2013 My Wustum Story - 1st Place

-by Adrianne Paffrath

It is 50 years ago. Summer in Racine, Wisconsin. I am newly arrived from New York City. My New York City means tall apartment houses - Broadway and 116th Street. Crowded, noisy, sometimes unsafe. The real West Side. Now, in this midwest town, I stand on the green, blue-gray Lake Michigan shore, viewing water to the horizon. In the county I can gaze on farmers’ crops, lavender clover large and beautiful, and the sight washes over me.

In my New York City at Riverside Church I had enrolled in an adult education water color class taught by a quiet, insightful Asian woman. We paint birds in a Chinese style. I learn an amazing way to start those paintings. We are taught to begin with the beak. I love the class, how painting opens me up to other worlds, and the way the birds came alive on my paper.

Seemingly by chance, in that Racine summer of the 1960s I meet someone who continues to weave the thread of water color. After a brief acquaintance she is inviting me to her home, an old, elegant house, which is also an art museum, a placed called Wustum. She offers to set up a painting subject on her picnic table and invites me to paint each week. She is charming and so is the place. The calm, the old barn, the leafy trees, a refuge. I experience the Wustum atmosphere in a personal way.

 

Former Executive Director Sylvester Jerry (left) with wife Cherry (seated, left) pose with students on the front porch of RAM's Wustum Museum

In that 50-year-ago Racine summer, Cherry Jerry gives me such a magical gift at this place called Wustum. It inspires, nurtures and enlightens me. It’s the beginning of what becomes a joyful journey of mixing colors, of painting formally and informally, of seeing. It continues in the Wustum classes I take today.