Style Spotlight: Artists, Now Authors

October 2012 | BY | Fall 2012 | NO COMMENTS

Ringling Books

Now you can run away and join the circus without ever leaving the comfort of your armchair, courtesy of New Mexico artists Michael Lancaster and Barbara Harnack. The two have been many things in their careers: potters, sculptors, home builders. Now they can add authors and publishers, with Ringling/The Last Laugh and The Boys from Baraboo.

Lancaster, who is the great-grandson of circus founder Charles Ringling, wrote Ringling as a “fictionalized biography.” The book tells the rags-to-riches-to-rags life of John Ringling, at one time one of the richest men in America. Lancaster calls his book not just a circus story, but an American story.

Harnack is completing the couple’s illustrated children’s book, The Boys from Baraboo, about the five brothers from Baraboo, Wis., and their circus life. Ringling is available from Amazon; for it and other works check www.RinglingBook.com.

Style Spotlight: Nanas on Park Avenue

October 2012 | BY | Fall 2012 | NO COMMENTS

Niki de Saint Phalle
Niki de Saint Phalle’s mosaic sculptures will continue to sparkle on Park Avenue through late November. CREDIT: Laura Maloney/Nohra Haime Gallery, New York

French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s exuberant, colorful sculptures burst on the art scene in the late 1970s, part of the irreverent and boundary-pushing genre of the era, and retain their power to startle, tickle and outrage audiences today. Now nine monumental works march down New York’s Park Avenue, including frolicking swimsuited sculptures she called Nanas, plus assorted other strange beasts, jazz musicians and athletes. The statues, made of polyester resin covered with mosaic tiles of ceramic, mirror and stained glass, rise as high as 16 feet and as wide as 13 feet.

The child of a banking family, Saint Phalle, who died in 2002, rejected bourgeois views and explored painting, collage, papier-mache, film and other graphic forms during her lifetime. The statues, dismissed by one critic as “dated,” still combine whimsy and effrontery in a striking way. The statues will be drawing curious and startled gazes alike on Park Avenue through Nov. 25.

Arts Reader

October 2012 | BY | Fall 2012 | NO COMMENTS

Bestiary

That animals, real and imagined, played a great role in medieval society is clear from the images in The Grand Medieval Bestiary: Animals in Illuminated Manuscripts, by Christian Heck and Remy Cordonnier (Abbeville, $185; $135 introductory price through Dec. 31). This gorgeous outsized volume contains essays and nearly 600 full-color images of animals from an agricultural age in which they had much greater symbolic significance than they do today. Some of the illustrators obviously never saw the beasts they were drawing, though there’s a great level of detail in each beautiful illustration: the griffin is as meticulously rendered as the chicken.

James Della, author and photographer of Glass: The James Della Collection (Prism Press, $60), documents the extensive array of the glass he’s been amassing since the early 1980s. He has collected all forms: blown, slumped, fused, cast, coldworked and lampworked. The book includes 484 full-color photographs, intended to celebrate the artists. Some pages show the artist’s range: for instance, Randy Strong’s rounded vases of the ‘90s, and his sinuous and elongated forms of the early 2000s. The layout is only somewhat alphabetical. Della says he wanted readers “to experience the possibility of a unique surprise each time they turned a page.”

A hamburger, a white rabbit, an eyeball and a caterpillar are a few of the unexpected subjects that find their way into contemporary mosaics, all documented in Mosaic Art Today, edited by Jeffrey B. Snyder (Schiffer, $50). The book includes more traditional forms, such as swimming pools, murals and windows, but it also showcases the wide range of materials and subjects brought to this ancient art form by contemporary artists. The works show a wide range of styles and materials, with some emphasis on getting shape into the artwork, or putting mosaics on shapes, from concrete animals to a shirt with undulating folds.

From Lark Books comes Showcase 500 Beaded Jewelry, by Ray Hemachandra (Lark Crafts, $27.95). The 500 pieces, selected from submissions by 360 artists from 30 countries, range from strands to woven designs to bead embroidery and include necklaces and neckpieces, pins, collars, cuffs, bracelets, even dresses. Hemachandra notes in his introduction that thanks to social media, beaders have become a community where the interchange of ideas is in constant motion.

For more of “Arts Reader,” pick up a copy of the Fall issue of AmericanStyle magazine.

