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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Just Who Is Jean Rodenbough, Anyway? (for my ATTMP posting)

Let me tell you:  I was eight years old and we were in Honolulu, Hawaii.  My father was an Army doctor.  Early one morning in December our family woke up to loud sounds that first seemed like the Navy practicing their firing.  But it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The days following were the beginning of a time that changed everything for me.

Many years later, I thought of that time, of the effects on my psyche from the nearness of that war.  I wondered then what must it have been like for children who were living in the midst of war?  And I began researching stories, gathering stories from friends I had known recently, and those from my own childhood, about how they experienced World War II.

The book that resulted, Rachel’s Children: Surviving the Second World War, was published in 2010 and has been read by those who lived through those times, and those who were born long after such a war.  The book describes the tragedy and outrage that wars carry in their paths.  My stories are commented on by brief poems and reflections, to provide some distance from the pain of those years. 

Now in my late 70’s, I feel some release for my own emotional reactions.  It is in telling our story and reliving the experience not only of our own lives, but the stories of others which verify our own, that make us whole.  I am glad to have made the effort, and appreciate All Things That Matter Press for publishing it.

Now I work on another collection of stories, this time of animals who have been tragically abused, mistreated, abandoned.  The stories tell of the caring human beings who have taken these animals into their own lives and made pets of them.  Poems will be the commentary for the situations that at last have given peace and love to these creatures: dogs, cats, birds, and all four and two-legged beings.

Pimping for the Arts

There are a number of colleges and universities who have exhibits and collections as their special offerings to students and the public.  I'm thinking particularly about art collections.  Yet in these tight times for higher education, those institutions may tend to see the art hanging on their walls or in their museum collections as a way to salvage lagging income from foundations, alumnae and alumni, and the general public.

Instead of considering these invaluable learning opportunities as profound and important to the education of those in these institutions, they are at times viewed as cash cows.  In one small Virginia college, where a museum on campus houses some of the finest examples of American art gathered in one site, this prostituting of the art is practiced, agreed upon by both the college administration and the Board of Trustees.  At present, several are in the hands of Christie's waiting for good sales.  One of the paintings, George Bellows' "Men of the Docks," the most valuable by far, is leaving Christie's for a tour of several art museums showing a Bellows collection.  It will be in Washington, DC, New York City, and London.

The college is touting this as a wonderful gift to bring to the eyes of public, gaining recognition for the college.  The other side of this matter, however, is that by sending the Bellows out with other works by the artist, it is a way to seek possible sales.  I call this practice "pimping the arts."  After Bellows, will other paintings still held by Christie's from that college museum be sent out seeking to bring millions of dollars as well into the coffers of the college? 

In the meantime, students have been denied the power of seeing on a daily basis these wonderful works.  To switch from using the art collection as an educational tool for both the college and the surrounding areas to appreciate, the practice is being used to bring in needed monies for the college.  This action is condemned by the many art museum associations around the country, while the college administrators ignore the admonitions.

I find such behavior appalling and have made efforts to bring this treatment of art before the public.  The story of this one small college is simply an example of what has taken place in some form or another in institutions elsewhere.  Only a public outcry and withholding of donations to these institutions will have any positive effect.  It is a disgrace for such to be done to our art treasures gathered for the enlightenment of the public and education for students.