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Magnificent Artwork and Disputes it’s Facing

By Ya Han Hsu

Opus 40., a sculpture in Hudson Valley, New York, is causing disputes between the creator’s offspring, who live beside it, the nonprofit organization operating it, and the neighbors.

The artwork was built by the self taught artist Harvey Fite. It took him thirty seven years to build it. Using thousands of stones mosaiced together, without cement or mortar, it is now operated by a nonprofit organization . “One man built this whole thing — it’s incredible.” said Alvah L. Weeks Jr., the town building inspector. Beside the sculpture was Harvey Fite’s former residence, now owned by his eighty-one-year-old stepson, Tad Richards.

The story of this sculpture started from the last century. Before the place was built to a sculpture, it had been a quarry. Fite purchased it when he was a teacher near Bard College in 1938. In 1939, he finished building the house. After a trip to help restore Mayan remains, he began to learn how to mosaic stones together without cement or mortar. When he was free from his job (he had switched to teaching sculpture at that time) in the summers, he would work on the master piece. He once said that it would take forty years to finish. Unfortunately, he died in an accident while creating Opus 40., aged 72.

Now, Opus 40. is a famous landmark and park. The nonprofit that’s operating it even set a museum inside.. However, there are disputes behind this genius, the problems flowed to the surface when a fence was set up around Opus 40.

It started when Harvey Fite’s great grandson rented the house beside Opus 40. online. The guests have activities and camp beside the house. But sometimes the sounds are too loud at night. The neighbors are beyond their patience, they said that the noise sometimes lasts until very early in the morning. The nonprofit organization which runs Opus 40. said that the activities have a safety hazard and a legal liability. In May, the nonprofit erected a fence to separate the sculpture and the house. This has caused a lot of opposition. Some people formed a Facebook group and started a change.org petition.

“The fence is way over the top — tasteless,” said Gerald Pallor, an old friend of the Richards family. “Certainly there is a better way to solve disputes than to put something like that up.”




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