What a joy to stand in a theatre you've loved since college, to look out into the audience and spot family and friends, to share your work with an engaged, enthusiastic local audience! What an absolute thrill was January 12 at the Academy of Music in Northampton. And what a turnout! I'm told some 350 showed up for WGBY's screening of Episode 1 of the 3-part series Currier & Ives: Perspectives on America, which will air on Channel 57 throughout western New England on February 25 at 9pm. As someone who grew up in this area but who was been away from the region for about 20 years, the day was the ultimate homecoming. Plus I got to say "Hi, Mom!" to Mrs. Dorothy Steele.
The Academy screening was the largest of three screenings that took place over the weekend. On Sunday, a private event was held at the Springfield Museums to celebrate supporters of WGBY and the Springfield Museums. Part 1 was screened here, as well, and Chris Lane of the Philadelphia Print Shop and PBS' 'Antiques Road Show' gave a fabulously informative presentation with even more background on The Printmakers to the People. Lane is a wonderful speaker and renders complicated concepts entirely digestible. On Friday, a couple of dozen folks braved a pea-soup fog and nasty rain to join us for an intimate screening at Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock, Massachusetts. The small size of the group helped make it feel like a gathering of friends enjoying a lively conversation after the screening - great fun! Again, I enjoyed the engaged, inquisitive, and enthusiastic audience.
The response to the show hints to me that our timing is good -- that New Englanders, and probably all Americans, are interested in learning more about this subject at this time. Why is that important? Because without reminders like this programming, interest inevitably will wane and these images may cease to resonate with younger generations. Their relevance will lessen. I care less that dollar values will drop than I care about the priceless history that will be lost.
This entry must be short because the editing continues! We are working on Part 2, which is shaping up to have a slower pace than Part 1, a nice change. The first episode was rather quickly paced out of necessity because it serves as an overview and is extremely comprehensive. In Episode 2, we honor the artists behind the iconic images and follow the passion of Currier & Ives collectors like John Zak and Sid Alpert, both instrumental to the success of this educational partnerhip. Both men are also victims of the "magnificent obsession" of collecting, as an audience member called it over the weekend!
I'll keep you posted. Thanks to the Academy of Music and everyone who attended the screenings!!