Parting Shot

October 2012 | BY | Fall 2012 | NO COMMENTS

Penny Putnam and Shauna Holiman
Click to enlarge. CREDIT: Steve Rossi

Clearly this object is made from recycled parts… but recycled from what? Would you have guessed pianos? A visit to a piano rebuilding facility inspired two Connecticut artists, Penny Putnam and Shauna Holiman, to get together to make art. They create works out of all the components of the piano: keys, strings, soundboard, and wooden and metal parts. Sometimes the constructions are fashioned entirely from piano parts; sometimes they create mixed-media pieces on boards. Sometimes the works are sculptures; sometimes the parts inspire paintings or photography. “Whirlygig,” at 36 inches square, is made of 13 wippens (the mechanism that allows for rapid repetition of a note) and 13 hammers on a black lacquered board. To see more of their creations, go to www.pianoasart.com. Once you enter the site, clicking on the white keys brings up individual art works; clicking the black keys gives you more information.

Pittsfield Rising

June 2012 | BY | Issue 80, Summer 2012 | NO COMMENTS

Arts Signage in Pittsfield
A series of altered street signs commissioned by Pittfield’s Artscape and installed throughout downtown. CREDIT: Paul Shoul

For many East Coast vacationers, the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts is a destination of choice. The mountains are breathtaking. The allure of quaint New England towns is captivating. And cultural offerings—from The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Tanglewood concerts in Lenox and Mass MoCA in North Adams to The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown—abound.

Right in the middle lies Pittsfield, the Berkshires’ largest city. This summer, its evolution as an arts center will be visible all over town, particularly with a series of visual arts events called Covet.

It wasn’t always this exciting. Pittsfield, long a manufacturing town, took a serious hit in the 1980s when General Electric, a major employer, announced it was pulling back. Over the next 10 years, some 14,000 workers lost their jobs and the city was pushed into a downhill spiral. As retail shops along once glittering North, South, East and West Streets went bankrupt, much of downtown was boarded up. And it stayed that way for an agonizingly long time.

Fast-forward 25 years, and the energy downtown, especially on North Street, is palpable. “We’ve undergone an amazing transition,” said Megan Whilden, the city’s director of cultural development. “For Pittsfield, the arts have been like Prozac.”

Whilden is part of a female triumvirate that spearheaded the revival of Pittsfield and now make it an obligatory cultural stop for travelers on the Western Massachusetts arts trail. The others are Sienna Patti, owner of Sienna Gallery in nearby Lenox, and Leslie Ferrin, who moved her well-known ceramics gallery from Lenox to Pittsfield five years ago.

Ferrin and Patti came up with the idea for Covet, which will play out in special exhibitions at their galleries through September, as well as drive traffic to 2012 Art Berkshires summer programs and Dish & Dine, their collaborative ventures.

The Ferrin Gallery space on North Street will be divided into two sections for Covet, showing studio pottery and teapots in one, and 20 gallery artists exhibiting new work inspired by traditional works in museum collections in the other.

The Covet projects range from simple updates of content by changing a cast of characters and the recreation of an object using a new technology, to conceptual perspectives that focus on details drawn from conversations with curators.

Artist Molly Hatch, for example, focused on 16th century prints, exploring the relationship of painting to object by rendering figures in porcelain and placing them at the front of her painted scenes. Mara Superior is presenting an Obama teapot based on her viewing of a George Washington commemorative jug. And Sergei Isupov is taking his inspiration from a work by German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder.

In Arts Berkshires, participating artists will lead trips to museums and open their studios in addressing the Covet theme. Dish & Dine includes a series of dinners at the Ferrin Gallery, followed by discussions with Covet artists about their work. “When the dinners are cleared,” explains Ferrin, “we have conversations.”

Art in Pittsfield extends all over town. The Berkshire Museum has undergone a facelift, thanks to the city, which donated half a million dollars for renovations. And it has a new executive director, Van Shields, who came with lots of fresh ideas. Rather than compartmentalizing, Shields says his aim is to mount exhibitions that cross disciplines.

Through mid-June, the museum is showing “Taking Flight: Audubon and the World of Birds” which pairs Audubon prints with bird specimens and exhibits on the science of feathers, flight and the lives of birds. At the end of the month, renowned glass artist (and native son) Tom Patti will unveil two huge site-specific glass installations, similar to those he’s already done at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in Charlotte and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in the museum’s entry area and lobby.

