Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Titusville, PA

“May 31, 1944,” by Isabella Leitner and illustrated by Gus Leiber at the Benson Memorial Library, May 2018

 

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In the month of May the Benson Memorial Library is proudly displaying the poem “May 31, 1944,” by Isabella Leitner and illustrated by Gus Leiber in the Wentz Reading Room at the Benson Memorial Library. Many thanks to Lynn Cressman of the Titusville School District Board of Directors for arranging this for our library. I love it when public libraries are filled with art, and even more so when a small rural library like ours has a chance to bring a wonderful work by a internationally known artist to their community. Libraries are great connectors, and in this case we’re connecting our community to not only some great art but also to an important subject matter. I hope to do more of this kind of stuff for Titusville, PA while I’m the director here.

PRESS RELEASE
“May 29, 1944, the day after Isabella Katz’s twenty-third birthday, she, along with her family and all the Jews in the ghetto in Kisvarda, Hungary, were rounded up by the Nazis, loaded into rail cars, and transported to Auschwitz. Her mother and younger sister were immediately gassed upon arrival at the camp. Three of her siblings survived their days in Auschwitz by supporting each other with determination. Her father managed to get to the United States and tried to obtain visas for them. Eventually she was reunited with her father, who, although he had escaped the concentration camp, lived the remainder of his life feeling he had let his family down. Isabella used her experience to write two accounts, Fragments of Isabella and The Big Lie.

Titusville native Gus Leiber has, in his modern style, illustrated a poem by Isabella Leitner entitled “May 31, 1944,” which is the day she arrived in Auschwitz. This poem hits very close to home because Gus’s wife, Judy, a Hungarian, was at one time on the list to be sent to the concentration camps. Instead, a friend added Judy’s name, as well as her sister’s and mother’s names, to the schuss pass (travel pass). A teenager, Tommy Baroth, hunted until he found a typewriter whose font matched the type on the schuss pass. He carefully added “and family,” to Mr. Peto’s pass, saving the family from a horrible fate. Tom and his sister Agnes reside in New York City today.

Sadly, both Gus and Judy Leiber passed away Saturday, April 28th within six hours of each other. Their art and love will be missed by many. Read their obituary here.

The poem by Isabella Leitner, “May 31, 1944,” illustrated by Gus Leiber is on display from May 1 until May 31 in the Wentz Reading Room at Benson Memorial Library. The public is invited to visit the library to see this special exhibit.”

Gus Leiber

ABOUT Gerson “Gus” Leiber (1921-2018)
Gerson Leiber, of the Titusville High School Class of 1939, was a Modernist painter who resided in New York City with his wife, Judith. As a student in Titusville, he showed great artistic promise; however, WWII took him to Hungary, where he met his future wife, Judith Peto, who was a handbag master. Upon the conclusion of the war, they moved to New York City, where Gerson attended art school while Judith pursued the design and creation of handbags. She eventually founded Judith Leiber, Inc., creating exquisite handbags, ranging from alligator leather bags to dazzling beaded clutches.

Mr. Leiber has exhibited in over 300 national and international exhibitions as well as 20 one-man exhibitions. He is past president of the Society of American Graphic Artists and a member of the Audubon Artists, the National Academy of Design and the Art Student’s League. He is also the recipient of many awards, including Tiffany Fellowships in 1957 and 1960.

Several years ago, Mr. Leiber donated a considerable number of his art books to the Titusville High School library for student use, furnishing the library with a fine collection. He followed with a piece of his own entitled The Smoking Man, as well as high quality prints of the work of Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer, and a Picasso portfolio. He went on to purchase a collection of Japanese prints by artists Kunisada and Hiroshi for study and display at THS. He has also donated beautiful collections of Persian miniatures and French prints of various subjects.

Currently we have approximately fourteen different collections by different artists. We hope to use this artwork to help educate students and give the entire community a chance to experience very different types of artwork. Both Gus and Judy Leiber passed away on Saturday, April 28th, 2018. For all of the Leibers’ contributions we are deeply and sincerely grateful.

Leitner Leiber Display

Read more about The Leiber Museum here

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Abigail Foster's Photosynthesis Machine, Benson Memorial Library, Family, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Management, Titusville, PA

Where Are We Now?

