Funding Awarded to Opus 40 for Critical Repairs
Occupying a 6.5-acre site in the Catskill Mountains, approximately 100 miles north of New York City, Opus 40 is a masterwork of sculpture in harmony with landscape designed and constructed by Harvey Fite from 1938 to 1976. A self-taught sculptor, Fite was a professor of art at nearby Bard College when he purchased the abandoned bluestone quarry from which he hewed materials to construct a series of curvilinear, dry-stone stacked terraces and pathways inspired by Mayan architecture he had seen at Tikal and Copan in Honduras. Fite preserved the landscape’s native aspen, birch, and pine trees and created a network of ramps, bridges, and overlooks to broad vistas. In 1958, Fite built a nine-ton bluestone monolithic focal point. Fite died in a quarry accident in 1976, and his wife opened the site to the public in the following year. Opus 40 Sculpture Park, so named for the number of years Fite planned to take to complete it, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
Over the next two decades, the site suffered from hurricane damage and insufficient maintenance. TCLF featured Opus 40 Landslide 2014: Art and the Landscape to highlight threats to the site. Barbara Fite, the artist’s wife, created a non-profit to oversee site maintenance and manage public access. After her death in 1987, her son continued to run the non-profit and the adjacent family home built by Harvey Fite. In recent years, various groups have attempted to invest in the property and reconcile the Fite House and Opus 40 as a single, unified site. Fite House, which was rented out as a vacation home and event space, was separated from the Opus 40 Sculptural Park by a chain-link fence. The disruptions to the site caused by the fence and the Fite House’s revenue-generating occupation posed challenges to the legal, financial, and familial negotiations over the site’s management. In 2021, Fite House and Opus 40 reached an agreement over the occupancy of the house enabling the fence to be taken down.
In late 2021, Opus 40 Sculpture Park received a $300,000 conservation grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, matching an award of the same amount from the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures program. This funding will allow the site to receive essential stabilization and repair work, ensuring the site remains safe and retains its integrity.