“This is the largest single work I’ve ever created,” Patti said of the Berkshire Museum project. “The surfaces are two-dimensional, so it can be seen from both sides.” Titled “Reflection on Time and Space,” the installation will be coupled with an exhibit on Patti’s creative process, including maquettes from the project.

Covet won’t be the only themed event in Pittsfield this summer. The other is “Call Me Melville.” Taking its name from the famous first line of Pittsfield native Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, the epic tale of man versus whale, it’s what Megan Whilden describes as “an out-of-the-box summer long celebration… because Melville was an out-of-the-box kind of man.”

Among the many planned events, the city will showcase 10 works of public art on the Melville theme throughout downtown. In addition, local artist Douglas Paisley will exhibit work inspired by the Melville theme at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, the city’s public art gallery.

Artist Maggie Mailer, a daughter of the late author Norman Mailer, says she moved to the Berkshires in 2002 because she was attracted to its natural beauty and landscapes. She was the first to conceive of Pittsfield as an arts center, and started a program known as the Storefront Artist Project.

Mailer got several property owners along North Street to let artists set up studios in vacant retail space rent-free. As more artists gravitated to the city, new restaurants and cafes opened. Businesses returned, and eventually the North Street storefronts were vacant no more.

Its mission accomplished, the Storefront Artist Project has since moved on, but Mailer stayed in Pittsfield, and she has become one of the Ferrin Gallery’s most famous artists. Mailer’s paintings range from abstractions to landscapes to portraits with historic references. She, too, is participating in Covet and will mount a solo show at the gallery this summerery.

When asked whether she thinks Pittsfield will one day replace Lenox to the south and North Adams to the north as an art center, she says no. “We’re not trying to compete with Mass MoCA,” she replies, “but Pittsfield is now a place where artists congregate. It’s definitely become one of the must-see cultural stops along the way.”

2012 Top 25 Arts Destinations

June 2012 | BY | Issue 80, Summer 2012 | NO COMMENTS

Coming in at number one again, New York’s Manhattan skyline gleams against a blue sky. CREDIT: Marley White

When readers cast ballots for their favorite arts destinations this year, the Large City winners came as no surprise, but in Mid-Size and Small Cities categories, the 15th annual Top 25 Arts Destinations poll brought some real shakeups.

New York City came in first (again) with 43.2 percent of the vote, with Washington, D.C. (No. 2, with 23.6 percent) and Chicago (No. 3, with 22.3 percent) trading places from last year’s standing to fill the remaining top two positions for the fifth year in a row. Out-of-the-blue write-in candidate Dayton, Ohio, vaulted to the No. 2 spot in the Mid-Size Cities list, and eight cities across all three categories were located in Florida.

Why the sudden popularity of Florida cities? Perhaps it mirrors the U.S. population shift south. Perhaps it’s a combination of demographic factors, including consistently beautiful weather and an arts-friendly culture.

Among Mid-Size Cities, Florida favorite St. Petersburg ranked first, as it did last year, with 39.2 percent of the vote. Write-in candidate Dayton muscled its way into second place with 26.7 percent of the vote, while Tampa moved into the No. 3 slot (from No. 7 last year) with 15.4 percent.

There was a major shift in the Small Cities category: Sarasota, Fla., rose from fifth place a year ago to No. 1, with 27.7 percent of the vote. Coming in second was Bradenton, Fla., up from No. 10 last year, with 17 percent. Asheville, N.C., last year’s No. 1 Small Arts City, dropped to No. 3, with 14.1 percent.

What does it take to win big in the Top 25? Read on for some of the reasons why readers made this year’s arts cities their favorite places for all things visual.

Click the links below for a complete list of the Top 25 Arts Destinations in each category.

TOP 25 BIG CITIES
TOP 25 MID-SIZE CITIES
TOP 25 SMALL CITIES

Top 25 Big Cities for Art

June 2012 | BY | Issue 80, Summer 2012 | NO COMMENTS

The top 25 big cities for art for 2012 are:

1. New York City

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), upper right at top, is perfectly situated on Columbus Circle to draw the crowds. Credit: Alex Lopez

Lots of people want to be part of the New York art scene, and what a lot of it there is—from the River to River Festival downtown, to MAD in midtown and straight north to the uptown Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Every June and July, the River to River Festival brings visual art, theater, music and dance to public venues throughout Lower Manhattan. This free arts extravaganza was launched in 2002 to revitalize the area and has become a cultural institution, bringing in more than 100,000 visitors annually. The festival is dedicated to New York artists and art groups, as well as those who have found their inspiration in the city. The South Street Seaport Museum is also open again, so while you’re in the neighborhood, stop by to check out its updated, re-envisioned and expanded gallery space.

