Gilsonfest: The Exceptional Journey of Alexander Gilson

Gilsonfest was a Bard College–led collaboration including Historic Red Hook, the Dutchess County Historical Society, and the Red Hook Quilters, funded by the Lumina Foundation, that focused on the life of Alexander Gilson (c. 1824–89). Gilson was an African American who labored for 50 years at Montgomery Place, eventually becoming the head gardener. Gilsonfest featured lectures, exhibitions at the Historic Red Hook Annex and Bard's Montgomery Place Campus, new signage, a commissioned quilt, an artistic digital display, and a brochure. Bard students in Professor Myra Young Armstead's spring 2019 course “The Window at Montgomery Place,” an Engaged Liberal Arts and Sciences offering, conducted historical research and assisted in developing the exhibition in partnership with historians and Bard staff. Gilsonfest focused on and interpreted the life of Gilson, which allowed the project to illuminate the contributions of African Americans in 19th-century New York and the Hudson Valley, including the experiences of slaves, indentured servants, and free-born blacks.


Myra B. Young Armstead