NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - Hammond Museum unveiled its summer exhibitions last weekend, including an Eagle Scout project from Troop 1 of a life-size chess board set in the stroll garden.

While a violinist played music in the background, Eagle Scout Aaron Brethower studied the board in front of him, contemplating his next move while his grandfather, Russ Meyer, on the other side did the same.

When it was Meyer’s turn, he walked to the middle of the board and grabbed the top of a white pawn, rocked it back and forth before deciding to take out one of Brethower’s black pawns, placing it in the grass next to his other won pieces.
It’s the first time the board was in use at the museum and onlookers gathered to watch the play.

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The museum unveiled the chess board and its other summer exhibitions at an opening reception on June 23, complete with cheese and wine from Nisa Lee Events, music by Martin Aronchick and Richard Booker’s band Chicks Candy Outlet, and strolling violinist Marie Comuzzo.

Brethower had worked on the project for about a year, first digging out the area and building a foundation that would be able to withstand the elements. He fundraised all the money and lead the project with help from the community and Hammond Museum staff.

In addition to being a life-size board, the other unique thing Brethower did was add extra rows to accommodate for a Japanese chess game called Shogi. 

Bringing both games together on one board fits in with the mission of the Hammond Museum to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western cultures.

“This is the first Scout project at the Hammond,” said Vernon Beck, treasurer for the Hammond Museum board.
It’s also one of the only interactive sculptures in the stroll garden.

The chess board also honors the museum’s founder, Natalie Hammond, who had a chess board in the garden in 1959. The board was later removed, but hand-carved pieces for the board have been preserved by the museum and were on display during the reception. 

While Brethower played on the big board, the museum set up tables with regular boards where chess expert Matthew Shirvell, from Way of the Board Chess Club, taught museum goers how to play the game.

The chess theme carried throughout the museum with the exhibit “Serious Play” by Lisa Breznak in the Goelet Gallery, featuring miniature hand-sculpted clay chess sets painted with 22-karat gold leaf. 

The other summer exhibits featured are “Ebb” by Bill Schuck, Helga Schuhr and Itty Neuhaus Schuck, “Dejua vu” by Spanish artist Clara Joris and “Threshold,” an exhibit by Riva Weinstein in an outdoor transition space between the museum and the Japanese Garden.

In the stroll garden, the exhibit “Balance” featured artists Jo-Ann Brody, Joy Brown, Bernard Klevickas, Mimi Czajka Graminski, Basha Ruth Nelson, Tom Holmes, Deborah Lecce and Janet Fekete.
The summer exhibition runs from June 23 to Sept. 8. For more information about the Troop 1 Eagle Scout projects, see page 3.