The Costume Institute at the Met exhibits the work of iconic Italian fashion designers Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli through Aug. 19, while Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno takes over the museum’s roof with “Cloud City,” large transparent reflective modules that visitors can actually walk through. On Columbus Circle, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) shows the work of jewelry pioneer Margaret De Patta, while on Lincoln Square, the American Folk Art Museum exhibits important artists in its collection with “Jubilation/Rumination.” At the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), “Born out of Necessity” explores design as a problem-solving tool.

And don’t miss Chelsea, the arts district where you can visit dozens of galleries from 14th to 30th Streets and from 6th Avenue to the Hudson River, showcasing everything from modernist works and abstracts to art quilts, ceramics and glass.

2. Washington, D.C.

Imposing columns signal the unique art inside the connected spaces of the Smithsonian’s Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum.

Feel free to explore the art scene in the nation’s capital, because much of it really is free. The Smithsonian Institution alone offers open admission to all of its 19 museums and galleries, including the American Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gardens, and the Renwick Gallery, which starting on July 20 investigates evolving notions of craft in “40 Under 40: Craft Futures,” with work by 40 artists, all born since 1972, the year the gallery was established.

The American Art Museum offers “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond” through Sept. 3, with works by 43 black artists including Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and Lois Mailou Jones. And around the corner, the Portrait Gallery opens “One Life: Amelia Earhart” on June 29, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the famed aviator’s disappearance and focusing on her commitment to women’s rights.

Always free is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, running June 27-July 1 and again July 4-8. It takes over the National Mall, and includes artists, performers, craftspeople, storytellers and musicians from around the world. Go on July 4 and you can also watch the spectacular holiday fireworks display over the Washington Monument.

3. Chicago

There’s no better place to be during Chicago summers than frolicking in front of Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain in Millennium Park. CREDIT: Patrick Pyszka

Long on the cutting edge of culture, from the skyscrapers of America’s first truly modern architect Louis Sullivan to the sculpture and exhibitions at Millennium Park, Chicago is everyone’s kind of town.

The Windy City is also festival central, especially in summer, when you can find fairs, food and art in the streets almost every weekend. (Visit www.choosechicago.com for events, times and places.) You can also get an insider’s view of participating galleries and studios on the second Friday of every month in the Chicago Arts District.

A lot of Chicago’s art is free for the viewing, including Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain in Millennium Park, Jean Dubuffet’s “Monument with Standing Beast” at Thompson Center, and Marc Chagall’s enormous “Four Seasons” mural at Chase Plaza.

The Art Institute of Chicago is showing 130 works by Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein through Sept. 3, and through Aug. 19, the Museum of Contemporary Art presents “First Fifty,” the first 50 objects collected by the museum since its founding, including works by Enrico Baj, Alexander Calder and Chuck Close.

4. San Francisco, Calif.
5. Boston, Mass.
6. Philadelphia, Pa.
7. Albuquerque, N.M.
8. Seattle, Wash.
9. Austin, Texas
10. Baltimore, Md.
11. Los Angeles, Calif.
12. Portland, Ore.
13. Columbus, Ohio
14. Denver, Colo.
15. Jacksonville, Fla.
16. Nashville, Tenn.
17. San Diego, Calif.
18. Charlotte, N.C.
19. Dallas, Texas
20. Las Vegas, Nev.
21. San Antonio, Texas
22. Houston, Texas
23. Louisville, Ky.
24. Tucson, Ariz.
25. Phoenix, Ariz.

Top 25 Mid-Size Cities for Art

June 2012 | BY | Issue 80, Summer 2012 | NO COMMENTS

The top 25 mid-size cities for art for 2012 are:

1. St. Petersburg, Fla.

A 20-foot sculpture dominates the entrance to the Chihuly Collection, located a mile east of the Morean Arts Center. CREDIT: Al Hurley Morean Arts Center

Once again, St. Petersburg takes the top spot in the Mid-Size Cities category for its world-famous arts institutions and top-ranked galleries, along with beaches and a lively public and performing arts scene.

Now through Oct. 14, the Museum of Fine Arts presents “Global + Local: Studio and Contemporary Glass on Florida’s West Coast,” featuring more than 60 works from artists including William Morris, Therman Statom, Michael Glancy and Bertil Vallien. The Salvador Dali museum draws special exhibitions from its permanent collection of almost 1,500 Dali paintings, drawing and sculpture.