About a year ago I hung up a bizarre painting in my office at work. To me it was perfect and just familiar enough that I thought it warranted a place in my life. As a person who always thought it would be neat to have an office and fill it with interesting things, the painting, when mixed with the Lego creations and drawings that Finn and Aero have created for me over the years, helped me establish this place my home away from home. When I feel comfortable at work, I usually am able to some really good and meaningful work. On the other hand I could also see how the average “I shop for my groceries at Walmart every Saturday at 1pm and have to watch the game and/or my sitcom at the same time every week” American person would be appalled by it.

One day I came into work to find that my painting was taken down. My coworkers took it down because, yes they were terrified and appalled by it. I guess right now would also be a good time to explain that due to limited space we’re all basically working on top of each other and that we’re surrounded by glass. It’s like a packed fishbowl in here. But to fully admit my feelings, I was pretty let down by their actions. It felt passive aggressive and overall it felt unkind. But in the moment I didn’t react. I just went on and say “oh, well that happened.”

You see as a Gemini I feel a duality to everything. There’s this part of me that always sees things from my point of view and then I almost immediately put that aside and see it from how others may have seen it. In this case: Justin likes the painting and hangs up the painting, Justin feels disappointed when someone takes that painting down, but then Justin instantly forgets about that and says “well I bet they didn’t like the painting so I understand that and what I thought about the painting shouldn’t matter because that’s selfish to only think about myself.” Over time, I’ve taken that approach to even more of an extreme: I guess in a way that by my coworkers actions I was able to put the painting to a much better use. It became the cover for my album Prozac Is The Dam And I Am The Dynamite, and I think it fit really well for that album. Having the painting taken down by my coworkers made me take it home, where I stared at it more and through those hours of staring it gave the painting more meaning and purpose. It became a visual representation of my life at the time, and when it merged together with the music I was creating it became a complete package.

You take all of these things together, stretch everything out by a few months, sometimes years, and what happens? You start to think about the first part (yourself) less and less until it almost becomes silly to even think about it in the first place. I think that’s where I am at now…after awhile of doing this here I am, a person that may be very capable about thinking of others but at the same time a person who doesn’t think of himself as much as he should. I’m overwhelmed right now and a bell goes off in my brain to remind me that this may be part of the reason as to why I feel this way. When you neglect yourself in some way, it all adds up. I stare at a lot of spreadsheets these days, and I like to think that my soul has a spreadsheet where it has been keeping note of the times I’ve put myself aside for others. It’s finally getting to that point where the spreadsheet is just too long and unruly and it becomes a hassle to scroll down the page because there’s so much data.

I’m on the cusp of something here. It feels exciting and at the same time it fills my soul with great fear, but I know that as with everything in this life it will come, it will go, and the next thing will happen. I feel lucky to be able to share this journey here and to have others be able to maybe understand and maybe feel like they may be in the same holding pattern at the moment.

Music: David Bowie “Where Are We Now?” As long as there’s sun..As long as there’s rain..As long as there’s fire..As long as there’s me..As long as there’s you

Life

Recommended Read: “Why millennials are making memes about wanting to die” by Deidre Olsen

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I found the piece Why millennials are making memes about wanting to die by Deidre Olsen over at Salon to be a very worthwhile read. At first, I found the whole tide pod meme to be something so absurd that it was funny. The more I thought about it and the reaction it generated from those outside of what I call the Meme Economy, the more it dawned on me was that there was something unique yet oddly familiar with this whole thing.

Millennials — who were born and raised on the internet and produce and consume much of their culture there — have had our whole lives characterized by economic anxiety. We have a dismal economic outlook, the worst of any generation born since the Great Depression. And our own culture-making — this kind of nihilistic, cynical humor epitomized in memes like eating Tide Pods — is merely a reflection of our worldview. It is cathartic in a sense.

I think it is important for all of us to remember, especially people like me who are stepping into that next big “getting older” bracket where you get a bit more disconnected from modern society, that there’s just gonna keep being more in our world that we don’t understand. Guess what? It’s not our job to understand everything. But guess what? If you want to understand something, you can do that. Just look back at what you came from.

