May 11, 2015
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Events to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of the Empire State Plaza

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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a number of events and exhibits to be held commemorating the 50th anniversary of the June 21, 1965 cornerstone laying at the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza. An exhibit at the New York State Museum, a September festival on the Plaza itself, and a series of talks on topics associated with the construction of Albany’s iconic skyline will take place.

“Fifty years after Governor Rockefeller laid its cornerstone, the Empire State Plaza stands as a place where government and community converge,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Plaza offers a number of unique opportunities for visitors to learn more about our state’s history and culture, and I encourage New Yorkers and visitors alike to attend one of the many anniversary events taking place this summer and fall.”

The commemoration will include a look at the politics that set the project in motion, the tradespeople who built it and its distinctive architectural style. Additionally, the events will examine the engineering characteristics that keep the Plaza running, the unrivaled public art collection that is housed within it, and its evolution to today’s hub of state operations and community-based events. More information can be found here.

“In the last 50 years, generations of families have played a part in the history of this space. While the neighborhoods that were lost to build the Plaza can never be replaced, 50 years later the Plaza has become a part of the community shared by all,” said New York State Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito. “From the tradespeople who constructed it and continue to maintain it, to state employees who spent their careers in its hallways, to those who come to the concerts, get engaged to be married on the ice rink, run in the road races that start here, ride the carousel at the State Museum, enjoy the fireworks on July 4, and join their neighbors each Thanksgiving Day to deliver meals, the Empire State Plaza is more than a government complex; it is part of their everyday life and family memories.”

“This June is the 50th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza,” said New York State Museum Director Mark Schaming. “In cooperation with the New York State Office of General Services, the State Museum will open TheEmpire State Plaza at 50 exhibition on June 21. The State Museum and the Board of Regents are dedicated to educating museum visitors about New York’s history. This exhibition explores the Empire State Plaza’s history and how Albany became the public space where New York State government, culture, and community converge.”

Events scheduled as part of the commemoration include:

June 21, 2015 – January 17, 2016 New York State Museum Exhibit
Scheduled to open on June 21, 2015 and run through January 17, 2016, this special exhibit will tell the story of the Plaza’s construction and evolution. Located in the main lobby and west corridor of the museum, it will include art, photographs, digital displays, original sketches by architects, and examples of the architectural elements that make up the Plaza and where they came from. Visitors to the exhibit will discover how such a massive complex is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, what the “Rule of 30” is and how it was incorporated into the design of the Plaza, and hear the stories of those who worked on the project.

September 16, Noon to 8 p.m. - Plaza at 50 Festival
This special event will round out the annual Summer at the Plaza series of free events and feature a day full of live entertainment, food, including a farmers market, and New York State products, and conclude with fireworks.

Speaker Series: These free events will be held at 6 p.m. in The Egg Center for Performing Arts’ Swyer Theater.

September 16 – Power, Politics and the Plaza: A Look at Rockefeller and Corning
Albany’s longest-serving mayor, Erastus Corning, 2nd, and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller clashed over the state's plan to take 98.5 acres in the heart of Albany to build the Empire State Plaza. What happened as these two powerful politicians faced off over the deal?

Join the discussion as Rockefeller biographer Richard Norton Smith and Corning biographer Paul Grondahl take the stage to discuss the historical events leading to the construction of the Plaza. Former Assemblyman and Albany County Historian John “Jack” McEneny will serve as the moderator.

September 23 – An International Capital: The Architecture and Construction of the Empire State Plaza
The Empire State Plaza was intended to dominate the Albany skyline and make a statement about New York State’s political and cultural importance. As the pre-eminent style for modern institutional construction, discover the origins of International Style architecture and how it manifests in the design of the Plaza.

The panel will include Jon Lott, principal of PARA Project and a design critic in architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design; Price Jepsen, vice president of STV Architects; and John Mesick of Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects, Albany. Recently retired New York State Capitol Architect and OGS Preservation Officer Jim Jamieson will moderate.


September 30 – A Vision for Public Art: The Empire State Plaza Art Collection
The Empire State Plaza Art Collection has been heralded as the greatest collection of modern American art in any single public site that is not a museum. The collection was assembled during the construction of the Plaza under the direction of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller who believed it was vital to have the work of artists living and working in New York placed in the capital city. Learn what makes the Plaza’s collection unique and how it fulfills Rockefeller’s vision of art for the people.

David Novros, an artist whose untitled work is a part of the Plaza Art Collection and whose art is also included in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; along with Thomas J. Branchick, director and conservator of paintings at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center; Ian Berry, Director of the Frances Young Tang Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College; and Matthew Levy, an associate professor of art history at Penn State Behrend who specializes in modern and contemporary art with a focus on American art of the 1960s will make up the panel.

Visit The Empire State Plaza at 50 webpage or follow us on Twitter @ESPat50, EmpireStatePlaza50 on Facebook, and empirestateplaza50 on Instagram for event updates.

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Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office

NYC Press Office:  212.681.4640

Albany Press Office:  518.474.8418