Where has summer gone?

Haven’t posted in a while as I’ve been crazy busy.  When we got home from Florida in mid-March we went as usual to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament where we got to judge again.  Very fun. Then it was time to get down to work.  I was hoping to get a large enough body of work (paintings) to have a solo exhibit at the Greenfield Gallery.  This is a relatively new gallery in town and it is a beautiful space with some great owners–Kate and Rachel.  My plan was to put together work from our trip to South Africa.  I did enough to convince them to give me a show in October.  This took a lot of work and kept me busy until mid-July when our granddaughters came to visit.

We did have a short trip in June to visit our dear friends Jane and Hsein Hsin Chang

Jane and I at Botanical Gardens

in Minneapolis.  Jane and I were co-presidents of our arts co-op for 2 or 3 years.  They moved back to Jane’s hometown area several years ago and we finally got to visit her new place.  We got the grand tour of the area including the Minneapolis Art Institute, the Botanical Garden and Minnehaha Falls.

Hsein-Hsin and Denny
Hsein Hsin and Denny at Minnehaha Falls
minnehaha falls 2
Minnehaha Falls

In mid-July our 2 granddaughters came to visit.   Tessa (17) was only able to spend a week with us but we packed it full.  We had a fun night of Mexican train dominoes, they went to the Y with me and played pickle ball, we had a neighborhood ice cream social, hiked the High Ledges,

high ledges

went to the new Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield

4 of us


at seuss

and briefly to the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst and we volunteered at and saw a Mohawk Trail Concert of chamber music.  Had a fun time.  Leila (13) stayed another 2 weeks which was really great.  Leila is very interested in Marine Biology so we took her to Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute on the Cape and got a wonderful tour of the whole spectrum of what they do.  It was quite fascinating  to see all that they do and Leila seemed to really enjoy it.

woods hole

We camped for 2 nights nearby and went to the beach and visited the Edward Gorey House which was also fun.  I’ve been a fan of his illustrations since art school and have a lot of his books.  Many of you may know him from the opening titles of Mystery on PBS.

When we got back home we did the usual summer things, swimming, playing games, going for walks. Denny took her swimming at the pumping station a few times so I could work on more paintings for my show.  We also went to another Mohawk Trail Concert.  This one featured a comedian/clarinetist along with the house quartet of 2 violins, a viola and a cello.  It was a really fun concert.  At one point he mentioned that the thing about chamber music was that there isn’t a conductor and thought it would be fun to have a conductor.  He asked for volunteers and no one put up their hands so he picked someone and that was Leila!  She was terrific and got lots of complements at intermission.  The woman in the seat behind us tapped me on the shoulder and said “you can tell me the truth, she really rehearsed that, didn’t she?’  We assured her it was a surprise to all of us. I think Leila’s ego was boosted quite a bit that night.

Leila also really loves little kids and I connected her with a friend who has 19 month old twin boys who needed a little help.  She got to play with them a few times and they loved her and wished that she could stay longer.

After Leila left it was time to start repainting a very large mural in downtown Greenfield that I had helped with 27 years ago.  It was started as a cultural exchange with our sister city in the Ukraine and designed by a NY woman who had gone with a group to the Ukraine where they painted a bus.  They decided to have them come to Greenfield to paint a mural here.  Unfortunately there were complications and delays and when they came we hadn’t started painting.  Then Janet, the artist/designer, had to return to NYC to teach at which point I stepped in to coordinate the painting and make a few necessary changes due to window placements.  Anyway, that was 27 years ago and it had faded considerably so Bekki Tippens (the original instigator of the mural) and I decided it was time to refurbish.  Bekki got us a grant from the local cultural council and a lot of donations.  We put a box in the library asking for suggestions of changes from the community and got lots of them.  Between the 2 of us we figured out how to incorporate most of the suggestions and I proceeded to draw all the pictures.  I think there were 28 to 30 new or altered designs.  The mural is meant to be a historical depiction of our community with faux postcards of old Greenfield landmarks surrounded by a sort of sampler of small pictures of important things in the area.  We updated a lot of the smaller pictures and added things that are currently important to our community from the suggestions.  On August 2nd we started painting.  We had many volunteer helpers but it mainly depended on us being there from 9 to 6 everyday (with the exception of a few rain days) for a month!  Sometimes I’d have to go home and rework a picture  or draw a different one. Bekki would continue to work on donations and PR.   It was exhausting.  We did get a lot of pictures in the local paper and were on the local TV news.

The following is an article from the local paper published when we were almost done. 
recorder image
Refurbished mural puts county’s best face forward
Celebration concert set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Hawks and Reed


Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD — After a month of work by 100 volunteers, the mural overlooking Veterans Memorial Mall has been refurbished and updated to reflect how Franklin County has grown over the last 27 years.

