Art Omi founder, Francis Greenburger–real estate investor, entrepreneur, literary agent and art enthusiast – approaches things systematically.
When his business success began to make it possible to think seriously about philanthropy, he examined his objectives, and questioned the proper balance of his expenditures, and time. Long a member of The National Arts Club, and through a friendship with André Emmerich, a board member of Triangle Artists Workshop, his personal passions had already engaged him with the art world. He recalls, "I guess I had this feeling–that the experience of going to galleries was not a meaningful enough connection. It was too far removed. So I wanted to find ways to connect to artists, to get closer to the art I enjoyed experiencing."
With advice from critic Clement Greenberg on the optimal manner in which to organize an awards program ("avoid committees" said the sage Mr. Greenberg), he established The Francis Greenburger Prize, which is given to "under-recognized" artists.
From the beginning, the idea of a residency for visual artists was completely international. Francis explained, "Omi came into being at a time when world was overcoming international prejudices. Somehow when people can't discuss human rights or other sensitive issues, they can, as a starting point, talk about cultural differences. I think that's one of the reasons people respond to our endeavor at Omi, because of an increasing appreciation of the possibility of communication." In addition to the core objective, to provide space and time away from daily pressures to create art, the program also facilitates professional development by bringing art world experts to visit, critique, and dialogue with the residents.
The growth into other art forms happened gradually, and organically. As owner of a literary agency, founded by his father, Sanford J. Greenburger, Francis found the Ledig House residency for writers and translators to be a natural expression of his professional life, and, once again, it was informed by his personal commitment to international exchange.
From that point, the beginning of a residency in a new area was stimulated by the ideas, and driven by the passions of people around him. His then-wife, Judy Willows, conceived of Music Omi, and when a young friend, a dancer, asked him why there wasn't a program for dance, his reply was, "why not?"
The Fields Sculpture Park was to a large degree due to the input of Kathleen Triem and Peter Frank, friends and long-time Omi collaborators, and its arrival–reasserting the Omi tradition of Internationalism–found a satisfying balance in a deeper engagement with, and service to, our home base: Columbia County, the Berkshires, and the Albany area. It's sixty acres of sculpture and the strikingly beautiful Visitors Center, which features a Gallery and Café, have become a treasured refuge for families and dog walkers, as well as lovers of art.