Tucked away off a side road in Garrison, New York, MANITOGA—otherwise known as The Russel Wright Design Center—comprises the nationally landmarked mid-century home, serene studio and enchanting 75-acre forest of the iconic industrial designer. Anyone who’s already taken a trip to the idyllic woodland grounds and set eyes upon Wright’s masterful glass abode, Dragon Rock, has anticipated the opening of an on-site gallery. This May, The Russel & Mary Wright Design Gallery finally opened its doors and inside, visitors can now find the only permanent and public exhibition of Wright’s product designs.
This new design gallery affirms MANITOGA’s place among the great mid-century design destinations (and glass houses) within reach of NYC. Long has the site been a time capsule of a precise vision and pristine design, as well as a hub for hikes through trails meticulously designed by Wright himself (he even moved rocks to his liking), but the design center succeeds in anchoring it to the present day. Many visitors may be familiar with the extent of Wright’s influence on dinnerware (and its broader “easy living” cultural implications), but the gallery reveals so much more.
Curated by Donald Albrecht, the author of Russel Wright: Creating American Lifestyle and co-curator of the Russel Wright show at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and designed by Studio Joseph founder Wendy Evans Joseph, the exhibition travels across 40 years, using the color, pattern and form of more than 200 objects to define Wright’s practice.
Allison Cross, the executive director of MANITOGA, led the development of the gallery and tells us, “We all agreed that we wanted the exhibition design to stand separate from the architecture, and yet be in dialogue with the experience. In a way, [the exhibition] evokes the landscape outside, the rocks outside, but it was really about revolving and having the space be a pivotal point.” It’s a clean, uncluttered presentation—and it employs a blonde wood favored by Mary Wright.
The design gallery inhabits a space that was originally two bedrooms. From the swirl of objects, furniture and textiles (many of which were donations from private collectors), visitors can peer out at the quarry below the building. Nature is always present, as Wright intended.
Various types of tours can be booked online now. Reservations are required if visitors intend to access the gallery, home and studio. MANITOGA also hosts a residency program, which allows artists to install work on-site or use the location for performances. Both incorporate special events that are open to the public. The MANITOGA instagram is a good resource for updates.
Images by Josh Rubin