The city also boasts the Chihuly Collection, a stunning assemblage of Dale Chihuly’s artwork in a breathtaking 10,000-square-foot setting.

2. Dayton, Ohio

Plein air painters are a common sight during the summer in Dayton’s lively Oregon Arts District.

Dayton is known for its aerospace and manufacturing industries, but this Ohio city also boasts an active arts scene. AmericanStyle readers felt so passionate about Dayton that they wrote it in on the official ballot, pushing it to the No. 2 Mid-Size Cities spot. Says reader Phil Chick, the Dayton Art Institute is “one of the best art museums for a city of its size in the country.” And nearby, the Robert & Elaine Stein Galleries at Wright State University holds a collection of contemporary art from the likes of Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons and Lucien Freud.

The prime neighborhood for the city’s arts and culture is the Oregon Arts District. It features visual and performing arts venues and galleries, and hosts First Friday gallery hops. The Cityfolk Festival, June 30-July 1, offers a lively mix of arts, music and dance, plus fireworks on the closing night.

2. Tampa, Fla.

The Henry B. Plant Museum started out as a lavish 511-room hotel, built by the railroad magnate in 1891.

In addition to boasting an exciting nightlife, Tampa is home to a number of prestigious art and cultural museums and institutions. This summer, they’ve got plenty in store for the arts traveler.

Until Sept. 23, the Tampa Museum of Art features an exhibition of work by New York-based artist Erik Levine, whose sculptures and video installations question the definitions and differences of art and utilitarian objects. Through Sept. 16, the museum is also showcasing “A Hundred Years—A Hundred Chairs: Masterworks from the Vitra Design Museum,” with examples from the collections of the German design museum in Weil am Rhein.

To view some elegant Orientalism, visit the Henry B. Plant Museum’s “Japan and the Victorians” exhibit through Dec. 23. Objects in the show point out the distinct influence Japan had on 19th Century American art.

4. Alexandria, Va.
5. New Orleans, La.
6. Savannah, Ga.
7. Miami, Fla.
8. Atlanta, Ga.
9. Cincinnati, Ohio
10. Charleston, S.C.
11. Providence, R.I.
12. Pittsburgh, Pa.
13. Athens, Ga.
14. Boulder, Colo.
15. Salt Lake City, Utah
16. Chattanooga, Tenn.
17. Scottsdale, Ariz.
18. Ann Arbor, Mich.
19. Cleveland, Ohio
20. Kansas City, Mo.
21. Minneapolis, Minn.
22. Colorado Springs, Colo.
23. Raleigh, N.C.
24. St. Louis, Mo.
25. Buffalo, N.Y.

Top 25 Small Cities for Art

June 2012 | BY | Archives, Issue 80, Summer 2012 | NO COMMENTS

The top 25 small cities for art for 2012 are:

1. Sarasota, Fla.

“Lygia and the Bull,” a sculpture based on characters in the 1895 novel Quo Vadis, stands at the entrance to the Ringling Museum of Art.

No one had a bigger impact on Sarasota than John Ringling, of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus fame. Today the Ringling estate includes the Venetian-inspired house, a fine art museum, two circus museums and a theater. This summer, the Ringling features art quilts by Sanford Biggers (through Oct. 14), and “Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945,” opening on July 13.

If you want to get out in the sunshine, there are numerous opportunities to do so. The first Wednesday of each month, St. Armands Circle, a shopping destination with more than 130 galleries and restaurants, comes alive with an evening of visual and performing arts. On Thursdays until Aug. 30, the Ringling Museum opens after hours with “Art After 5.” And on Friday night, downtown Sarasota celebrates the arts with shopping, dining and live performances.

2. Bradenton, Fla.

The Boabab Tree Gallery occupies one of the colorful bungalows in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts.

Bradenton, a sunny locale 45 miles south of Tampa, may not be on your radar for arts destinations yet, but it should be. It’s home to Florida’s largest art colony, the Village of the Arts.

Within a designated 42 acres, the Village of the Arts includes 35 galleries and studios including Divine Excess, featuring colorful Florida folk art, and Baobab Tree Gallery & Studio, which celebrates handmade whimsy. The complex also includes three restaurants and an independent bookseller. Many of the buildings are refurbished historic bungalows, making the village a unique arts tourism attraction. Numbers of studios open their doors for ArtWalk on the first Friday evening and Saturday afternoon of every month, as well as for garden tours and other events throughout the year.

