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Modernist Hideaway

Growing up in a Philip Johnson jewel



Robert Gregson

Tucked away and rarely seen by the public is a prime example of mid-century modernist architecture. It is the Booth House, named for its original owners, and designed by modernist architect Philip Johnson, one of his earliest commissions and the first one to be built. This Bedford home even predates his own famous Glass House in New Canaan.

Johnson was part of the Harvard Five, a group of architects that settled in New Canaan in the 1940s, and included John M. Johansen, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, and Eliot Noyes. All were influenced by Walter Gropius, a leader in the Bauhaus movement and the head of the architecture program at Harvard. Coming out of the war, there was a need for affordable housing for the middle class, and the group adopted the European concept that new architecture should be available for the masses and not be simply an elitist proposition.
Richard and Olga Booth, who lived and worked in Manhattan, wanted a weekend house that was both practical and open to the forest surrounding their land. Coming up the steep driveway, one arrives face to face with their vision—a glass and concrete structure set on a hill amid a natural backdrop—an example of Johnson’s ability to marry a building with the environment. In 1955, the Booths rented it to Robert and Sirkka Damora, who eventually bought it and are still its owners.

The original plans called for two structures. The larger main house measures 20 feet by 72.8 feet, a long rectangular block encompassing an open living space with floor-to-ceiling glass exposure. A smaller guesthouse, 14.8 feet by 20 feet, was designed to sit at the corner, diagonally across from the center of the main house. However, the guesthouse was never completed. “It was a typical situation between architect and client,” Damora’s son, Matthew, related. “The budget was modest—about $14,000—but the Booths were getting tight on money and Johnson was getting frustrated. The kitchen and bathroom were never finished properly; they had been placed, but the owners bought their own fixtures, which horrified Johnson.”

The Damoras were the perfect couple for the Booth House. Robert, who died in 2009, was not only a prize-winning architect, but he was considered the best architectural photographer in this country. His wife Sirkka, also an architect, worked with her husband for some 60 years. Originally, the Damoras wanted to build their own modern house. “But Bob’s architectural career was taking off and we were very busy,” Sirkka said. “We hadn’t found a suitable site, and once we settled in, we didn’t want to move. Over time, we made adjustments to it as well as to ourselves.”

One of the changes was to tear down the dilapidated garage at the end of the driveway, which Booth had constructed himself. The Damoras replaced it with a studio for Bob’s photography, of the same materials used for the main house. It is a space that can be converted easily to a garage.

Over the years, the Damoras had two children, Matthew and Jesa. Once they became a family of four in a house built for two, there were certain adjustments to be made. “Having grown up in the Bronx, my dad didn’t think it peculiar for my sister and me to share a room as kids, or to have to pass through our room to get to the kitchen,” Matt commented. “When we became teenagers, he began turning the basement into our space, including his and her bathrooms with a central shower between.”

In a town like Bedford, the Booth House is as much of an anomaly today as it was 50 years ago. “This is the only family home I’ve ever known. As a kid, other people’s houses looked weird to me. We had this great open space at home and they had all these little rooms, with decorative moldings and felt much more confining.” Matt said. Now, after so many years, the Damoras are leaving their beloved home. “I think the thing I’ll miss most,” Sirkka said, “is the intimacy with nature. You look out these magnificent windows and there is something going on all the time. You really can appreciate the change of seasons.”

It takes a certain sensibility to live in a modern house, where the public space is one open area and the bedrooms are small and utilitarian. When most people today are adding on enormous bedroom suites and media rooms, the Damoras have treasured the genius of Philip Johnson. “Now that we are selling the house, I realize that it is a piece of real estate, but it’s also a piece of art and needs to be treated as such,” said Matt.

But the Damora legacy won’t end with the selling of their home. During his career, Bob Damora photographed some of the most important buildings in 20th-century architecture. The family will be working to preserve his enormous photography archives and to publish a book of his work.

Web Bonus: Watch Charlie Rose interview Philip Johnson.

