On May 19th, from 11:00 AM until 5:00 PM, a celebration will be held at Opus 40 in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Harvey Fite’s Raising of the Monolith. Harvey Fite, the artist that designed and created the intricate bluestone sculptures throughout Opus 40, raised the central Monolith, with the help of his friend and neighbor Bert Wrolsen, in 1960. The season opening event at Opus 40 will be free for all who wish to attend, and will feature the work of Harvey Fite, square dancing and entertainment. Opus 40 is currently run and operated by Harvey Fite’s stepson, Tad Richards and his wife Pat.
Harvey Fite was born in 1903 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Texas. A few changes in schooling programs landed him in Upstate New York. According to his stepson Tad, Harvey met his wife, Barbara Fairbanks, while teaching at Bard College, and their first date was square dancing. Harvey purchased the land at Opus 40 in 1938. Originally, Harvey’s thoughts on the 12 acres of bluestone were “That’s a lot of stone.” Following a trip to Honduras in which Harvey worked on the restoration of Mayan ruins he became inspired to create sculptures using the same kinds of architecture as the Mayans, but using the bluestone. Tad said that Harvey’s work at Opus 40 was improvised, and his vision changed as pieces were added. The final Raising of the Monolith involved precise calculations to rest the 9-ton stone at a 45-degree angle. Most of the sculptures in Opus 40 are carved, but Tad said that after Harvey positioned the Monolith, the sculptor decided that it was a masterpiece as it was. Tad said that Harvey also “worked in his studio all his life and was committed to carving representational sculpture.” “It is a masterpiece even though it was still improvised,” Tad said. “(Opus 40) became so fluid. (It is apparent) that you are dealing with someone who was on top of his game.” Harvey Fite “hated names and signs,” Richards said, but after Parade Magazine wrote a story calling Fite’s creation, “Fite’s Acropolis in the Catskills,” Fite realized he needed to come up with a name. He wanted to name it High Woods, because, Tad said, “that’s how much a part of High Woods he was.” Then joking around, Fite suggested naming it as classical composers named music, “Opus 1, Opus 2, etc.” The name Opus 40 stuck. Opus is the Latin word for work and 40 signifies the number of years Fite expected the project to come to completion. “It’s hard to stay on task with a commitment to anything,” Tad pondered, “but to have a commitment for that long.” Harvey Fite died in 1976, 37 years after beginning and while physically working on Opus 40.
On May 19th, the season opening of Opus 40, several events will take place at Opus 40. There will be a reading and book signing by children’s book author Iza Trapani, a talk by Fite’s stepson Jonathan Richards on the Summer of the Monolith, and exhibit of archival photos, and square dancing in honor of Harvey and Barbara Fite’s first date. Ongoing hours for this season at Opus 40 will be Thursday through Sunday and Holiday Mondays throughout summer from 11:00 A.M. – 6:00 PM.
Other upcoming events this summer at Opus 40 include an Exhibit by Michael Ciccone beginning on Memorial Day Weekend (opening reception, Friday, May 25, 4:00 PM), and Opening Reception for the Saugerties Artists Studio Tour on August 10, from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM. The Kiersted House will feature an exhibit, on September 8, called “Historic Photos of Opus 40, the First 30 Years.”
Tad and Pat Richards also mentioned that Bob Karcy is taking over as president of Opus 40. Tad said that Karcy is a businessman and intends to continue to carry on Harvey Fite’s Mission Statement, “to maintain and preserve the integrity of Opus 40.”
Opus 40 is located at 50 Fite Road in Saugerties. For more information, please call (845) 246-8584. The website is www.opus40.org.