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A Sunday in Good Company

RebeccaThis past Sunday, I was a part of a tour of the latest exhibit at The American Visionary Art Museum, Race/Class/Gender≠Character, hosted by the museum’s director Rebecca Hoffberger. If you ever get a chance to tour an exhibit with Rebecca, take it. She’s brilliant and very funny and has more amazing, obscure information than anyone I’ve ever met. I'm always wondering, How does she know that? or most often, did she really say that?

A highlight of the evening was spending time over dinner with Pulitzer Prize-winning civil rights historian Taylor Branch and civil rights leader Julian Bond. Taylor is preparing for a tour promoting his latest book, At Canaan's Edge, to begin in January. I was preaching the benefits of having a blog for his road trip, to post about his experiences and podcasts of his interviews. It may happen, and it would be a great resource. Taylor's books are an amazing collection of the personal, social, and political associations that brought about the movement for civil rights; a lovely holiday gift.

Julian Bond is a very kind gentle man with, as you would expect, many stories to tell. One that was of particular interest concerned his father, Horace Bond, who was the eighth president of Lincoln University, the university that also oversees The Barnes Foundation. As the child of the university president, Julian got to meet Dr. Barnes many times. He mentioned one time when he and his sister accompanied their mother to the museum. His mother was speaking with Dr. Barnes, and Julian and his sister were playing in another gallery. Dr. Barnes heard them and asked what the noise was. Mrs. Bond told him it was her children playing, and he replied, “Well tell them to shut up.” Cranky.

We both bemoaned the move of the Barnes collection to Philadelphia. We both felt that Dr. Barnes would turn over in his grave and the spirit of the place will never be replicated. We’re sniffling over spilt milk now, but Julian believes the details could have been worked out. The money could have been raised, the collection stabilized, the neighbors could have been appeased; all in its original quirky home in Merion.


Charles T. Downey said...

"...has more amazing, obscure information than anyone I’ve ever met."

Mark, I'll try not to have my feelings hurt by this. I don't know about amazing, but I like to think of myself as in competition for the obscure part of this award.

Mark Barry said...

I feel an obscure-off coming on. The beer is on me,