to preserve and celebrate the role Ithaca and the region played in the history of American filmmaking
Wharton Studio Museum’s mission to preserve and celebrate the role Ithaca and the region played in the history of American filmmaking drives the organization to broaden awareness — locally, regionally and nationally — of this unique history, through programming of all kinds. Also central to WSM's mission is to develop the lake-facing side of the historic Wharton Studio Building in Stewart Park, into a museum, park center, and cafe.
In 2009, Ithaca Motion Picture Project (as the organization was then called) incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit. Four years later, IMPP applied for and was granted a Provisional Museum Charter from the NYS Education Department’s Board of Regents and officially became Wharton Studio Museum (WSM). Annually WSM produces Silent Movie Under the Stars; Silent Movie Month; a film festival for youth called Silents Roar!, and collaborates on screenings, exhibits, presentations, workshops and educational outreach with Cornell Cinema, The History Center, Ithaca College’s Park School, Cornell Fashion + Textile Collection,Tompkins County Public Library, Cinemapolis and a host of other cultural and educational entities..The Provisional Museum Charter was renewed in 2018.
Wharton Studio Museum is a founding partner in the Tompkins Center for History and Culture (TCHC) that opened in 2019 and has installed its first permanent exhibit there. WSM joins The History Center, Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ithaca Aviation Heritage Foundation, the Discovery Trail, and Community Arts Partnership and others in this history and culture-based destination, which is also home to the Downtown Visitors Center.
WSM is currently working in partnership with the Friends of Stewart Park to develop the Wharton Studio building -- one of only a handful of silent movie studios still in existence in the United States -- into the Wharton Studio Museum and Park Center. In 2017, WSM and its architect Todd Zwigard/TZA Architects, completed Re-envisioning the Wharton Studio Building: Transforming an Ithaca Landmark, a planning and design study that proposes an exciting vision to develop the lakefront section of this historic building scenically located by the shores of Cayuga Lake. Renovations and improvements to the building’s exterior; creation of "gallery" space for exhibits on local film history and park history in its north-facing interior; as well as small cafe, and a landscaped seating and gathering area by the lake and Cayuga Waterfront Trail will transform the building and surrounding landscape into the park’s cultural and recreational hub. The Wharton Studio Museum and Park Center — a centerpiece of the park’s original “historic core” -- will enhance and improve the park for the benefit of the community and also help promote heritage tourism in the region.
WSM is excited to be partnering with Friends of Stewart Park and the City of Ithaca (the park’s landowner) to realize our shared goal of revitalizing historic Stewart Park. The work to revitalize and enhance the park is in full swing, with a number of exciting restoration and improvement projects already completed. 2021 marks Stewart Park''s centennial as a public park.
Wharton Studio Museum is a member of the Museum Association of New York.
Since 2009 WSM has produced dozens of original programs and exhibits while working to establish a bricks & mortar museum within the former Wharton Studio building in Stewart Park, Ithaca, NY.
- Ithaca Motion Picture Project (IMPP) incorporates as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit in New York State.
- IMPP's first fundraiser is held at Greystone, former home of film star Irene Castle and now home to Sigma Chi fraternity.
- Cirque du Soleil's documentary All Together Now (about the making of Cirque's show Love) is featured at an IMPP fundraiser with the film's director and producer in attendance. Panel discussion is held at Park School of Communication at Ithaca College.
- IMPP collaborates with Sprocket, Cornell's Cognitive Science Film Series to screen The Woodmans, a documentary directed by C. Scott Willis, who attends the event.
- Debut of Silent Movie Under the Stars, WSM's outdoor screening (now in its 8th year) of a silent film with live music at Taughannock Falls State Park, produced in collaboration with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation. Original score composed and performed Cloud Chamber Orchestra.
- Romance, Exploits & Peril: When Movies WereMade in Ithaca made in Ithaca, a multimedia exhibit in eight locations throughout Tompkins County focused on the history of early filmmaking and the Wharton Studio’s role in this emerging art form and industry.
- In collaboration with Friends of Stewart Park, volunteer-led beautification of the exterior of the Wharton Studio/Dept. of Public Works building in Stewart Park, which included cleaning, painting, and window repair of the building exterior.
- October is proclaimed Silent Movie Month in the City of Ithaca by Mayor Svante Myrick. The month-long event (now in its 7th year) featured exhibits, screenings, presentations and a Buster Keaton matinee.
