Now that the busy festivity of the year-end holidays is behind us, the specter of three months of cabin fever begins to raise its ugly head. Cocooning with a pile of thick books or classic movies that you’ve been meaning to get to is comforting for a while; but you know that sooner or later you’re going to feel a screaming need to get out of the house, to move your body vigorously, to see some bright colors. If a trip to the tropics is not within your budget, what do you do besides become irritable company?
Fortunately, the mid-Hudson’s ample cultural resources include some interesting local destinations that will lift you out of the winter blahs for a couple of hours with programs specifically designed as vacations for the mind. One, the Vassar Brothers Institute’s “Explore the World!” travel and adventure lecture series, has been presented every year at this season for ages; another is just getting launched this month: Olana’s Armchair Travel Series. It’s a perfect fit for the home of the visionary Hudson River School painter Frederic Church, an avid world traveler who captured many of the planet’s most awe-inspiring sights on canvas and introduced them to the public eye in the days before photography.
Among Church’s exotic destinations was the Arctic, whose stark beauty inspired one of his most famous paintings, The Icebergs. “Ice Breaking” is the theme of Olana’s inaugural Armchair Travel Series, and the curators have found the ideal kickoff presentation: a screening of The Iceberg Riders, a documentary about Dutch sculptor and filmmaker Ap Verheggen’s quixotic quest to draw the world’s attention to climate change by installing two huge-but-delicate sculptures atop a chunk of shrinking coastal glacier that was about to break off and drift out to sea. The film also illustrates the impact of Arctic warming on the culture, beliefs and livelihood of the Inuit people of Uummannaq in Greenland. You can view a trailer for it at https://coolemotion.blogspot.com.
The screening of The Iceberg Riders will begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 17 in the Wagon House Education Center. It will be followed by a question-and-answer session via Skype with Verheggen, who is based in the Hague. Named a UNESCO ambassador to the Institute for Water Education, the visionary artist is currently working on a project that incorporates solar collectors and cutting-edge refrigeration technology to create glacier sculptures in desert environments by drawing water vapor out of the air and freezing it. Admission to this fascinating presentation costs $5 and is free for Olana members. To reserve a seat or find out more, call (518) 828-1872, extension 105, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
If mentally heading to even-colder climes from the warm comfort of a historic site doesn’t do it for you this time of year, the Vassar Brothers Institute (VBI) in Poughkeepsie has other options to offer. Coming up soonest is the first in its free Science in Your Life lecture series, hosted by Our Lady of Lourdes High School at 131 Boardman Road. On Wednesday, January 28, Sean Higgins, PhD, director of the Office of Marine Operations at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, will give a presentation titled “Ships, Scientists and the Sea: Exploring Earth’s Last Frontier” The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. with a mini-concert Arlington High School Jazz Machine and Dr. Higgins’ lecture will follow at 8:15. Additional talks in this series, with speakers and topics yet to be announced, will be presented on February 4 and February 11.
Presentations in VBI’s “Explore the World!” travelogue series, already underway, take place on Wednesday evenings beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Poughkeepsie High School Auditorium at 70 Forbus Street. Admission to each costs $7 per person; or you and a partner can become VBI members for $35 for two and get into any and all of them for free.
Next up in the series of travel evenings is “France Forever” on February 18 with Monty and Marsha Brown. Locales depicted will include Paris, Strasbourg and L’Isle de Rey, plus an encounter with cyclists challenging the heights of Provence. On February 25, local authors Wes and Barbara Gottlock will illustrate and discuss the history of “Bannerman Castle and the Palisades Parks,” including Storm King, Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks.
March 4 brings in Marlin Darrah with a program titled “Central and South America,” visiting such points of interest as the Amazon, the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu and the Panama Canal. On March 11, Clint Denn will host a virtual cruise of the Danube River from Budapest to Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria, ending up with a historical tour of Istanbul. On March 18, Rick Ray will conduct a personal journey to the city of Jerusalem and its surroundings and discuss its religious significance and history of conflict.
The 2014/15 series winds up at the Bardavon on Friday, April 3, when VBI members will enjoy free admission to a screening of the Humphrey Bogart/Katharine Hepburn classic The African Queen. Tickets for non-members cost $6. By then we should all be thawed out and ready to do a bit of exploring of the real world on our own!
To become a member of the Vassar Brothers Institute, call (845) 462-7308 or visit the website at www.vassarbrothersinstitute.org. To find out more about its science and travel lecture series, call (845) 224-3153 or download a PDF of the brochure at https://vbi1882.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2014-2015vbibrochure-tan2.pdf. Happy travels!
The Iceberg Riders screening, Saturday, January 17, 3 p.m., $5, Olana State Historic Site, 5720 Route 9G, Hudson; (518) 828-1872, www.olana.org.