Monday, June 6, 2011

More Rockport memories

Aldro Hibbard painting in the collection of the Rockport Art Association

Much of the Rockport art colony revolved around the RAA (Rockport Art Association). The Art association was founded in 1929 and acquired an old tavern building built in 1789 at the very center of Rockport, essentially the best located property in town. Founded by a group of artists to show their art and promote the visual arts the RAA has been in operation over 90 years. Making it one of the oldest operations of its kind in the country. One of its founding members and Rockports most famous artist Aldro Hibbard was not the first president, but did serve as president for many years somewhat later.

An enormous gallery with barnlike proportions was built shortly during the depression and is now named in Hibbards honor. Behind that the smaller Maddocks gallery is also from the late 1700's. Admission to the RAA is free and visitors can see the work of up to several hundred artist members on display. membership is juried (in fact I will serve on that jury next year).

When I arrived in Rockport with no money I secured a very part time position as the janitor there. Here is that story.

I arrived at the start of winter and found as room in an inn that was willing to rent me a room at a very low weekly rate rather than have that room sit empty all winter. I gave them nearly my last dollar for the weeks rent. The owner of the inn mentioned to me that the RAA was looking for employees. There had been some kind of meltdown there a week or two before and the new president John Manship ( son of great American sculptor Paul Manship who created the golden Prometheus unbound statue that flies across the back wall of the skating rink at Rockefeller center) had fired everyone on the staff. A new director Ann Fisk ( daughter of the artist Todd Lindenmuth) was in place and I went up the ancient red stairs to her office on the second floor of the old tavern building. I looked pretty rough, I had been on the road for a month and living in friends apartments in Boston. She gave me the old don't call us, we'll call you routine. I went back down those narrow stairs and as I opened the front door I noticed a fine coat of snow on the front walk, it might have been dry leaves, try as I can, I can't remember which, but I decided I would just go to work despite her ambivalent attitude toward my employment.

Reynolds Beal the grandson of American impressionist painter Reynolds Beal was already on the payroll and quickly figured out what I was up to. With a sly wink he opened the door to the janitors closet beneath those same stairs and reaching in, handed me the broom. We were instant friends.

I cleaned whatever the hell it was off the wide flagstone walk up to the front door and then began my unofficial janitorial duties. Ann Fisk didn't figure out I was on the job for an hour or two, and when she did she realized I solved at least a small part of he employee problem or maybe she saw the humor in my taking the job unbidden and let me continue.

In the position there as janitor for a couple of hours each morning over the course of that winter I quickly knew everyone that frequented the place, staff, and members artists. But I was still sort of invisible, a new janitor doesn't get a lot of attention. In retrospect I realize that it was an ideal situation, within a month I knew all of the players in the art gallery that had become my new home.

The RAA is a place where the histoiry seeps out of the walls at you. I quickly developed a great fondness for the pace. I liked getting to kn ow the rooms and walls that my hero Aldro Hibbard had known so well. I moved to Rockport because of my admiration for Aldro Hibbard and now I was immersed in the RaAA which was his legacy. The membership had a real high average age, but there was a critical mass of talented professional artists who either lived in Rockport or came every summer from around the nation to participate in the still vibrant art colony.


billspaintingmn said...

...And you did it Stape! You took charge and did it!

Hemraj said...
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Deborah Paris said...

Such great stories Stape. So glad you are writing them down.

Philip Koch said...

One of these darned days I'll get myself to Rockport.
Great story.

It's all making me relfect more upon how artists became who they are. For each of us it's a fascinating story- IF one can find the right words to bring it to life. I think these Rockport stories are an excellent example of just that.

I have some good memories cooking from my distant past. Will have to figure out how to put them in some new blog posts as well.

Lucy said...

It's wonderful to document these great stories. What was the art like that was being made and shown then?

Stapleton Kearns said...

It was either that or starve.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deborah Paris;
I am surprised how much interest there is in this.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip Koch;
I will look forward to reading those.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Lucy ;
That is a good idea for a blog post.