"The Creative Spirit" of the Connecticut Valley now on display at Springfield Museums.
The Springfield Museums house a goldmine of fine art, scientific objects and historical artifacts, but only a fraction can be put on display at any given time. This has meant that some treasures sit in storage for years. Among these pieces are many works by local artists who plied their trades in the rich environs of the Connecticut River Valley. The Connecticut Valley Historical Museum is putting the spotlight on some of these overlooked works in a current exhibit called "The Creative Spirit: Artists and Craftsmen of the Valley," now on view through August 27, 2006. "The artists in the exhibit all lived at different times but the unifying theme is that their ideas all came from living in the Greater Springfield area," said Guy McLain, director of the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum. "These are some of the most beautiful items in the museum, but they haven't been seen in a while." The collection includes the offbeat sketches of Theodor (Dr. Seuss) Geisel, somber portraits by James Sanford Ellsworth, and 20th century "Breck Girls" drawn by Charles G. Sheldon. Some of the more notable artists in the collection include Ralph Earl and Chester Harding, both who later painted presidential portraits. Among numerous other pieces, the exhibit also features paintings by pioneering woman artist Irene Parmalee, furniture by William Lloyd and others, and violins crafted by local artisans J.N. Hemmenway and W.W. Wallace. The exhibit showcases both the similarities and differences of local artists throughout the past 200-plus years. It also shows how the blossoming of local art grew hand-in-hand with the development of the city. "If you look back at Springfield in the 1780s, no one could afford art, so there isn't much from that period," McLain said. "But once there is some demand for art, it starts to grow and you begin to see a social support system for artists in the area." The exhibit also spotlights other local paintings, furniture pieces and even some amateur needlework from schools in the area. A video presentation runs continuously in the hall, providing a multi-media backdrop to the exhibit.