Grace Farms, located near Westchester, NY in rural CT, one hour from New York City, offers a meditative yet visually inspiring escape from everyday life. Neither a religious institution nor agricultural property as the name may suggest, Grace Farms is in fact a little bit of both, and much more. Part art museum, part architectural wonder, part cultural and community center, part farmland, the property is at its foundation an 80-acre nature preserve that has evolved into an indoor-outdoor space with a series of multipurpose complexes and spaces.
While it’s free to the public, you do need to schedule a visit on their website, and a first-time guest needs to show a form of ID to a security guard at the beginning of the private road leading to the Pavilion, a staffed welcome reception. Upon arriving, a staff member provides a map and offers to answer questions. The one-and-a-half hour private tours (tickets purchased for a fee) offered throughout the day are perhaps the most engaging and informative way to learn about the Farm’s history, evolution, design and offerings/programming.
The tour guide gives insight into the architectural genius of the main building, called The River, “a meandering glass building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects SANAA,” according to their website, and art installations throughout the space commissioned specifically for Grace Farms by an international selection of sculptural artists.
The minimalist modern beauty of the River is a seductive, soothing sight. In fact it’s the roooftop of several connecting buldings, featuring flowing wave of glass, concrete, steel and wood that seems to ripple gently as it winds its way upward along the hillside slope that reaches the Sanctuary, a 700-person, 20,000-foot indoor amphitheater.
Along the way, you’ll pass the following sections as described on the website:
- Library: a staffed library with resources to research nature, the arts, justice, and faith. It includes a glass-enclosed conference room and fireplace for discussion and hospitality, as well as Grace Farms Foundation offices.
- Commons: a community space with communal tables built from trees harvested on-site, sofas, a fireplace, and expansive views. Inside is a cafe with food and drinks are available for purchase, and a lower level accommodates a lecture hall and ancillary spaces.
- Court: a partially below-grade gymnasium/multi-purpose space with adjoining media lab and game room, for recreation, youth activities, receptions, and arts performances
- Barn: The original barn was renovated to serve as a welcome center with a greeting space in each of its two wings. The barn will also house many of the day-to-day programs, with classrooms, an art studio, a rehearsal space with sprung floor, offices, a lounge, a nursery, and a drop-off food pantry to support the Farm’s justice program, in which they donate food to the needy.
The Farm’s inclusive, pacifist philosophy, which is described in a small exhibit on a history of the Farms in the Barn and on their website, brings the soothing experience to another level of transformative–described as “a humanitarian and cultural center serving local and global communities. It is a place for meaningful interaction where people of all ages, experiences and interests come to collaborate for good and pursue peace.”
A visit to Grace Farms is at once meditative and thought-provoking, calming and inspiring–a modern marvel that fosters a connection to nature and the humanity found in all of us.