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Mountain Home Magazine

Uniting Life, Art, and Community

Jul 01, 2024 09:00AM ● By Ann E. Duckett

The arts have long been associated with Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park, one of the nation’s oldest and most meticulously preserved Victorian estates. For decades it has provided a look into the lifestyle of the wealthy during an era when affluence and opulence defined entertaining. Treasures from around the world can be found within the sprawling forty-room, 19,000-square-foot Queen Anne-style mansion, and in the nine unique themed gardens cultivated among its remaining fifty acres.

Located just a few blocks from bustling Main Street in downtown Canandaigua, the property was the summer home of husband and wife Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson, who purchased the original 300-acre farmstead named Sonnenberg (German for sunny hill) in 1863. The distinctive architecture and scale of the project demanded patience, and in 1887 the transformational work was completed, offering sweeping vistas from the manicured lawns to the gardens to Canandaigua Lake

Now in its twenty-third year, Arts at the Gardens, which runs Saturday, July 20 to Sunday, July 21, is recognized as one of the region’s most anticipated art shows, in great part because of its extraordinary location.

“I think Sonnenberg’s setting is one of the things that makes AATG unique—the artists and their work are what really make the show, but the setting among the grounds and gardens adds an element not found at many shows,” says AATG Artist Liaison Becky Pollot. “It makes for a more relaxed setting where people are able to enjoy the event at a slower pace.”

The garden designs were inspired by Mary’s trips abroad in order to establish a living memorial to her husband, who died in 1899. Work began taking shape in 1902 and lasted for nearly twenty years. Her love of the arts, combined with an eye for detail, created some of the most enchanting formal and informal gardens found anywhere; styles include Victorian, Italian (with sculptures and statuettes), Colonial, and Japanese (complete with a children’s tea house). Mary’s vision and dedication served to preserve Sonnenberg, placing it among the top parks in America that have successfully—though not always easily—secured their place in history.

More than sixty artists will feature a variety of work in different mediums including oil, acrylic, and water color, plus handmade crafts, pottery, jewelry, and more. Linda Griswold Davis, a perennial vendor at the show since 2019, is a printmaker who creates relief prints in both linoleum block and woodblock. As a retired art teacher and gardener, this show combines two of her passions. Time spent at the show holds a special appeal for her.

“I sell my work in some area shops and only do a limited number of art shows. This is one I like to return to. It’s the helpful, welcoming spirit that the staff maintains and extends to both artist and visitors that has made it a lot of fun,” Linda says. “It’s thoughtfully organized for all to enjoy…The grounds are gorgeous and beautifully maintained. Booths are placed amongst paths throughout the gardens allowing patrons to walk through parts of the gardens as they see artwork. Experiencing the high degree of outstanding work from other artists while listening to music in this serene setting is just one reason why I love being at this show.”

A special aspect of the event is returning this year. Becky explains, “We’ve brought back, and will be hosting, the Emerging Artists Tent. While we have artists who have participated in the show for years, guests can expect to see some work from artists who have not shown work at shows prior to this year. They receive a reduced fee, and we provide a table and space within our events tent; many of these artists don’t yet have full show set-ups, like a tent, or tables, for instance.”

In addition to exploring the mansion, guests can wander through the Lord & Burnham greenhouse complex, a carriage house, and a former aviary. Enjoy a light lunch or snack at the Garden Café with outdoor seating, or sample wine at the Finger Lakes Wine Center located just below the Bay House Gift Shop across the way. Food trucks and food vendors will also offer a variety of fare. The free tram service is available for guests with limited mobility.

“AATG was the brainchild of three community members who wanted to bridge more of a connection between Sonnenberg and the local arts community and the community at large, with the added benefit of providing an opportunity for additional revenue—always important for a nonprofit organization,” Becky notes. “This is our largest annual fundraiser, and while the funds from the show aren’t earmarked for one project in particular, we continue with maintenance and work on the property year-round.”

Expanding art appreciation into the community is taking root, as AATG is going to tie in with another show in town this year. Historic Main Street sets the stage for the 36th annual Arts and Music Festival offering art, music, food, demonstrations, and children’s activities (Friday, July 19, to Sunday, July 21). More than 100 small businesses, unique shops, and restaurants in the four block district will be joined by 100 juried artists, musicians, and food trucks at the region’s only three-day event of its kind.

“This will be the first year that Arts at the Gardens coincides with Canandaigua’s downtown Arts and Music Festival. We are excited to be working alongside organizers to cross-promote the two shows. We think this will be a wonderful opportunity for people to visit Canandaigua and have a weekend full of art and entertainment,” Becky explains.

Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park is located at 250 Gibson Street, Canandaigua, and is open seasonally from May through October 31, Thursday through Monday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed Tuesday and Wednesday). The show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 20 and 21. Admission is $10 for adults, and $5 for children age three to fifteen years old. Children under age three are free. For more information, call (585) 394-4922, visit Facebook, or go to

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