StoryCorps Door-to-Door recently traveled to Syracuse, New York, to record interviews with Central New York Community Foundation, Inc., where we met local artist, Dorothy Riester, and her friend Stephen Waldron. Growing up in the 1920′s, Dorothy decided she wanted to be an artist at age 12. She remembered that as a young adult, she listened to a lecture given by American writer Gertrude Stein and decided to drop out of her liberal arts college. Stein’s words, she says, shaped her life: “If you know what you want to do, do it.” She enrolled in art school and became a sculptor.
Years later, Dorothy and her husband, Robert Riester, stumbled upon a piece of land for sale in Cazenovia, New York. They immediately fell in love with it and began building a home for themselves inspired by the shape of the land itself. As part of a community of artists, Dorothy and Robert opened their property up as a home for the work of their friends, and the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park was born.
As participants cycled through for interviews at the Community Foundation, Dorothy ran into old friends from the Art Park — and everyone who learned of Dorothy’s participation with StoryCorps told us that we must visit the space.
Luckily, we were able to go, and we left in awe. The house and studio that Dorothy and Robert built stand on top of the hill overlooking an open field of large sculptures. Trails wind around the property, with smaller paths branching off the trails that lead you to smaller installations. It feels as if many of the works are almost hidden in the woods, fitting Dorothy’s desire to have the land emphasized as much as the art.
At 95, Dorothy no longer lives at Stone Quarry Hill, but she continues to make art. She has turned her new apartment, in a retirement home, into a studio. The only complaint she has, she says, is that they won’t let her weld inside.Towards the end of her interview, Dorothy shared her advice to young artists — and it’s quite simple: “Look at everything.” After spending an afternoon at Stone Quarry Hill, wandering around the woods, Dorothy’s words make complete sense.