Opus 40 Needs Your Help

By Michael Kaufman

Brendan Gill, whose prose graced the pages of The New Yorker for more than 60 years, described Opus 40 as “the greatest earthwork sculpture I have ever seen” and deemed it “one of the largest and most beguiling works of art on the entire continent. “ Opus 40 has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 2001. The register is maintained by the National Park Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of the Interior, but that is the extent of the government’s contribution to maintenance of the 6 ½-acre bluestone sculpture created by Harvey Fite over a period of 37 years in an abandoned quarry in Saugerties. (This is where I would be inserting a photograph or two were it not for bandwidth issues that occasionally bedevil the Zest of Orange site. So here is a link to the Opus 40 home page, where you can see for yourself and read more about the history of the place: http://www.opus40.org/)

Opus 40 has special meaning for me: Next week Eva-Lynne and I will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of our wedding, which took place there. But it has even more meaning to Tad Richards. “This is an important and beautiful work of art, created by my stepfather Harvey Fite, and it’s been my major concern for the last quarter century,” Richards wrote in a recent email. “Our literature says that ‘with proper care and maintenance, Opus 40 could still be standing a thousand years from now,’ and this is true, but the proper care and maintenance is the key. We do a lot of maintenance every year…But there are some areas which need more than that… areas that will naturally sink, and there are areas that over time get clogged so that water can’t pass through freely, and it backs up and causes pressure.

“There are two places where there have been slight bulges for as long as I can remember – probably 50 years,” he continued. “With Hurricane Irene and the severe weather that came on the fringes of Hurricane Sandy, one of those areas finally blew out, and the other – on the main ramp – has gotten much worse, and needs to be attended to.

“We want to address these important issues this spring. The work will be supervised by a local master stonemason, Timothy Smith of Hudson… Now we need the money to do all this work. Won’t you please help?”

Richards knows these are difficult times for a lot of people in our region. “Any donation, however small, will make a difference,” he says. “If you can give more, that would be wonderful.” Donations to Opus 40 are tax deductible.

You can donate with Paypal or a credit card at www.opus40.org/donation — or you can also call Opus 40 at 845-246-3400 to donate by credit card, or send a check to Opus 40, 50 Fite Road, Saugerties, NY 12477.

“Or,” wrote Richards, “stop by so we can thank you in person! All of the money you donate will go directly to the fund. Our management fees are zero.” I will be making a donation as soon as I finish this post.

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.

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