Finger Lakes Fine Art: Johnson Museum of Art in Ithaca

Add a little culture and creative appreciation to your Finger Lakes getaway at Cornell University’s Johnson Museum of Art in nearby Ithaca.


Since 1973, the Museum has existed with the purpose of providing creative and artistic appreciation, and providing a link to the past through original artwork.  Through their collections, special exhibitions, and programs, the museum hopes to continue a tradition of artistic enrichment to both visitors and the community.  After 40 years, the Museum still holds strong to these goals and does their best to provide an enlightening and satisfying art-viewing experience.

When you first see the concrete building, you might wonder how it even manages to stay upright!  Situated at the precipice of a 1000-foot knoll, the abstract building is a mix of beauty and incongruity.  The main tower seems sturdy enough, however the large terrace juts out almost defiantly over a smaller structure below.  Two large columns save the terrace from self-destruction.  The building’s design was created with the hopes of placing a large-enough building on a relatively small plot of land without completely blocking sightlines to the beauty around the site.  As you can see, the 60,000 square-foot building does just this while meeting the University’s needs of both the museum and classroom education.

The building features a unique nighttime display that might catch your eye just as much as the overall design: beneath the terrace is an LED art installation titled Cosmos with its shooting and swirling designs.  New York artist Leo Villareal created this magic exhibit in honor of Cornell’s more notable astronomy professor Carl Sagan.

Inside the Museum is more art than you can imagine.  They hold more than 35,000 works in their collection, and display a number of Exhibitions inside.  Right now (through December 22), there are five different exhibitions:
  • Encountering the Floating World: Ukiyo-E and the West – Japanese prints and how they have influenced Western art
  • Vietnamese Ceramics From the Menke Collection – 50 ceramics dating from 700-43 BC through the 1600’s
  • Roger Shimomura: Minidoka on My Mind – Shimomura’s paintings reflecting his family’s time at Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho durin WWII
  • Laylah Ali: The Greenheads Series – 40 works from the New York-based artist
  • Sequoia: Recent Work by Slater Bradley – photos and drawings that explore the line between truth and fiction, focusing on memory and obsession
  • Beyond Earth Art – focusing on natural resources (opens January 25, 2014)
  • Enticing the Eye/Exploring the Frame – exploring how artists present their subjects (opens April 19, 2014)
  • Jie: Boundaries of Self in Contemporary Art From Taiwan – exploring how art reflects the island’s globalization (opens August 16, 2014)
  • Surrealism and Magic – paintings and works exploring collector Kurt Seligmann’s interest in magic, spirituality, and the arcane (opens August 30, 2014)

Of course this list may be updated at any time, so be sure to have a look at the link above!

You can find the museum at 114 Central Avenue in Ithaca, just over 12 miles from the comfort of my Trumansburg bed and breakfast.  The Museum is regularly open from 10am-5pm every Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays).  Special hours may apply on and around holidays, so be sure to check before you try to visit if a holiday is imminent.

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