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June 2016

Spend time relaxing with friends and enjoying a delightful tea service in the Summer Dining Room of the Rosen House, overlooking the romantic Spanish Courtyard. Tea service includes a variety...

Cost: Child $31, Adult $41

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Caramoor's Rosen House
149 Girdle Ridge Road
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Cost: Free

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Offerings Gallery
59 Katonah Ave
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Sponsor: Offerings Gallery
Telephone: 914-232-9643
Contact Name: Mindy Yanish
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Cost: $35 includes tour

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The Glass House
199 Elm Street
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Sponsor: The Glass House
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Cost: Free

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Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
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Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
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Website »

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Cost: free

Where:
The Lionheart Gallery
27 Westchester Avenue
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Sponsor: The Lionheart Gallery
Telephone: 914.764.8689
Contact Name: Susan Grissom
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Cost: Regular Admission: $10; Students, Seniors: $5; Members, Children under 12: free

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Katonah Museum of Art
134 Jay St - Route 22
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10 Taylor Road
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
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Sponsor: United Way
Telephone: (914) 997-6700
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On Sat. June 4, 2016, Offerings Gallery in Katonah, NY will be hosting a momentous multi-generation art exhibit with internationally collected, highly awarded...

Cost: Free

Where:
Offerings Gallery
59 Katonah Ave
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View map »


Sponsor: Offerings Gallery
Telephone: 914-232-9643
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Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The Glass House
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Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present its upcoming exhibition “Turns of Phrase” featuring sculpture by John Clement and paintings by Matthew Heller.  The exhibition will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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The Glass House is pleased to present Yayoi Kusama: Narcissus Garden, a landscape installation that will be on view throughout the 2016 tour season to celebrate the 110th anniversary of Philip...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

The Lionheart Gallery is pleased to announce our latest art exhibitions opening in May. Impulse showcases large-scale abstract paintings by Ashley Chase Andrews that reference history and culture...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lionheart Gallery
27 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
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Sponsor: The Lionheart Gallery
Telephone: 914.764.8689
Contact Name: Susan Grissom
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Cost: Contact for more info

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White Plains, NY  10605
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Telephone: 914-682-1484, ex 122
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On Sat. June 4, 2016, Offerings Gallery in Katonah, NY will be hosting a momentous multi-generation art exhibit with internationally collected, highly awarded...

Cost: Free

Where:
Offerings Gallery
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Sponsor: Offerings Gallery
Telephone: 914-232-9643
Contact Name: Mindy Yanish
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The Katonah Museum Artists' Association is delighted to present "Mini Solos”, an exhibit at The Schoolhouse Theater Gallery in Croton Falls, NY.  opening with an artists'...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Schoolhouse Theatre
3 Owens Road
Croton Falls , NY  10519
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Sponsor: Katonah Museum Artists' Association
Telephone: 914-277-8583
Contact Name: Dyan Rosenberg
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Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present its upcoming exhibition “Turns of Phrase” featuring sculpture by John Clement and paintings by Matthew Heller.  The exhibition will be...

Cost: Free

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Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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The Lionheart Gallery is pleased to announce our latest art exhibitions opening in May. Impulse showcases large-scale abstract paintings by Ashley Chase Andrews that reference history and culture...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lionheart Gallery
27 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
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Sponsor: The Lionheart Gallery
Telephone: 914.764.8689
Contact Name: Susan Grissom
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Music, dancing, and storytelling! For ages 2-5 with a parent or caregiver.

Cost: free

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100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
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On Sat. June 4, 2016, Offerings Gallery in Katonah, NY will be hosting a momentous multi-generation art exhibit with internationally collected, highly awarded...

Cost: Free

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Offerings Gallery
59 Katonah Ave
Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Offerings Gallery
Telephone: 914-232-9643
Contact Name: Mindy Yanish
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Cost: $20: General Admission $15: Members

Where:
Katonah Museum of Art
134 Jay Street
Katonah, NY  10536
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Sponsor: Support for Caramoor@KMA is provided by Abigail & Sundip Murthy, and NYSEG
Telephone: 914-232-9555
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The Katonah Museum Artists' Association is delighted to present "Mini Solos”, an exhibit at The Schoolhouse Theater Gallery in Croton Falls, NY.  opening with an artists'...

