The Silo rises again at Hunt Hill
The legacy of the late Skitch and Ruth Henderson is being revived at the couple’s former property in the Northville section of New Milford.
Alessandro Piovezahn and two other individuals took over control of the Hunt Hill Farm, Inc. non-profit organization and its property at 44 Upland Road last month.
“Welcome to paradise,” Piovezahn said of the property the Hendersons purchased in 1968. “It’s magical.”
“This is all about (the Hendersons),” said Piovezahan, who assumed the existing position of chairman of the board of directors and is pro bono CEO. “It’s to honor their legacy. What this couple did here… it’s about love.
Piovezahn said he is “committed to honor, preserve and promote the Hendersons’ legacy for future generations.”
The site will be referred to as The Henderson Center for Excellence for Youth Empowerment at The Silo and will offer many of the same programs it did in the past, as well as new ones.
Up until its closing last summer due to revenue issues and lack of sufficient funds, Hunt Hill offered space to showcase art, presented cooking classes, held open mic nights and concerts, and operated a gift shop.
Piovezahn and the other two current directors intend to add additional directors and “create a board of advisors comprised of local community members, businesses and collaborators to help identify the key elements necessary to transform Hunt Hill Farm into a local paradise for our community and beyond.”
The Silo will be home to several rich educational experiences for both children and adults.
Who are they?
The vision Alessandro Piovezahn has for empowering individuals is rooted in personal experience.
He was orphaned in Brazil as a teen and lived on the streets for four years.
“An empty stomach feeds dangerous minds,” he said, noting life was not easy.
But one day, a man named Paul Cruz offered Piovezahn an opportunity to transform his life.
Paul invited him for a meal, and then welcomed him into his place of work, where he offered Piovezahn a job and a place to stay.
“‘You can steal all of this equipment, but I can replace it,’” Piovezahn recalled Cruz telling him.
“‘But what I’m giving you — a chance — you can’t throw that away,’” Piovezahn said Cruz stated.
That experience forever changed Piovezahn’s life and led him to dedicate his life to humanitarian causes.
He is the founder of the LivelyUp Music for Solidarity Tour and has supported the United Nations’ 8 Millennium Development Goals since 2006 and, since 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which includes, among other goals, reducing extreme poverty and hunger, quality education for all, reduce inequalities, sustainable cities and communities and environmental preservation.
He has worked with the UN and raised approximately 16,000 million pounds of food through his Music for Solidarity program, soon to be rebranded as the Skitch Henderson Music for Solidarity Tour.
Piovezahn said Hunt Hill Farm will file for the United Nations Observer Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This would enable Hunt Hill Farm Trust to collaborate with other organizations around the globe through the UN network of accredited NGOs.
Piovezahn came to the U.S. in 1999 and in 2012 became a U.S. citizen.
He and his wife have two children, 7 and 8.
Lyle Russell Cedric “Skitch” Henderson and his wife, Ruth, purchased the property at 44 Upland Road in 1968.
Four years later, the couple established The Silo, a well-known store, cooking school and art gallery.
In 2003, the Hendersons established the Hunt Hill Farm Trust, a 501(c)(3) in order to preserve their farm’s rich history, land and buildings, and celebrate the arts in America through the creation of a living museum.
The museum became affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute in 2005.
The museum will eventually be re-opened and showcase some of the artifacts that were saved and have been reacquired, according to Piovezahn.
Some of the earliest buildings at Hunt Hill Farm date back to before the Revolutionary War. It is comprised of the combination of two farms that were family owned and operated from the into the early 20th century before the Hendersons purchased the property.
Skitch was a pianist, conductor and composer who founded the New York Pops in 1983.
He served as the musical director and conductor of the orchestra until his death in 2005 in New Milford.
Throughout his lengthy career, Skitch also conducted other symphonic orchestras around the world, performed radio work, and served as conductor for The Tonight Show and The Today Show orchestras during the 1950-60s.
The Carol Sing, held annually in December on the New Milford Village Green, was inaugurated in 1977 in conjunction with the New Milford Commission on the Arts by Skitch.
It will serve as a venue for improvisational theaters, arts and technology programs for children and adults of all abilities and serve as a gathering space for the community.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, activities have been put on hold due to stay-at-home and social distancing orders.
