Dutchess County Executive's Arts Awards 2023

Paola Bari


Paola Bari learned to love ceramics as a young girl in Milan, Italy. Still, her art remained mostly a hobby until she moved to Poughkeepsie in 1966 to work at IBM. “I had a few places in Italy where I showed my work, but I became much more serious about it when I came to the U.S.,” she says.

After leaving IBM in 1981, Paola devoted herself full-time to porcelain painting. Her whimsical work—featuring stretching frogs, cats, and ornately decorated game fowl—was well received by the arts community. Today, she co-owns Gallery 40 in Poughkeepsie, an attractive space that also functions as a community gathering hub. “Because there is still a strong Italian community in Poughkeepsie, we have a lot of Italian programming,” she says. “So we host conversations and movies. We will be leading trips to museums that are showing Italian art.”

One side of the gallery is devoted to student work. There is currently a Vassar College student show; students from Marist College will be showing in the spring. “It’s a way to give back to the younger emerging generation of artists,” says Paola.  “They can see how they go from finishing a painting to actually positioning the painting in a gallery space. They need to learn about statements and labels and how to price their work. So they learn from us and we also learn from them.”

Paola’s other passion: environmental conservation. For more than a decade she has worked as a volunteer with the Cheetah Conservation Fund, fundraising and helping to raise awareness. She also helps run the Fund’s annual art contest for children. “Children like to draw and it keeps them connected and learning about the idea of conservation,” she says.

Paola was “surprised and very gratified” to win the 2023 Dutchess County Arts Artivist Award. “It’s stimulating me to continue to do more for the community.”

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