Cost: Free

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The Schoolhouse Theatre
3 Owens Road
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Sponsor: Katonah Museum Artists' Association
Telephone: 914-277-8583
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Counselors offer older adults one-on-one counseling covering a broad range of topics including Medicare health and prescription plans, food stamps, HEAP, EPIC, weatherization, minor home repair,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
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Sponsor: Mount Kisco Public Library
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Contact Name: Lisa Graziadei
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Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present its upcoming exhibition “Turns of Phrase” featuring sculpture by John Clement and paintings by Matthew Heller.  The exhibition will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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The Lionheart Gallery is pleased to announce our latest art exhibitions opening in May. Impulse showcases large-scale abstract paintings by Ashley Chase Andrews that reference history and culture...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lionheart Gallery
27 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
View map »


Sponsor: The Lionheart Gallery
Telephone: 914.764.8689
Contact Name: Susan Grissom
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Show More...
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Spend time relaxing with friends and enjoying a delightful tea service in the Summer Dining Room of the Rosen House, overlooking the romantic Spanish Courtyard. Tea service includes a variety...

Cost: Child $23.50, Adult $33.50

Where:
Caramoor's Rosen House
149 Girdle Ridge Road
Katonah, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

On Sat. June 4, 2016, Offerings Gallery in Katonah, NY will be hosting a momentous multi-generation art exhibit with internationally collected, highly awarded...

Cost: Free

Where:
Offerings Gallery
59 Katonah Ave
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Sponsor: Offerings Gallery
Telephone: 914-232-9643
Contact Name: Mindy Yanish
Website »

More information

The Katonah Museum Artists' Association is delighted to present "Mini Solos”, an exhibit at The Schoolhouse Theater Gallery in Croton Falls, NY.  opening with an artists'...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Schoolhouse Theatre
3 Owens Road
Croton Falls , NY  10519
View map »


Sponsor: Katonah Museum Artists' Association
Telephone: 914-277-8583
Contact Name: Dyan Rosenberg
Website »

More information

The exhibition Robert Rauschenberg: Spreads and Related Works is a group of paintings and works on paper chosen to compliment the painting Recital (Spread), 1980 which Philip Johnson purchased...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The Glass House
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present its upcoming exhibition “Turns of Phrase” featuring sculpture by John Clement and paintings by Matthew Heller.  The exhibition will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

The Glass House is pleased to present Yayoi Kusama: Narcissus Garden, a landscape installation that will be on view throughout the 2016 tour season to celebrate the 110th anniversary of Philip...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

The Lionheart Gallery is pleased to announce our latest art exhibitions opening in May. Impulse showcases large-scale abstract paintings by Ashley Chase Andrews that reference history and culture...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lionheart Gallery
27 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
View map »


Sponsor: The Lionheart Gallery
Telephone: 914.764.8689
Contact Name: Susan Grissom
Website »

More information

Beginners are welcome and instruction is provided. Participants must bring their own set.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Mount Kisco Public Library
Telephone: 914-864-0130
Contact Name: Lisa Graziadei
Website »

More information

Dogs love listening to stories! Come meet "Rover" and read your favorite story. For school age children age 5 and up.

Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Sponsor: Mount Kisco Public Library
Telephone: 914-864-0130
Contact Name: Lisa Graziadei
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Spend time relaxing with friends and enjoying a delightful tea service in the Summer Dining Room of the Rosen House, overlooking the romantic Spanish Courtyard. Tea service includes a variety...

Cost: Child $23.50, Adult $33.50

Where:
Caramoor's Rosen House
149 Girdle Ridge Road
Katonah, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

On Sat. June 4, 2016, Offerings Gallery in Katonah, NY will be hosting a momentous multi-generation art exhibit with internationally collected, highly awarded...