2. Asheville, N.C.

Visitors stroll among the open studios and galleries in Asheville’s lively River Arts District. CREDIT: John D’Addario

With its winning combination of scenic beauty and historic charm, Asheville is a long-time favorite arts destination. The Asheville Art Museum opens its brand-new gallery spaces this summer with an installation by Hoss Haley, a local sculptor and painter. If you hurry, you can still see “Fire on the Mountain: Studio Glass in Western North Carolina,” celebrating the 50th anniversary of the studio glass movement, though July 8.

The River Arts District, a turn-of-the-century industrial hub that’s now a thriving arts-oriented neighborhood along the French Broad River, holds its “Second Saturday Initiative, Collect Art Asheville,” including studio open houses, on the second Saturday of every month. And don’t miss the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, featuring work by more than 200 juried artisans, on July 19-22.

4. Key West, Fla.
5. Santa Fe, N.M.
6. Gloucester, Mass.
7. Sedona, Ariz.
8. Eureka Springs, Ark.
9. Naples, Fla.
10. Berkeley Springs, W.Va.
11. Taos, N.M.
12. Frederick, Md.
13. Carmel, Calif.
14. Annapolis, Md.
15. Burlington, Vt.
16. Laguna Beach, Calif.
17. Aspen, Colo.
18. Chapel Hill, N.C.
19. New Hope, Pa.
20. Northampton, Mass.
21. Berea, Ky.
22. Beaufort, S.C.
23. Corning, N.Y.
24. Brattleboro, Vt.
25. Saugatuck, Mich.

Editor’s Note: Building a Brand New Bucket List

June 2012 | BY | Issue 80, Summer 2012 | NO COMMENTS

Dayton OH
Street painting brings out the crowds in Dayton, Ohio, during Main Street Chalk Walk.

Here are two new place names for you to put on your summer arts travel list: Pittsfield and Dayton.

Despite never having shown up at all on AmericanStyle’s Top 25 Arts Destinations winners lists in years past, Dayton, Ohio—thanks to the overwhelming number of grass-roots-inspired write-in votes we received from readers—took over the No. 2 spot this year in the Mid-Size Cities category.

Until a few years ago, Pittsfield was just a place along Massachusetts Route 7 that Berkshires arts travelers drove through on their way from Lenox to Northampton. That’s definitely not the case any more.
Thanks to the efforts of visionary leaders and fully engaged arts communities, both cities have staked their claims as year-round, must-see destinations for the visual and performing arts.

For Pittsfield, especially, the feeling must be very sweet indeed. It wasn’t all that long ago when the downtown was in serious decline. A major employer had downsized, hundreds of people lost their jobs, and the city’s economic future looked grim. What happened next is nothing short of amazing. Writer Jane Friedman chronicles the city’s shifting fortunes in an article in this issue that will make you smile and give you a whole new location to check out in your travels this summer.

Style Spotlight: One Man’s Stamp of Approval

June 2012 | BY | Issue 80, Summer 2012 | NO COMMENTS

A postcard from crusading artist and designer, Peter Kramer.

If the U.S. Postal Service disappeared, would you miss it? One man decided its absence would be another rung down the ladder of civility and set out, with humor, to do something to save it. In the process, he found out he’s not alone.

Peter Kramer, a Minneapolis-St. Paul-area architect, artist and furniture designer, created 130 regulation-sized postcards for an exhibition at the Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul. For $20, art and snail-mail aficionados could buy a postcard which, when affixed with a stamp and a personal message from the artist, would be sent on to the buyer through regular postal channels at the close of the show in early March.

The response, Kramer reports, was overwhelming. “The opening was so crowded,” he says, “you couldn’t get in.” Within half an hour, the gallery had sold all the postcards, and had taken orders for 100 more.

Kramer admits he was “totally unprepared” for the avid response from postal workers, who crowded the gallery and wanted to have their pictures taken with him. He’s been hearing from people from all over who are happy that he made this effort.

So how many postcards has he sent back so far? Let’s just say he’s going to take the whole lot on vacation with him. It’s fitting that the postmarks will come from towns and cities up and down the country.

To purchase Peter Kramer’s prints or books, contact The Grand Hand Gallery at sales@thegrandhand.com or call 651-312-1122.

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