The early 90’s rock movement was the reflection for my generation. For this generation, it is tide pods and memes. The two things are very different but when presented through the lens of the generation identifying the movement and outlook for the world it’s all connected. How does another generation see the world? How do they feel about the future? Look at their creativity and their art. Through creativity and art we can understand each other and work together to create a better world.

By the way: read up on Meme Librarian Amanda Brennan. 

Libraries, Life, Music

Why You Should Subscribe to IndiePicks

 

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You know my shtick by now: I don’t write about things on this blog that I don’t care about. I don’t write about things on this blog because someone paid me to do so. What I do on this blog is try to be represent my thoughts and feelings about things I am passionate about with words (and at least one picture per post). That’s who I am and what I do.

So I’m here with this post to tell you one thing: You should subscribe to IndiePicks Magazine. I’ll tell you why in the next couple of paragraphs.

INDEPENDENT ARTISTS ARE WHERE IT’S AT

Just so you know, I am a contributing writer to IndiePicks. My part as a contributing writer is that I get to interview awesome musicians and filmmakers who are creating their art independent from any big publishers, companies, etc. I do this because I not only like to write but I believe in independent artists. I believe in what they’re doing. I feel and understand their desire  “go indie” with their career, whether it be out of necessity or choice. You see I believe that people should create art (books, music, movies, video games, etc) because they have something to say, not just to sell a product. Of course, all artists have to sell something in order to keep doing what they’re doing, but the common thread I see with all of the independent artists I’ve encountered is that they’re creating what they create because THEY WANT to create something. I believe in honesty above everything else in the world, and trust me when I say that when I talk to these independent artists that I see and feel and hear nothing but honesty. In a world where things are becoming more and more homogeneous and pumped out by the dozen by huge companies and conglomerates, this honesty is something that we all will begin to seek in our day to day lives. We need more honest art, be it in books, movies, music, and more, in our lives. That honesty starts with independent artists.

LIBRARIES NEED MORE THAN THE BIG FIVE

While James Patterson, the latest Avengers movie, and the new Taylor Swift albums will guarantee our libraries a lot of circulations, we all have to agree that public libraries are about more than just pumping out the latest and most popular materials to their communities. Public libraries are gateways to new and exciting things for everyone that walks through our doors. When I was a kid, for me it was being introduced to graphic novels, books about whales, and vinyl LPs from bands that I heard about on the school playground but couldn’t afford to buy.

One of the neatest things that a public library does is offer each and every community a chance to dive into something new. Imagine being in a small town, isolated from a big city where you may have easy access to all kinds of independent media. What can a library be to that person? A library can be a gateway to a whole new kind of passion, hobby, or idea for that person. I think about the people I see in my library from day to day: the people that love manga, the folks that enjoy nothing but westerns, and the people that really want to watch every movie out there. Around these parts, their options are limited. There are no book stores in our town, one big chain movie rental store (yes, they exist), and a whole bunch of not that much to do. While these people do want what the Big Five are putting out, they also want variety. They want something new. They want to experience the rest of the world out there.

Libraries are the greatest recommendation and discovery machines out there. Let’s put stuff in our libraries that gives everyone in our community a chance to learn, grow, and understand the whole world together.

WE’VE ASKED FOR THIS EXACT THING

And finally, and perhaps most noteworthy is that we’ve been asking IndiePicks for quite some time. Back in the day, we just didn’t have a name for it. For as long as I have been in this library world, I’ve seen and heard conversations about how we can get more than just the Big Five and other mainstream media into our libraries. We’ve talked about how we can do it and why we should do it. We’ve debated this endlessly. Nowhere was discussion more prevalent when us libraries were all heavily debating ebooks in libraries. In these discussions, we criticized the heavy lending restrictions the big publishers put on eBooks in libraries and wondered how we were going to get more variety in our collections through independent media when the big eBook platforms were controlled by the big publishers.

It is safe to say that we’ve really, really wanted something like IndiePicks for a while. And guess what? We now have it. (Here’s the link to Issue #1). With IndiePicks, we now have a magazine which we can go to for insight into the world of independent media. We no longer have to blindly go into this area and pick a few titles here and there. We now have a place where there are top quality reviews and opinions on independent media. We now have an amazing tool in our tool belt that we can use to bring more variety to our library collections.

