State of the Planet

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A Mural for Lamont’s Hudson River Field Station: How it Came to Be

new mural at the Hudson River Field Station
The new mural at the Hudson River Field Station. Photo courtesy James Kimak

The Hudson River Field Station, located at the end of the Piermont Pier, has been a site for research, education, and outreach for Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory for more than two decades. Recently, the building has been undergoing renovations for the expansion of Lamont’s work there. Among the many functional and aesthetic renovations, the vision for the newly remodeled building also included an educational art piece. James Kimak, a local resident, worked with Lamont Research Professor Maureen Raymo to create a unique mural hangs on the front of the building.

Kimak’s first experience at Lamont was for a Lamont scientist’s birthday party — he was a member of the band hired to play the party. (Along with his artistic abilities, Kimak is known by local residents for his saxophone and bass prowess in the bluesy, American-roots band, Old No. 7.) When it was decided that the renovation plans for the Hudson River Field Station would include a mural, Raymo approached Kimak and encouraged him to submit a proposal for the project.

After Lamont chose Kimak to produce the mural, Raymo came up with the idea for a geological timeline as its basis and the two of them have been closely collaborating on the content — both educational and artistic. This is typical of the process, according to Kimak. He explains that he will generally work alongside the person who commissioned the mural to ensure that the vision for the piece is realized. With over 40 years as a fine artist and designer and almost 15 years creating murals, Kimak seems to approach this process with ease. And the result is truly stunning.

Instead of a traditional straight line running through the timeline, each point in history is connected by the Hudson River meandering throughout the piece. The timeline ranges from 200 million years ago to the present day. Text describing major events in the history of the Hudson Valley is surrounded by colorful, exciting images of maps, extinct animals, asteroids, and more. The two 4-foot by 10-foot panels of the mural are dense with detailed, eye-catching images and passages of text provide information. The result is a fun, engaging, and educational piece.

mural on outside of hudson river field station
Photo courtesy Margie Turrin

Kimak has already ensured that the mural will be able to stand up to harsh weather. It will be printed on washable, mounted rigid panels, which are designed to keep it looking fresh.

“Working with Jim has been fantastic,” says Raymo. “His vision and talent have led to the creation of something really special for a really special place, the Piermont Pier.”

Kimak’s portfolio includes a variety of mural installations in different high-traffic areas, mostly across New York City. His work can be seen at Montefiore Medical Center, Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation projects, Columbia University and New York Presbyterian among others. However, Kimak’s first project in the small town of Piermont a holds special place for the local artist. “It means everything. I mean, this is the first project I’m doing locally. I’m very involved in the community here, so to have something visually up there is just big. It could be the capstone of my career and I would be happy with that.”

The Hudson River Field Station will undergo its official ribbon-cutting later this month.

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