June 23, 2013

Well-known artist's hat collection on display

By AMY HEGGEN Press-Republican

---- — SARANAC LAKE — Straw and fur hats, summer and winter hats, and hats from around the world will be on display at the Saranac Laboratory Museum. 

As the museum’s first exhibit of artwork, “A Life in Hats,” opens Friday, June 28, and features about 40 hats that local artist Ursula Trudeau has collected over the years. 

“For us, we have a personal connection to the Trudeau name, which is the deeper inspiration for the exhibit,” said Amy Catania, the executive director of Historic Saranac Lake. 

The exhibit is featured in the museum that was once a tuberculosis laboratory founded by Trudeau’s late husband’s grandfather, Dr. E.L. Trudeau, in 1894. 

Catania’s idea for the exhibit came when she saw an interesting hat Trudeau wore for an event held at the Saranac Laboratory Museum. 

“She always has these incredible hats on,” Catania said.

Catania thought it would be neat to see the accessories together in one space.

“Ursula is a very accomplished artist so she chooses them with a sense of style and an eye for fashion,” she said.

Each piece on display includes a short caption, but Catania said the exhibit is mostly a visual experience. 

“There are a lot of stories connected with the individual hats,” she said.

With about 80 to choose from, Catania hopes to feature 40 of them. 

“We have way more hats than we are going to fit in the room,” she said. “We are making some hard choices.”

In Trudeau’s travels, she has collected hats from Morocco, China and Russia as well as New York City, Montreal and a store in Lake Placid called Where’d you get that Hat?

In addition to her international collection, she owns a historical hat from a turn of the century military uniform that she bought at an auction. 

“You never know what you’re going to find,” Trudeau said. “You’ve got to keep your eyes open, your ears open.”

Trudeau’s interest in the accessory began as a child, as she and her brother were both fair-skinned. Her mother put hats on them to prevent sunburn.

“The hats were mandatory,” Trudeau said. “I grew up in a cold climate so you had to wear something on your head when you were walking to school or work, and I got to like them.”

Today, Trudeau is still fond of wearing hats, but she’s noticed that donning one has become an oddity.

“It’s funny because nobody really wears hats that much anymore now,” she said.

She has also made a few of her own.

“It’s a very creative art,” Trudeau said.

She is trying not to collect any more.

“It’s time to stop,” she said. 

Trudeau is looking forward to meeting people who attend the exhibit and learning about their interest in hats.

“Maybe I’ll find a designer of hats,” she said.

The exhibit has been created with the help of local artist Diane Leifheit.



WHAT: "A Life in Hats."

WHEN: Opening reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, June 28. The exhibit runs through Columbus Day weekend. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

WHERE: John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory Museum at 89 Church St. in Saranac Lake.

ADMISSION: General admission is $5, children and members get in for free.

CONTACT: For more information about the exhibit or the reception, visit or call 891-4606.