To celebrate the completion of the project and raise money for additional expenses, Rebecca Tippens of Colrain, who produced the original mural, has organized an event at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center on Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. The celebration will feature musicians, storytellers and more.

“We invite all to come and celebrate this beautification in town, but also what the mural means and will mean for us all,” Tippens said, adding, “this has truly been a community effort that has not only given brightness to the county, but will also be an important historical record of our county.”

The mural, which features images of Franklin County landmarks, including Poet’s Seat Tower and the Eunice Williams Covered Bridge, was originally painted in 1990.

looking at mural

New images

Several new images were added during the refurbishment in an effort to reflect recent happenings in Greenfield, including images of alternative energy sources and Wi-Fi; artistry, including easels, palettes, brushes and musical instruments; fruit; cross country skis; contra dancers; the rag shag parade and people advocating for freedoms.

Nancy Baker worked alongside Tippens to gather ideas for the mural, which Baker then created.

Tippens said the mural is nearly completed, except for a layer of acrylic protective coating and UV varnish that is scheduled to be applied this weekend. The more than 50 volunteers who gave at least six hours of work or contributed more than $100 to help meet mural expenses had their names added to the wall, but Tippens said many others also contributed.

“It was kind of extraordinary to me because there were so many people involved — it felt like it was truly a community- created project,” she said.

Montague WebWorks also organized a team to put together a brochure and website about the mural, which Tippens hopes will be completed in September or early October.

“This will be an important educational tool in describing the history and meaning of the images,” she said.

Visitors will also be able to add their own stories through the website, once completed.

Wednesday’s event at the Hawks and Reed at Main Street and Court Square will feature at least eight performers, including storyteller Peter Kozinski, musicians Molly Scott, Russ Thomas, John O’Connor, Pat and Tex LaMountain, and more. There is a $10 suggested donation.


At the end of it all we had a celebration (and fundraiser) at Hawks and Reed, a local venue for music and performances.  There were 8 acts from singers to storytellers all relating to our wonderful community and the mural.  One of them even wrote us a song!

A Yodel to Our Mural
A parody of Hank Williams’s “Lovesick Blues,”
honoring the volunteers who revived Greenfield’s downtown mural,
inspired by Rebecca Tippins and Nancy Baker

The wall was beat up with dis-use! Oh, Lord!–
Years of weather and some dings.
It sure was looking kind of shabby–
Bumper scrapes and scratchy things. Oh, Lord!
But Bekk and Nancy spoke up loud,
Inspired our neighborly crowd:
Come paint here, come paint there—come volunteer some labor!
You can climb a scaffold if you’re free of acro-
Or just paint from the ground.
Come resuscitate our mural,
And make it whole and sound!
They spread the word, and folks said yes!
Let’s bring it back from a beat-up mess!
Let’s do this,
And beat the beat-up blues!
There is love! There is love in this beautiful town!
There’s nothing wrong with our heart!
There is love! There is love in our beautiful town!
Check out this work of art!
Sure, there’s wear and tear, just like anywhere,
But we can build a team.
So now if something’s shabby,
We can make it gleam!
Using yellow, green, and blue–oh, Lord!–
Not to mention red and white,
A super-dedicated crew
Has fixed the mural so it’s right (oh, Lord!)!
They slapped on paint day after day
Without one penny of pay:
A dab here, a dab there—they really got it shining!
Lord, we love to witness how they polished up this
What a sweet tour de force–
Inspired by Bekki and Nancy
Who kept the volunteers on course!
So now behold this work of art,
A gift of love from Greenfield’s heart,
Revived now,
With no more beat-up blues!
Thank you, Bekki!
Thank you, Nancy!
And everybody!

Copyright 2017 Russell Thomas, Free Lunch Music, BMI

Here is a picture a friend took with her IPhone.

Small Edited Best

Last weekend the final varnish was put on and it is finally be done.  We are having a brochure made that explains all the pictures and there will be a website also.

On Labor Day we went on our annual trip to the Adirondacks.  There were 11 of us camping there.  While we usually canoe the weather reports were not looking good so we opted not to bring our boat.  One of our friends had an RV that he let us stay in so we didn’t even take our pop-up trailer.  As it turned out it was a good decision.  His RV was warm and protected us from all the cold and wind and rain that we had.  Unfortunately that was not the case for everyone as 3 couples were in tents.  One day they did get a window to paddle for a few hours.  We walked the 3 miles around the lake when it wasn’t raining and one time we started that and got halfway before it started to rain.  We still had a great time, playing games, sitting around the campfire that wouldn’t start because the wood was too wet and doing a lot of cooking and eating.  As for me it was just what I needed after such an exhausting summer.  I got a lot of sleep and didn’t think about any of the responsibilities I had back home.

Now I’m re-energized to finish what I need to for my show in October.  I may even get to work in my garden and clean my house!