Cost: Free

Where:
Offerings Gallery
59 Katonah Ave
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Sponsor: Offerings Gallery
Telephone: 914-232-9643
Contact Name: Mindy Yanish
Website »

More information

 Abra-cadabra! Part retro, part rock & roll, Mario “the Magician” Marchese is an artist, inventor & magic maker with a great following among the young & young at heart!...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sammarco Soccer Field, Bedford Hills Memorial Park
60 Haines Rd
Bedford Hills , NY
View map »


Website »

More information

The Katonah Museum Artists' Association is delighted to present "Mini Solos”, an exhibit at The Schoolhouse Theater Gallery in Croton Falls, NY.  opening with an artists'...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Schoolhouse Theatre
3 Owens Road
Croton Falls , NY  10519
View map »


Sponsor: Katonah Museum Artists' Association
Telephone: 914-277-8583
Contact Name: Dyan Rosenberg
Website »

More information

The exhibition Robert Rauschenberg: Spreads and Related Works is a group of paintings and works on paper chosen to compliment the painting Recital (Spread), 1980 which Philip Johnson purchased...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The Glass House
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present its upcoming exhibition “Turns of Phrase” featuring sculpture by John Clement and paintings by Matthew Heller.  The exhibition will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

The Glass House is pleased to present Yayoi Kusama: Narcissus Garden, a landscape installation that will be on view throughout the 2016 tour season to celebrate the 110th anniversary of Philip...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

The Lionheart Gallery is pleased to announce our latest art exhibitions opening in May. Impulse showcases large-scale abstract paintings by Ashley Chase Andrews that reference history and culture...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lionheart Gallery
27 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
View map »


Sponsor: The Lionheart Gallery
Telephone: 914.764.8689
Contact Name: Susan Grissom
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Keep your heart close to nature, Break away for a while, Climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, Wash your spirit clean. - John Muir Celebrate the beginning of summer and join us as we...

Cost: $5

Where:
Grace Farms
365 Lukes Wood Road
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Grace Farms
Telephone: 203.920.1702
Website »

More information

On Sat. June 4, 2016, Offerings Gallery in Katonah, NY will be hosting a momentous multi-generation art exhibit with internationally collected, highly awarded...

Cost: Free

Where:
Offerings Gallery
59 Katonah Ave
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Sponsor: Offerings Gallery
Telephone: 914-232-9643
Contact Name: Mindy Yanish
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
John Jay Homestead
400 Jay St.
Katonah, NY  10536
View map »


Sponsor: John Jay Homestead
Telephone: 914-232-5651
Contact Name: Heather Iannucci
Website »

More information

The Katonah Museum Artists' Association is delighted to present "Mini Solos”, an exhibit at The Schoolhouse Theater Gallery in Croton Falls, NY.  opening with an artists'...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Schoolhouse Theatre
3 Owens Road
Croton Falls , NY  10519
View map »


Sponsor: Katonah Museum Artists' Association
Telephone: 914-277-8583
Contact Name: Dyan Rosenberg
Website »

More information

The exhibition Robert Rauschenberg: Spreads and Related Works is a group of paintings and works on paper chosen to compliment the painting Recital (Spread), 1980 which Philip Johnson purchased...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: The Glass House
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Mount Kisco Public Library
100 East Main Street
Mount Kisco, NY  10549
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present its upcoming exhibition “Turns of Phrase” featuring sculpture by John Clement and paintings by Matthew Heller.  The exhibition will be...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

The Glass House is pleased to present Yayoi Kusama: Narcissus Garden, a landscape installation that will be on view throughout the 2016 tour season to celebrate the 110th anniversary of Philip...

Cost: $35 includes tour

Where:
The Glass House
199 Elm Street
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

The Lionheart Gallery is pleased to announce our latest art exhibitions opening in May. Impulse showcases large-scale abstract paintings by Ashley Chase Andrews that reference history and culture...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lionheart Gallery
27 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
View map »


Sponsor: The Lionheart Gallery
Telephone: 914.764.8689
Contact Name: Susan Grissom
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

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