Julia Alekseyeva emigrated to the United States from Russia when she was four years old. Her relationship with most members of her family was fraught. But her great-grandmother, Lola, reflected her own personality and they developed an especially close bond despite nearly 80 years difference in age. Lola, like many other Jews who had been marginalized and persecuted in the pre-Soviet era, had become a member of the Communist party. She later became secretary, devoted but exploited, to the NKVD, predecessor of the KGB. The years leading up to and through the war years were a time of struggle and deprivation. Lola's husband, sent off to fight, and many other family members fell victim to the Nazis. In "Soviet Daughter," a graphic biography, Alekseyeva recounts Lulu's sweeping 100 year story based on memoirs her great grandmother had secretly kept. Alekseyeva places "Interludes" between some chapters of the book which weave in her own personal history- growing up an immigrant, overcoming thyroid cancer (precipitated by Chernobyl radiation exposure) navigating her college years and discovering her sexual, Jewish and political identities. Near the end, lost in grief after the death of her beloved Lola, Alekseyeva receives a phone call. She has been accepted into the Comparative Literature Department at Harvard. Alekseyeva has also authored illustrated works on Rosa Luxembourg and Walter Benjamin. At "Book Paper Scissors! an artists' book fair at the Free Library on the Parkway, cosponsored by the Philadelphia Center for the Book, these were on display along with Soviet Daughter. Rounding out her display were Yuri Gagarin t-shirts and other t-shirts embellished with a pineapple and written across the pineapple Alekseyeva's DJ name - “Comrade Pineapple.” Watch here the author artist describe her graphic memoir about her one hundred year old Russian great-grandmother.
Upper Bucks Chamber and Visitors Center Executive Director Danielle Bodnar treated your correspondent to a little tour of the Center's museum. A 1902 motorized buggy is one of the many treasures on display. The Chamber partners with The Quakertown Historical Society which provides historical artwork, memorabilia and binders of old newspaper clippings and photographs and more for the center museum. Bodnar says people like to come in and take a trip down memory lane by searching the archived Quakertown High School yearbooks for, say, pictures of their grandparents or to research some family genealogy. Outside the Center, she pointed out historic Liberty Hall across the way where the Liberty Bell was temporarily hidden on its way from Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War to keep it safe from the British. And Bodnar added that the Richard Moore house on Main Street will be honored this September 14th for keeping escaped slaves safe during civil war times. A historical marker will be placed at the building which served as an important stop on the Underground Railroad. Watch highlights of Quakertown visitor center tour here.
At Philadelphia's Juneteenth celebration in Germantown, Iraina Salaam performs a libation ceremony in honor of African ancestors as members of Boy Scout Troop 1719 and the Tyehimba drum group look on. Juneteenth, June 19th, is a celebration that marks the day in 1865, two and a half years after the emancipation proclamation when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of slavery. Also in the video Cerise Dash sings "Oh Freedom," a spiritual. Watch video of Germantown, Philadelphia's Juneteenth emancipation from slavery celebration featuring a libation ceremony, gospel spirituals, colored Union infantry troops and more
Author Cheryl Woodruff-Brooks sells copies of her recent book with many photographs by noted photographer John W Mosley about the racially segregated beach between Mississippi and Missouri Avenues in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Dorothy Brown, 69, has lived on her family's property in Solebury township on Old Windybush Road nearly all her life, first in the house up the hill, where her brother lives, and now in the house her grandmother had built as a retirement home. Four generations have enjoyed extended family living between the two houses. Brown relishes the sounds, the smells and the people that she knows so well and figures she's the oldest resident in the township. Old Windybush Road was the main route for farmers bringing their produce to sell in Philadelphia. There was a watering trough for horses across the road and a blacksmith's down the road where the farmers could get their horses shod. The area has become very developed over the years but bond issues have allowed the purchase of development rights to preserve thirty percent as farmland and open space. Watch video interview about historic Solebury township.
Click this link to a video where Dorothy Brown shows an 8 pound cannon ball dating back to the Revolutionary War that her daughter found sticking out of the mud on her way home from work at an ice cream store in New Hope. Brown recounts that the British were bombarding the colonists from the New Jersey side of the Delaware River after Washington had commandeered all their boats.
"I wanted to give this class because I wanted to paint like Pollock with a group of people who want to paint like Pollock." This is how artist Kay Gering introduced her workshop students at a multi-generational cooperative camp in Ottsville, PA (ECRS) to the drip and splash technique of abstract expressionistic Jackson Pollock. Pollock pioneered the form in the 1940s and early 1950s. He was much more interested in the physical act of making art than the results on canvas, Gering explained. With dozens of colorful, acrylic house-paints donated by her contacts, Gering set her group out with cups, straws and sticks to create Pollock-like art on oversize white and black canvases and to over paint some smaller art reproductions. Your correspondent interviewed one participant, T, as she moved about the canvases, paint cup in hand. For her, the class had special significance. T recently attended the critically acclaimed stage production of the French produced "Pollock" in which her daughter starred as Pollock's ambitious artist wife, Lee Krasner. Watch campers, young and old, splash paint on large canvases in imitation of abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock.
