As art educators, we often hope that what goes on in our classrooms will spark or fan the flame of a future Ringgold, Picasso, Kahlo, Haring or Van Gogh, but how often do we consider the art legacy we are nurturing among our close friends and family? Let’s not discount the impact that our passion for the arts can make among those closest to us.
My first art lessons came from my dad at the dinner table..drawing cowboys. He was a maker. Shells gathered on vacation became a mosaic on masonite scraps he brought home from a construction site. He built step stools for all of his nieces and nephews. He loved decorating for Christmas and even made some of the displays.
My mother and her sisters loved to sew, crochet, embroider and two of them especially loved painting. My aunt Sibyl had a beautiful old cabinet filled with craft paint and a basket full of gourds, oyster shells and cypress stumps. When we came for a visit we were always welcomed to sit and paint.
And then, I married into a wonderful family that valued the arts and nourished my talent. When I began painting classes in my late twenties, my mother-in-law and father-in-law were my very first patrons. They also introduced me to the work of a relative, my father-in-law’s first cousin, sculptor Stanley Bleifeld.
Knowing Stanley had a huge influence on my career. As soon as Stanley knew I was taking watercolor classes, he and his wife Nicky shared a book with me by their close friend, Burton Silverman, a master watercolorist. Stanley always seemed like an icon to me. I only met in him in person for the first time after my father-in-law passed away in 1993, but I heard so much about him from my in-laws on their visits to his art openings around the world and visits to his studio in Pietrasanta, Italy. Life Magazine featured Stanley early in his career. Stanley’s work included the Vatican Pavillion Bas Relief at the 1964 World’s Fair, The Lone Sailor at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, several statues at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, The Virginia Civil Rights Memorial- It Seemed Like Reaching for the Moon and ironically enough…The Legacy.
My in-laws bought a rather large scaled bronze of The Legacy, which now lives at our house. My mother-in-law asked me to make a card with a quote for it when she first brought it home, which Stanley liked to associate with the sculpture. It’s from John Mellencamp, “There is nothing more sad or glorious than generations changing hands.”
Later this month, I will be presenting a lecture for the Virginia Art Education Association on the work of Stanley, specifically the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial and how his work can be used in the classroom. Our family had a reunion at the dedication of this monument. I have thought a lot about legacy in the last several months. Stanley left behind a large looming legacy in our family.
I often wonder what kind of art influence I am nurturing among my family and friends; hopefully those art camps with my children in my garage, drawing and painting with my grandson, painting rocks with my nieces and nephews at the lake house and family crafts at Thanksgiving will become more than a memory..hopefully it will become something that will transcend beyond the changing of hands for generations to come.