The best part yet? The team is made up of librarians. You know, people like you. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a librarian. You know you can trust a librarian.

Follow IndiePicks on Twitter: @IndiePicksMag 

 

 

 

Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

A Series of Surprises

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In May of 1967 Derek Taylor spoke of the fate of Smile in his press release. Smile “has been SCRAPPED. Not destroyed, but scrapped”. Could this mean that there was still some merit seen in the songs, but they would be ‘converted’ into other songs? This was effectively the fate of the Smile songs. They were reshaped, in constant chase of improvement. Brian himself stated, “1967 should bring a series of surprises for everyone from the Beach Boys.” (from EarCandy Mag: http://earcandy_mag.tripod.com/rrcase-2.htm)


Life is a long series of surprises and my life is no different. One of the biggest surprises to me was that so much of what I grew up learning from the people in my life was either not true at all or was twisted to fit their specific idea about life. I chose a photo of dandelions for this post because I think it visually sums up what I’m thinking here. Here in America we’re told that a nice lawn is full of green grass, well kept and groomed, and free of what we’ve dubbed “weeds”. Dandelions have been unfortunately placed in the weed category. Because of this there’s been an almost all out genocide on dandelions. Despite their wealth of benefits for humans and bees, they’ve become undesirable.

I grew up in one of those neighborhoods where lawns had to be perfect. Ours was cut, edged, and manicured weekly. If a neighbor did something with their lawn you better believe we had 24-48 hours to respond. About once a month some guy (it was always a guy) brought his truck around and sprayed the yard down with what looked like pellets you’d put on your ice cream. I was always told that this helped the lawn look how it did and that the lawn was better for looking that way.

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Cut to the last two years of my life where the ideas of the home, gardens, and Fidelia Hall have become very important to my happiness. As I settled into this chapter of my life I learned a lot of things: your yard doesn’t have to be green and well manicured, what we call “weeds” are actually really good for the Earth and by attempting to wipe them out we’re destroying the world, and that those “pellets you’d put on your ice cream” that my parents were spraying their lawn with were horrible poison. Life is a series of surprises.

Now the point of this post isn’t to go all Captain Planet and talk about the importance of being kind to the Earth. Of course I think you should but if you’re already doing it I’m not going to change your mind and part of me thinks we’re fucked anyways. The point is to recognize that life is a series of surprises. The Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys album SMiLE and the quote which starts this post have been on my mind recently when I think about my life right now. Has everything turned out as they were originally planned? No. But nothing really ever turns out as we think they are going to turn out. SMiLE was going to be THE album of its time, but it didn’t become that. Sgt. Pepper by The Beatles took that honor. What came out instead of SMiLE was a series of songs and albums that were “reshaped, in constant chase of improvement.” My life recently had a SMiLE moment. Instead of it being a defeat or the start of some kind of long spiraling descent into depression, I’ve decided to see that this moment was another part in the series of surprises that makes up life and that and that what I’m doing is reshaped things around me, always tuned into the constant chase of improvement which follows my life.

That change? Via https://fideliahall.com

Fidelia Hall is first and foremost the homestead of the Hoenke family. It is our hope that through our passion for family, community, creativity, sustainability, flowers, bees, art, fun, and food, that our contributions to the world will chip a tiny crack in the massive wall of negativity, fear, and greed that drives our culture.

We are not a business. We are not a non-profit. We are not a church. We are not a social club. We have explored every avenue and consulted every consultant and nothing fits. So we’ve decided to just be us.

I don’t expect you to “get it” nor do I care. The only thing I’ve gotta get is a hold of my life and my happiness. And I’m always doing that.