At a preservation workshop through the Mount Airy Learning Tree, Free Library of Philadelphia conservator and private consultant Meg Newburger explained, often in hushed tones, the threats to books, paintings, ephemera and other treasured objects posed by aging and exposure to the environment and pests. Then she conducted a hands-on demonstration of the archival materials and methods for keeping our precious items intact for posterity, an art and science she had clearly mastered
The “Travers 5” students at Trenton State College in Ewing, New Jersey were an “intentional democratic community” of young men and women on the fifth floor of the Travers dorm in 1976-1977 and 1977-1978. They governed themselves and with the $5000 they received for cleaning the bathrooms, they re-signed from “men” and “women” to “people” they went on camping trips and held bi-weekly parties. On April 28, 2018, forty years later, some 25 of their number including your correspondent’s spouse descended upon what is now “The College of New Jersey” for Alumni day festivities on the much renovated campus and gleefully revisited the bright student painted hallways where they once lived, studied and caroused. Watch video of alumni reunion 1970s coed dorm students with their unisex bathrooms and parties.
Vera McChesney, 104 years old, graduated with a degree in early education in the first class, 1934, from the all women Trenton Normal School at its new location at Hillwood Lakes in Ewing, New Jersey. Accompanied by her nephew Sam Persi on April 28, 2018, she was honored as the most senior at alumni day celebrations at what is now The College of New Jersey. Attending her class’s 84th reunion, she bested the next most senior alum by 19 years. Her nephew recounts she acquired two graduate degrees and retired as director of library services for the Mesa public schools in Arizona. Watch video of oldest alumna by far at the Trentnon Normal (State)/ The College of New Jersey alumni day.
On a warm early spring day Tony Roman was setting out vintage items for a yard sale. First catching your correspondent’s eye was his Aunt Phil‘s ornately framed convex mirror. According to Roman, she had picked it up at a yard sale on Lincoln Drive in 1930. 88 years later here it was back in a yard sale! A handsome high wooden chair with a low back took on additional appeal when Roman explained that it’s a draftsman’s chair specifically designed with slightly shorter front legs so as to tilt the draftsperson forward over the work table. An early Bendix record player housed in a wooden cabinet with storage space below for records was also on offer. Senior talks about vintage furniture, sterio, draftsman's chair, convex mirror at yard sale in video interview
OCTOBER 3, 2019 UPDATE: SUBSTANTIAL DELAYS IN PROJECT, DETAILS TO FOLLOW
Bradley Maule, pictured above reports:
Mural Arts Jane Golden and Cathy Harris have yet to respond to the question posed October 3, 2019 "Will you open the call for artists again since it will soon be be nearly two years since the call went out (February 26, 2018)? "
5/21/2018 UPDATE: According to Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, the selection committee is seeking additional submissions but anyone visiting the official website for the project http://mtairyusa.org/cresheimproject/ would not know that the deadline of April 13 for artist submissions has been extended.
Before a couple dozen community members at the newly renovated Lovett Library this past Monday evening, Cathy Harris of Philadelphia Mural Arts issues a call for artists to design a mural for the rusted abandoned railway trestle over Germantown Avenue below Cresheim Valley Drive. First envisioned fifteen years ago, the project is being relaunched now that the City of Philadelphia is acquiring the former Pennsylvania Railroad trestle from PECO. Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, a project partner, provided historical information on the structure and Mural Arts founder Jane Golden encouraged attendees to "spread the word" to artists to answer the "Call for Submissions." The Deadline for submissions is April 13, 2018. Your correspondent has posted a PDF of the "Cresheim Trail Mural Project Call for Submissions" here until it becomes available online from the collaborative which also includes the Trolley Car Diner, Friends of the Cresheim Trail (FoCT), Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, Chestnut Hill Rotary, the Mount Airy Learning Tree and ChestnutHIllPa. The abandoned railroad is being converted to a trail linking Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill with Springfield Township. See reporter Sue Ann Rybak's coverage in the January 18, 2018 Chestnut Hill Local The mural’s completion is intended to coincide with the opening of the extension to the existing trail which begins at Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive. In June the public is welcomed to vote "in several community locations" to choose a winner from among a handful of proposals narrowed down by Mural Arts. After the meeting, I approached Sam Hanna who had been intently taking notes during the presentations. As a business account manager for the Center for Employment Opportunities, Hanna planned to relay what he had learned to a client. While in prison for twenty years, that client began to do art. And after getting out last year at the time of the Monday evening meeting, was at a job he had just started. Things are looking up.
(In the photo left to right -standing: Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, Jane Golden and Cathy Harris of Mural Arts Philadelphia, seated 2nd from left- Sam Hanna of CEO and Judy Weinstein of MALT)
A couple blocks away from the Alexandria Virginia Archaeological Museum, sea biscuits were found at the site where a bakery stood in the early 1800s. Also known as hardtack, the biscuits were food for long distance travelers and sailors because flour mixed with water then baked dry could last without spoiling (for a long time) At the museum on New Year’s Eve day, archaeologist Hilary Huley, helped visitors like your correspondent mold and imprint our own sea biscuits to take home for baking (but not consuming) Watch video making hardtack in historical Old Town Alexandria Virginia