July’s Message from the PHL Director: “ABC of Reading”

July's Director Column

This pandemic has changed just about everything. There are some practices though that will never change and reading is near the top of the list. Now when you combine that with art, I think you got a winner. 

In the past, I have written about some wonderful partnerships the library has been fortunate to be involved in however one of the most rewarding has been with the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art. Over the years we have engaged in joint activities such as art lectures at the library with the “Appetite for Art” program, children art storytimes at Leepa-Rattner, professional museum assistance in selecting art for the library’s John Brock Art Alcove and perhaps my favorite, an art book club at the museum.

Technically it’s called the ABC Reading Club (Arts, Books and Community) and we have been meeting now for over 10 years. The art titles vary from biographies to particular works of art to history to general art movements. We meet every other month on a Monday (the museum is located at St. Pete College/ Tarpon Springs campus) at 11:30 am. The pandemic had sidelined our get-togethers for a bit but as of this writing, we will be meeting again at Leepa-Rattner. If there’s a change, a virtual meeting will be arranged. Here’s what we’ll be reading and discussing in 2020-21:

July 27 – Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Michael Gross
“Behind almost every painting is a fortune and behind that a sin or a crime.”  With these words as a starting point, Michael Gross, leading chronicler of the American rich, begins the first independent, unauthorized look at the saga of the nation’s greatest museum.

September 28 – Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
A professor invites a colleague from the art department to his home to see a painting that he has kept secret for decades. The professor swears it is a Vermeer—why has he hidden this important work for so long? The reasons unfold in a series of stories that trace the ownership of the painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work’s inspiration.

November 30 – The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made by Flora Miller Biddle
Until Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney opened her studio on Eighth Street in Manhattan in 1914—which evolved into the Whitney Museum almost two decades later—there were few art museums in the United States, let alone galleries, for contemporary artists to exhibit their work. When the mansions of the wealthy cried out for decorative art, they sought it from Europe, then the art capital of the world. It was in her tiny sculptor’s studio in Greenwich Village that Whitney began holding exhibitions of contemporary American artists. 

January 25 – The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr
An Italian village on a hilltop near the Adriatic coast, a decaying palazzo facing the sea, and in the basement, cobwebbed and dusty, lit by a single bulb, an archive unknown to scholars. Here, a young graduate student from Rome, Francesca Cappelletti, makes a discovery that inspires a search for a work of art of incalculable value, a painting lost for almost two centuries.

March 29 – In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art by Sue Roe
When the young Pablo Picasso first arrived in Paris in 1900, the most progressive young artists all lived and worked in the seedy hillside quarter of Montmartre, in the shade of the old windmills. Over the next decade, among the studios, salons, cafés, dance halls, and galleries of Montmartre, the young Spaniard joined the likes of Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Constantin Brancusi, Gertrude Stein, and many more in revolutionizing artistic expression.

So if you too like a sparkling conversation, want to be part of a local art scene and you like books…you can be part of something really enjoyable. We’ll save you a chair.


Gene P. Coppola, Library Director Palm Harbor Library

Author: Tamara

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