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What happens when we participate in community

March 31, 2010

The last few days have been some of the most interesting and rewarding days of my career thus far.  I hope you have a few minutes to read about a fantastic experience I’ve had.

Last week, as I was planning my next “What’s Happening” video, I decided to step out of the library and into the community once again to highlight a Fort Wayne event and tie it back to the library.

Our Fort Wayne Museum of Art has been closed for a while for an expansion and renovation project.  I was so excited when I drove past the building a few weeks ago to see a banner outside the building proclaiming “Three Generations of Wyeth”.  I knew immediately what this must mean–that the museum would be featuring works by N. C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth.

"Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth

You have no idea how completely thrilled I was at the thought of being able to view any of the Wyeths’ art up close and in person.  I fell in love with Andrew Wyeth’s work back in college, when I went to an art print sale in the student center of the University of Kentucky, and found a poster of Christina’s World which I bought for roughly $5.00.  I hung it up in its cheap, plastic cover in my dorm room and emoted regularly as I stared at the girl in the picture, certain that she felt as desperate as I did, gazing hopelessly at her home and longing for something more, surely with tears streaming down her face at her empty, empty life.  Oh the drama of early adulthood!  I was surprised when later on, in my thirties, I discovered that Christina Olson was actually a 55-year-old woman who used to drag herself along the floor and the field for apparent lack of a wheelchair.

That did not stop me though, from exploring the art of the Wyeth family.  Since I worked with children’s books for many years, I regularly shelved classics illustrated by N. C. Wyeth, like Treasure Island and Pilgrims.  I also discovered Jamie Wyeth, whose paintings are so similar to his father Andrew’s,  and whose subject matter is equally captivating.

"Winter Pig" by Jamie Wyeth

So I decided to film my “What’s Happening” video at the art museum (hoping to receive their permission, of course), talking about the exhibit, and mentioning how the library has plenty of books of Wyeth art to check out and enjoy.  I would also talk about the library’s own Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, where art exhibits are featured year-round.

I wrote on the ACPL blog about the whole thing, too, because I was enormously excited and couldn’t control myself–I had to write about it, too!  Following a new convention for blog posting, I signed my name, title and e-mail address.

But what happened next is where this story becomes interesting.

Within a half-hour of posting on the blog, I received an e-mail from a gentleman named Peter Ralston, who told me that he was a longtime family friend of the Wyeths, and photographer, whose photographs of the Wyeths and their art had appeared in various books.  Like a good librarian should, I went to Google and typed in his name to verify his identity, and I found that not only has Mr. Ralston photographed the last two generations of the Wyeth family, but his photographs of their work has appeared in no less than forty books.  In an exchange of e-mails, he told me about his close relationship with Andrew and then he proceeded to e-mail me 24 photographs that he had taken of Andrew, Jamie, and family.

I sat at my computer Friday afternoon with tears welling up in my eyes as I gazed at these photographs of a man whom I have admired above all artists for the past 20 years.  Mr. Ralston gave me permission to use the photographs as I wished, as very small jpegs.  So I put them in the video that I made.

"The Duel on the Beach" by N. C. Wyeth

I am looking forward to visiting the exhibit next week while I’m on vacation, with my 14-year-old son, and someday making a pilgrimage up to the Farnsworth’s Wyeth Center and Brandywine River Museum and the Olson House.

If there is one lesson I’ve learned from this experience, it’s that you should follow your passion.  When we talk about what we love, the results are always good!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mindy Kittay permalink
    March 31, 2010 12:13 pm

    Wonderful story! I look forward to hearing about your visit and I would love to see the video.

  2. Elizabeth Gingise Sanders permalink
    March 31, 2010 1:55 pm

    Just goes to show that you never know what might be around the next corner…or behind the next e-mail !! A great story, Melissa, and I can’t wait to see your video & the exhibit !!

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