Midland Avenue, is one of the largest remnants of the six farms that would become the village of Upper Nyack. Since the arrival of Europeans in the 17th century, only two families have made River Hook their home. The Smith family, whose ancestor Colonel James Smith fought for independence from the British, sold the property to the Haring family in 1934. The reservation’s namesake, Hester Haring, lived on the land all his life.

Visit riverhook.org to learn more and donate.

For more on the history of the Hester Haring Cason reserve, check out these 2 episodes of Mike Hay’s Nyack People and Places:

Nyack People & Places: The Winding Saga of River Hook Farm, November 7, 2019
Nyack People & Places: Hooked on River Hook, June 11, 2020

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and draws in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Lenape Nation Women and Public Art in River Hook” © 2022 Bill Batson. To learn more, visit billbatsonarts.com

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