And yet another connection comes via the website.
In some of our previous posts, we’ve talked about how great it is that our website has brought us together with fans, and even collectors, of Jan’s work. Most recently, we discovered a two-degrees-of-separation connection, but a wonderful one, nonetheless.
About a year ago, we were contacted by a collector - Michael and his wife - who owned more than sixty lithographs made by Jan in the latter years of his life. (It is their collection that serves as the basis for the exhibition of Jan’s lithographs and watercolors that opens this December in Portland, OR.)
In the process of working on the exhibition, Michael mentioned that he had given several of Jan’s lithos to a long-time friend who teaches art. We connected with the teacher – Jeanne Donato – and chatted with her about the lithos and how they played a significant role in bringing art to many high schoolers over the years. Here are some of the highlights of that conversation:
Peter and Marie: We understand that you are a friend of Balet lithograph collector, Michael Paolercio. How did you meet him?
Jeanne: Oh, I’ve known Michael since high school. He was actually our student body president and I remember that a speech he gave back then still sticks in my memory. I always thought it was funny because Michael probably thought if anyone would remember a speech he gave, it wouldn’t be me. We’re opposites… he is quiet and conservative… I am not.
Peter and Marie: Did you keep in touch?
Jeanne: Many of the people we went to high school with continue to meet for reunions and just smaller get-togethers and Michael is often there so we have kept in touch to this day.
Peter and Marie: How did Michael come to give you some of his lithographs?
Jeanne: One day, we were at one of these get-togethers and we started talking about art. Since I was an art teacher, Michael brought up the fact that he had been collecting lithographs by this German-American artist – Jan Balet - for quite some time and had some duplicates. That led to his asking if I might be able to make use of them for my classroom.
Peter and Marie: Had you heard of Jan before this?
Jeanne: No. I hadn’t. But Michael was so enthusiastic about his work that I was intrigued.
Peter and Marie: And what was your reaction to the offer?
Jeanne: I was thrilled. Of course, I went home and did some research about Balet and his work. But having the actual prints was such a tremendous gift. For more than thirty years, I taught at an urban high school where most of the students had limited, or no, exposure to the arts. In my class, they saw images in books, projected on a screen, and sometimes they got to see the actual art on rare trips to museums. However, with the prints, the students could actually see the artist’s work – right in our classroom!
Note: Our next blog entry will continue Jeanne’s story of how the gift of Balet’s lithos enriched her teaching and students’ learning experience.