- IMPP changes its name to Wharton Studio Museum after the organization applies for and is granted a Provisional Museum Charter from the New York State Education Department’s Board of Regents.
- WSM’s first website is launched: https://whartonstudiomuseum.org
- Leads project to design, produce, and install exterior interpretive signs for each of the three main buildings in Stewart Park: the Picnic (Large) Pavilion, the Wharton Studio building and the Cascadilla Boathouse.
- Co-sponsors silent film screenings with live music at Ithaca College’s at FLEFF ( Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.)
- WSM designs, produces and installs an interpretive sign for newly restored Tea (Small) Pavilion in Stewart Park.
- Partners with Friends of Stewart Park in a Capital Campaign Feasibility Study for the comprehensive revitalization of Stewart Park.
- WSM fundraiser is held at the Treman Center and features screening of Wharton, Inc. Studio's Beatrice Fairfax episodes with commentary by writer Amy Dickinson.
- Collaborates with Cornell’s Costume & Textile Collection on Biggest Little City: Ithaca and Silent Film Style, a multimedia exhibit about fashion during the silent film era, with a focus on screen star Irene Castle
- Co-sponsors silent film with live music events at Cornell Cinema
- Presents closing night lecture at Cornell’s Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image Conference
- Receives a Tompkins County Tourism Program Capital Grant to develop a planning & design Study for the Wharton Studio building in Stewart Park. Study is produced by architect Todd Zwigard, TZA Architects in Beacon, NY and Diana Riesman, WSM’s Executive Director and Co-Founder.
- Co-sponsors silent film with live music events at Cornell Cinema
- WSM becomes a founding partner in the Tompkins Center for History and Culture, an exhibit-based destination slated to open on the Ithaca Commons in early 2019.
- Silents Roar!, a silent black and white short-film festival for middle and high school students in Tompkins County, launches in partnership with Fiona Okumu, an Ithaca High School senior who approached WSM with an idea for a student fest.
- WSM co-sponsors silent films with live music at Cornell Cinema.
- New York State Tourism invites WSM to contribute an exhibit on Ithaca’s silent movie history for the "Artifacts Wall" in the newly refurbished Southern Tier Welcome on Interstate 81 in Kirkwood.
- WSM completes Re-Envisioning the Wharton Studio Building: Transforming an Ithaca Landmark,a planning and design study to develop the film studio building in Stewart Park.
- WSM Executive Director Diana Riesman receives an award recognizing her work on local silent film history from The History Center at its annual awards gala.
- WSM and The Cherry Arts co-produce The Missing Chapter, an original walking headphone-play based on the Wharton Studio's popular 1916 serial Beatrice Fairfax.
- The National Arts Club's Film Committee in NYC invites WSM to make an illustrated presentation about Ithaca's silent film history to members and the public.
- Biggest Little Fashion City: Ithaca and Silent Film Style wins Richard Martin Award from Costume Society of America. The 2016 exhibit was produced by WSM and Cornell Fashion and Textile Collection.
- "A Name for a Baby", a rock operetta by Anna Coogan inspired by an episode from the Wharton Studio's popular 1916 serial Beatrice Fairfax premieres at the Cherry Arts. The operetta is co-produced by The Cherry Arts and WSM.
- The Finger Lakes Film Trail is launched with a screening event at the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. WSM spearheaded this inter-county initiative, a partnership between the George Eastman Museum, Case Research Lab/Cayuga Museum in Auburn, NY and WSM.
- WSM's first permanent exhibit on the history of silent film in Ithaca and the region is installed in the newly-opened Tompkins Center for History and Culture on the Ithaca Commons.
- Author and historian Barbara Tepa Lupack's book on the Wharton Studio, "Silent Serial Sensations: The Wharton Brothers and the Magic of Early Cinema" iis published by Cornell University Press. WSM hosts a virtual book party event for the author with Buffalo Street Books.
- Silent Roar! Film Festival goes virtual.
- WSM celebrates the launch of ITHAQA comic book with a virtual event hosted by Buffalo Street Books featuring the comic's creator Michael Watson and its illustrator Theresa Chiechi.
- Silent Movie Under the Stars goes virtual with production assistance from the State Theatre in Ithaca.
- Silent Movie Month goes virtual with a virtual comic book making workshop for kids ages 8-15 hosted by ITHAQA comic creator Michael Watons, in collaboration with The History Center.