April 26, 2021


When I began working with Steve in Nashville, I continued wrapping up my work in downtown Columbia for several months.  Most Thursdays I would drive about eight hours to South Carolina, enjoying the drive through the western North Carolina mountains, work there Friday, and stay at my house for the weekend.  Then back to Nashville to work.  The commute almost began to feel normal!  

The International Downtown Association (IDA) had an annual conference each fall—and it was in Pittsburgh that year.  One of the downtown Board members in Columbia was a real estate broker Ed Garrison. We drove together from Columbia to Pittsburgh for the conference. My friends the Perrins were from Pittsburgh and loved their hometown, so I was anxious to experience it for myself.  When we drove through the tunnel and emerged to the view of downtown Pittsburgh, with its three rivers, bridges and Mount Washington, it did not disappoint!

In addition to hearing presentations from downtown leaders from around the country and meeting other people working for downtown groups like ours, IDA offered a series of social activities each evening. One was a reception and cocktail party at the Andy Warhol Museum, one of four Carnegie Museums in the city. 

The Pop-Art icon died in 1987, and by 1994 this museum opened in his native city of Pittsburgh.  A 7-story industrial warehouse was converted into the museum containing the largest collection of Warhol’s paintings, videos and films. In this photo, I’m posing with an Andy Warhol impersonator who was part of the evening’s entertainment! Warhol’s Time Capsules consisted of 610 cardboard boxes he carefully filled with random everyday possessions, then sealed and numbered each box and sent it to storage.  I read that over the years, the museum staff have begun opening the boxes one at a time and cataloguing all the “junk” (300,000 items in all).

Yesterday Heather and I went to the Frist Art Museum downtown to see an exhibition of Picasso’s works on loan from the Musee national Picasso-Paris. Everyone was wearing a mask and socially distancing. Timed tickets were required to limit the crowd size. It was wonderful to be there after not going for over a year because of the pandemic!  Today Margaret Renkl of Nashville had a wonderful Guest Essay on “The Picassos of the American South” in the New York Times. In talking about going to this Picasso exhibition, she said, “Showing up for it was a civic duty as well as an artistic one.”  The sold-out ticket holders each day seem to confirm that.

Renkl also said somehow looking at some of Picasso’s paintings “reminded me of the self-taught Howard Finster.”

Finster lived in rural Georgia until his death at 84 in 2001. She said she had one of Finster’s works—a plywood leopard—on a bookcase in her family room.  

We became interested in Finster’s work when a Columbia family loaned their collection of his paintings for an exhibition at the art museum there. In 2004, I was browsing in the upper floor of The Arts Company in downtown Nashville and found several of Finster’s plywood paintings.  One was a lion—painted just after the Persian Gulf War in 1991.  I kept picking it up and putting it back, until another customer approached me.  “You love that lion,” he said.  “You need to buy it!”  Now I have a plywood lion of Finster’s on a bookcase in my living room. 

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