The Dandelion Celebration: A Guide to Unexpected Cuisine is a great book to borrow from your local library by the way

Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Fidelia Hall (Winter/Spring 2017 Update)

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Photo by Nadine Byers

When we decided to buy a 144 year old church building and a house that’s most likely also over 100 years old, we knew that we would be looking at nonstop home repairs, upgrades, and more. We knew that once we completed a project that it would be onto the next one, and that each project would help us “discover” what the next project would be. All of that has been true up to this point. Fixing the back roof led to us discovering just how much water damage had occurred to a certain area of the community room. Fixing the boiler led us to discover just how many of our radiators were damaged beyond repair. These things happen. Even though it’s not usually the best news to hear that you’re gonna have to find more money and time to fix something else, we’ve decided to take another approach: everything we discover we fix, and every little fix gets us one step closer to our goals. It is a slow process for sure, but we feel that a positive outlook on things makes the process go a whole lot smoother.

And now….onto the updates:

PART ONE: Downstairs at Fidelia Hall 

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This winter we made a big choice: that our family would be moving into the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall. Why? As with so many parts of our story, it starts with water. We found that there is most likely some kind of a leak behind a few of the walls in our house. Small water leaks are never great, as they are hard to pinpoint and then there’s always the possibility of mold (especially in a house that’s over 100 years old). With all of this in mind, we evaluated where we were at and what we wanted to do and….we’re moving into the downstairs of the old church building.

But there was (and still is) work to be done, and some of that is in the photos above. What you’re seeing is the downstairs space, now free of carpet and a drop ceiling! Underneath the carpet and drop ceiling were two great unpolished gems: a hardwood floor and the original tin ceiling. Both the floor and the tin ceiling are in need of some love, but we’re getting there. Over the last few months, we (Haley and I) have been using an air compressor to blast away any of the chipped and flaking paint on the ceiling. We’ve got one room left and after that we’re onto painting the tin ceiling. That should happen soon! All of the carpet has been pulled up and soon we will head to the local True Value to rent a floor sander and get that hardwood floor back to looking beautiful.

There’s a lot more to do with the downstairs and I’ll just post that here: my parents have been extremely kind and helpful to us with this project and a month ago they purchased a new furnace for the downstairs space. This week we will begin installing that furnace, and after painting the ceiling we will move onto the duct work that will heat the downstairs. A few other projects involve building a downstairs bathroom, fixing up the electrical wires and switches, and then moving onto fixing the kitchen ceiling. Like I said above, everything we discover we fix, and every little fix gets us one step closer to our goals. We will get there.

Once we move into the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall, we will then move onto the next project: gutting the house. Why gut the house? A lot of what exists in the house today was something that was built on top of something that was built on top of something, and so on. You have to remember the history of the space: it was always the home of the pastor of the church and their family. With that in mind, we like to think that all of the repairs done to the house were part of a deal we call the “parishioner’s special”, where the pastor asked members of the church to volunteer their time to help fix up the pastor’s house. A lot of the repairs we’ve seen in the house are totally DIY work, and while these are fine over the years they haven’t held up so well. We want to fix that. With that said, if we dig deep in the house during this process and find that the damage to the bones of the place have been compromised, we may end up tearing down the house. I don’t think it’ll come to this, but who knows. On the plus side, we’ll have more space for gardens and chickens and all of the things we love.

PART TWO: All the other little things

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While the downstairs space at Fidelia Hall has been our major focus at the moment, we’re also thinking about everything else. In February, my father, my brother, and I got to visit an old convent in Pittsburgh, PA that was in the process of being torn down. From that convent, we got 10 radiators, 3 fire safe doors, 2 fire safe door frames, a water heater, and a few other odds and ends. It was a day full of a lot of work, but we got what we needed at a really cheap price (only $125!) and we are sure that all of this great recycled stuff will eventually find its way into Fidelia Hall. The radiators will be installed in the upstairs space we’re calling The Great Hall and with a few tweaks they’ll be heating that space up next winter. Finding this stuff second hand was quite an amazing moment for us: while all of this stuff isn’t brand new, it works and it gets us one step closer to our goals.

We hope to complete these repairs by the winter of 2017-2018. Moving into this new space and having heat in the upstairs of Fidelia Hall will allow us to focus on cutting down our utilities (electric/heat for two buildings can get expensive).

