Keeping Memories Alive

By: Kathy Kelsey Foley, director on January 27th, 2010

In Search of Norman Rockwell’s America closed this past Sunday and the overwhelmingly positive response to the exhibition reminded me once again of the powerful ability of artworks to trigger memories.

The stories that visitors shared with staff in conversation and through notes posted to the comment board reinforced the importance of our “stories” and the need to preserve and celebrate these stories – our histories – in both written and oral form.

As if these emotions weren’t compelling enough, I received a phone call at the end of last week that further reinforced this message.

Cliff Vanderwall, a sharp and sprightly nonagenarian, called to thank me for a thank you. His greatly appreciated call was heartfelt and further inspiration for this blog entry.

For the past fifteen years or so, Mr. Vanderwall served as president of the Thomas H. Jacob Foundation. He and I touched base from time to time as the Foundation had a long history of supporting Woodson Art Museum projects. The connection dates back to former Museum Board President John Ullrich’s involvement as an advisor to Mr. and Mrs. Jacob and to the Jacob Foundation, and the later participation of John’s wife, Doris.

Over the years, the Jacob Foundation supported summer art camp scholarships for aspiring student artists and, more recently, OctoBIRDfest, the Museum’s annual bird-themed family festival.

Jacob Foundation directors made the decision some time ago to expend the Foundation’s assets, which effectively meant it would cease to exist. While not a pleasant thought initially, there is a happy ending in that Mr. Vanderwall and fellow directors identified a number of community projects that would benefit from a final grant.

A Woodson Art Museum small-scale outdoor sculpture scavenger hunt was among the funded projects.

We’ll keep history and memories alive through enchanting garden sculptures and label content (stay tuned for more on this project) that recognize in perpetuity the generosity of the Thomas H. Jacob Foundation and also John and Doris Ullrich.

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