“I’m going to take it slow,” Piovezahn said, highlighting some of the offerings he is exploring while adhering to health and safety guidelines.
Piovezahn said now “the idea is to create alternatives to provide the community with opportunities to congregate safely once the new guidelines are put in place.”
Open air activities for children and adults including arts, music and sports programs, and open air open mic and music jams for local artists are being discussed.
Piovezahn said he is also exploring the possibility of drive-by and social distancing weddings and is working with the local Hospice group about possibly providing drive-by grieving gatherings free of charge to community members.
A free community vegetable garden cared for and shared by community members is also being discussed.
The goal would be to donate vegetables to local shelters, schools and families in need, he said.
“We are excited there is a new director with a wonderful community-oriented vision,” said Paul Elconin, director of land conservation with Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, which owns property adjacent to The Silo.
“We look forward to working with Alessandro and his team as they develop their plans,” he said.
Once restrictions are lifted, Piovezahn hopes to implement several programs at the Henderson Center for Excellence at The Silo, including an Arts, Technology and Empowerment (ATEP) Program and programs that serve those with special needs and traumatic brain injury.
ATEP will, through the use of arts and technology in support of the United Nations’ 17 SDGs, provide for social entrepreneurship through youth empowerment.
Classes in Immersive 3D and virtual reality, Photo Shop, drone photography and other programs will be offered.
Local artisans and educators are also expected to partner with The Silo.
Deborah Freeman, owner of OEP Soapery in town, will soon be making soap in one of the silos on the property.
“I’m so excited,” Freeman said, noting she has hoping to find a soap studio since last fall.
“I put it out into the universe,” she said. “I wanted some place rustic, with lots of windows, is tranquil and quiet. And it came to me.”
Having grown up in New Milford, Freeman said she knows the history and significance of The Silo and Hunt Hill Farm’s mission to keep the site as an “historic learning center.”
“It’s just so beautiful out there — the wildlife, the farm across the street with the cows and the fact it’s a learning center,” Freeman said of The Silo. “It taps into everything I love.”
Local artisans who would like to display their products at no coast are welcome to get involved with The Silo.
Piovezahn said he also envisions The Silo space as a place for the community to use for a variety of self-sustainable programs.
“Anyone who has programs for the community at no cost can use this space for free,” Piovezahn said, citing Scouts, non-profit organizations and others. “We’re not asking for money; we’re asking for love.”
To make the space accessible to all, local business professionals have committed their time and funds to install a handicapped ramp, an ADA compliant bathroom, and fire marshal requirements for proper occupancy and culinary activities.
Piovezahn emphasized his vision of having “the place filled with kids” and The Silo being a welcoming space for all individuals.
One-time enrichment classes and series are expected to be offered in the future, too.
In the meantime, the public can find the latest happenings posted on “The Silo” Facebook page, in the “Love the Silo” group on Facebook and @thesiloct.
Piovezhan stressed the goal is to provide activities that are affordable to all members of the community.
“I’m not building a business here,” he said. “This is about love; this is not about money.”
He also noted no salaries will be paid for directors through donations made. “In time only program revenues will offset any salaries for directors.
Collaboration with members of the community is key to Piovezhan’s vision.
Piovezhan has spoken with the Woman’s Club of Greater New Milford, the Garden Club of New Milford and Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, three organizations that have expressed interest in building a relationship with the new directors of Hunt Hill Farm Trust Inc.
Veteran Paul Valeri, a trustee with the Danbury Museum & Historical Society, said he is excited about the future of The Silo.
He’s sees the potential for bridging cultural aspects of this region — including Danbury’s ties with singer Marian Anderson and composer Charles Ives, and now the Hendersons — with the cultural aspects of the Berkshires in neighboring Massachusetts.
Piovezahn said he is looking to rebuild the museum, with his wife Daniele serving as director of legacy preservation.
Anyone who purchased artifacts in the past and would like to donate them back to the museum should contact The Silo.
For more information, call The Silo at 860-355-0300, the original Silo phone number that was recently recovered. The latest happenings may also be found on “The Silo” Facebook page and on the “Love the Silo” group page on Facebook. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.