PART 3: Spring and Summer and Gardens and Chickens

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We love spring and summer and we know you do too. At Fidelia Hall, we really love building gardens, feeding all of the birds around the property, and building flower gardens for the bees and butterflies who live all around us. This year, Haley has come up with some great ideas for the gardens. Expect to see us dabbling in growing some kiwi, apples, and other fruits as well as our standard vegetables. Last year’s straw bale gardens were a success, but this year Haley is interested in hugelkultur for the gardens. What’s hugelkultur? It’s basically the process of taking rotting wood, twigs, branches, and other things and using that to build your gardens. It basically will look like this (image from http://permaculturenews.org/2012/01/04/hugelkultur-composting-whole-trees-with-ease)

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And for now, that’s all we got. Thank you to everyone for keeping up with our family, Fidelia Hall, and more. We’re getting there!

 

Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

The Platform

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The Nintendo Entertainment System is a video game system that you enter video game cartridges into in order to play a game on the individual cartridge. Sometimes these video games are made by Nintendo themselves, and other times they are made by other companies (such as Capcom, Square, and others). The Nintendo Entertainment System is a platform that allows users to play video games that are either made by Nintendo themselves or by another company/organization. The games that are able to be be played on the Nintendo Entertainment System platform are approved by Nintendo. The Nintendo Entertainment System (like other video game systems out there) is a platform.

Nate Hill turned me onto the idea of platforms. I can’t thank him enough for these ideas and this influence on my life. As Haley and I have dove into work building and envisioning Fidelia Hall, the idea of the platform has came back into my mind.

Two big things that drew us towards purchasing this property were:

  1. The location, which sits at a wonderful intersection in Titusville PA
  2. The former chapel space (now know as The Great Hall) and the downstairs community room and kitchen (now known as The Gallery and Artist Studios)

With so much space and so many options with those spaces, it would be silly of Haley and I to think that we both could fill up that area with activities and ideas at all times. We will be using the space to execute our own personal ideas from time to time (think of Fidelia Hall as our own personal canvas), but the idea behind Fidelia Hall becomes even stronger when we work with others who can use the space as a platform for their ideas.

What does this mean? I think it can mean a lot of things. It can be as simple as an individual coming to us with an idea and then themselves executing that idea within Fidelia Hall. It could be a group or business using the space for a fundraiser, a private event, or something open to the community. This would also create a revenue stream for Fidelia Hall, in that the individual or group would be using our space for a fee. As the owners and directors of Fidelia Hall, it would be then on Haley and I to create a set of guidelines for acceptable use of Fidelia Hall. With the space acting as our home, our work, and a community center, we will want to exercise control as to who uses the space and what they’re using it for.

As I write this, my mind images what a day at Fidelia Hall may look like. This is all pure speculation:

In The Great Hall, a musician works with a producer using the space to record an album of original music. They were attracted to Fidelia Hall because of the acoustics in the Great Hall. Downstairs in the Gallery, we have a monthly exhibit from a local artist. This event is free and open to the public, and is part of a collaboration between Fidelia Hall and a local arts organization that we have chose to partner with. In the Artist Studios, we have quite a few things happening at once: a visual artist rents out one of the rooms on a monthly basis as their art studio. In another, Justin is running a retro video game day. Folks can come into the space for a fee and play Nintendo games from Justin’s personal collection. In another room, there’s a businessperson meeting with one of their clients.

What we have in the above paragraph to me is a good balance of what the platform at Fidelia Hall may look like. It has art, it has meetings, it has gatherings, it has events. It has a lot going on at once. The events listed above would bring in income to Fidelia Hall, which could then be used to do the following: to pay the utilities for the space (water, garbage, electricity, gas/heating, internet), to pay a salary so that Fidelia Hall will have an employee (this will most likely be Haley to start), to fund more community based initiatives (income=what we can use to pay artists for exhibits, performances, etc), and to pay for the upkeep of the building (145 year old buildings need a lot of love).

At present, we’re still working towards all of this. Our heating system half works at the moment and winter is near. The gallery just had its carpets and drop ceiling removed to reveal the original hardwood floor and tin ceiling. Those will be fixed soon. On the plus side, we’ve got almost all the details sorted out to begin our process to become a business or non-profit (we’re still thinking about the pros and cons) and we’ve got the handicap accessible roof and drainage system working. We’re making small steps towards a bigger idea. Patience. We will get there….and once we do, this platform will do its best to make our small community an even better place to live.

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