At the Albany Institute of History and Art, there are few employees that have left such a long standing and notable mark as Daniel Van Hoesen, the institute's main art handler and maintenance man for 36 years, who retired on Wednesday, July 25.
Christine Miles, director of the institute, has worked with Van Hoesen since she started there 21 years ago. She says he is a truly remarkable person and considers him to be the heart and soul of the AIHA.
As a person he exemplifies a lot of what we do as an institution, she said. "He's sensitive and pragmatic."
Van Hoesen, who will be 66 on Aug. 23, is an art lover who enjoys sculpting and wood crafting and was hired at the museum in 1971 for his carpentry and drawing skills. He first put those skills to work to design crates the artwork was packed in for shipping. He also created the design of "exhibition furniture," usually made of wood, that art is displayed on.
In 1998, the AIHA closed for renovations until 2001, but staff kept working.
Van Hoesen remembers the time well because there was no air conditioning and he became a "jack of all trades," doing several maintenance duties like painting, snow blowing, sweeping, installing lights, and maintaining the museum's computerized water, heating, and air conditioning systems.
Van Hoesen still does many of these tasks today, but his most specialized task is one he started with, the design and installation of exhibition furniture. He does that along with exhibition graphic designer Tom Nelson.
According to Miles, Van Hoesen was trained to handle artwork many years ago, but also possesses unique skills that have made him highly successful at his job for so many years.
"He has a sixth sense about how to move about, and care for things. He is extremely sensitive, and amazingly creative," she said.