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Washington, Pride of Place

[Exhibition from Summer-Fall 2000]

"View of Kinney Hill Road"
Watercolor by Wendell Minor
Guest Curators Ken Cornet and Joe Mustich of Washington, assisted by former Gunn Curator Sarah Griswold, mounted an extraordinary exhibit of Washington landscapes in all media at the Gunn Historical Museum. Titled "Washington, Pride of Place," the show closed October 15, 2000.

A program of gallery talks (see below) with the curators and artists of this exhibit was held on Thursday evenings from August 24 through October 12. Attendance and interest were high! The show and series culminated in a presentation of the Washington Ad Hoc Conservation Committee's inventory of the town's natural, agricultural, geologic, historic and esthetic resources. Their full report will be available soon from the Town Hall.

Over the years Washington has been the beneficiary of affection backed with activism, and so has preserved significant parts of its landscape and heritage, from the Steep Rock Reservation originally preserved by Ehrick Rossiter, to the creation of the Calhoun Street Historic District, which set the standard for the preservation of historic rural landscapes in Connecticut.

Due in large part to the diverse rural beauty of farmscape mixed with wild landscapes, coupled with a proximity to New York City that is nevertheless not too close, Washington has been a magnet for creative people of all disciplines for well over a century. Starting in the 1870s, as affluent alumni of Frederick Gunn’s school, now known as The Gunnery School, returned to the town of their youth to build summer homes, the landscapes of Washington have inspired love and devotion. Their efforts to preserve what they loved have in turn invited scores of artists to represent the varied landscapes.

The Gunn was pleased to share some of these representations done by a wide array of Washington’s artists. From William Hamilton Gibson’s precise 19th Century drawings to Andrew Forge’s pointillist abstractions of the 1990s, the land provides the starting point for a vast range of points of view. Sometimes the artists’ involvement in the town have spilled over, as with the use of Charles Raskob Robinson’s painting "Low Water: Shepaug River" in support of the recent efforts to restore water flow to that river, or with the use of noted illustrator Wendell Minor’s watercolor for the cover of the local Conservation Committee’s recent report. As these artists are often the first to understand, the resources of the land, both natural and farmland, are fragile, and increasingly vulnerable to the juggernaut of "progress".

"Washington, Pride of Place" Gallery Talks

Sarah Griswold, former curator of the Museum, along with Ken Cornet and Joe Mustich, guest curators of the exhibit, began the series with an historical overview of the Washington landscape and a discussion of the exhibit as a whole. Subsequent talks by artists represented in the exhibit were as follows: Washington, Connecticut is blessed by a combination of natural and social environments that have inspired and supported the work of artists for well over one hundred years. "Washington, Pride of Place" celebrated both of these environments with more than 150 works in various media done by over 60 artists.

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