The Ice House Is the Hidden Hudson Valley Art Center You Need to Visit

When you need a break from the crowds at Dia, retreat to Garrison’s historic complex for contemporary art with a social narrative.


Visiting The Ice House feels like stumbling on a secret. Hidden off the beaten path in Garrison, the complex is striking from a distance, with industrial facades that contrast vividly with the lush natural landscapes that surround them. It’s the type of place that’s only frequented by those in the know, the ones whose favorite artist mentioned the space in a passing Instagram post or who heard about it from friends of friends who sought a supplement for their requisite trips to Dia: Beacon.

In fact, The Ice House is a secret, at least in comparison with prominent Hudson Valley art venues like Dia, Olana, and Magazzino. We can’t promise it will stay that way for long, however. After all, with a central location off of Route 9D in Putnam County and a close proximity to Manitoga / The Russel Wright Design Center and Garrison proper, the artistic escape is an easy visit for residents in the mid and lower Hudson Valley.

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The Ice House

Photo by Michael Skigen


First, though, you’re going to need to make an appointment. When you email The Ice House or, more specifically, the JDJ contemporary art program housed within it, you’ll get in touch with Jayne Drost Johnson, the mastermind behind JDJ and its rising prominence in the New York art scene. Johnson, who boasts over a decade of experience working in New York City’s artistic sphere, decided to take the plunge and open her own art space in the Hudson Valley in December 2018. Her first show debuted on December 1 that year; since then, she’s been on a nonstop back and forth adventure between The Ice House and her home in Brooklyn.

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Johnson is happy to confirm visits, which are most often available on the weekend, although she does sometimes accommodate guests during the week. When she sends the email or makes the call to confirm your approved time, she’ll give you the address, too. Fortunately, it’s one that is easy to reach by car and public transportation — the Metro-North Hudson Line’s Garrison and Manitou stops are each within short driving distance.


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Athena LaTocha’s exhibit at The Ice House / Photo by Kyle Knodell


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By the time you finally arrive, you’ll take in the sight of what was once an agro-industrial complex for a large estate on the Hudson River. The property was built in the 1920s, then later renovated in the 1970s by Brutalist architect Edward Knowles, the man whose firm designed Boston City Hall. Within The Ice House complex, the towering building — likely the first thing you’ll notice — houses JDJ’s exhibition, while the small edifice to the right of it functions as Johnson’s cottage and viewing room. Throughout the arena, the contrast between nature and industry, between manmade and earth-provided is both undeniable and enticing. Instead of defacing the landscape, the complex somehow manages to find a comfortable residence within it.

As for what to expect inside The Ice House, prepare for contemporary art that echoes and converses with the environment around it. Johnson, who is now on her third series of exhibitions, selects artists who explore the balance between humankind and the natural world. She doesn’t seek out creatives who specialize in one medium over another, instead preferring to let the subject matter and the emotional evocations guide her in her selections.


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Leah Raintree’s exhibit at The Ice House / Photo by Kyle Knodell


Currently, The Ice House features works by Athena LaTocha and Leah Raintree, both of whom specialize in drawing with natural elements and materials.

“[LaTocha and Raintree] are interested in the relationship between humankind and our impact on the earth,” Johnson explains. LaTocha, whose work has also been featured at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art and at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, is best known for her explorations of the manmade and natural landscapes in relation to her Native American ancestry and to Earthworks artists of the 1960s and 1970s. Raintree, meanwhile, specializes in cameraless photographs, which she creates using ink, regional stone, sediment, and glacial ice.


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Athena LaTocha’s exhibit at The Ice House / Photo by Kyle Knodell


Both women’s works are on display until April 19. After that, on April 27, The Ice House welcomes site-specific installations by Mark Barrow and Sarah Park in a show titled Future Homemakers of America. Within the show, works include new paintings made on hand-woven linen, along with drawings, wallpaper, and a window installation.

“[Future Homemakers] will touch upon themes relating to domestic labor, pop culture, and visual systems related to weaving, digitally-pixelated images, and traditional quilt and textile patterns,” Johnson elaborates.

Interested in a visit? Head to The Ice House’s website for more information or check out JDJ’s Instagram for a sneak peek of what to expect when you’re there. Exhibits change regularly, which means there’s always an excuse to make a return trip.

Related: An Interview With the Hudson Valley’s The Felice Brothers

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