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A working lunch…

Lunched today with Milton Yergens and brainstormed Agincourt #3 next October. The date is set (October 25th) and the galleries assigned (the Gustavian and Katherine Kilbourne Burgum galleries on the second floor), about 120+ linear feet of display. So the panels and pieces have to be carefully selected to tell a cohesive story. Essentially, the space determines the pieces, and the pieces set the theme. At least that’s the way it will have to work this time.

Baptismal Basin

Among the newest contributions will be the baptismal font installed this year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Agincourt’s Episcopal church, Saint Joseph-the-Carpenter.For the first forty years, St Joe’s used simple enamelware for baptizing, waiting for funds (or a donor) to purchase something more appropriate. Good things came to those who waited, because in 1908 they acquired a copper bowl, the “Trillium” pattern, from the Roycrofters in East Aurora, NY, Elbert Hubbard’s American answer to the Arts & Crafts philosophy of William Morris in England. It stood on the older wood stand that had held the earlier kitchen basin, though both Morris and Hubbard would have applauded the honesty of either vessel.

So, for one hundred years that basin served the Episcopal right of baptism, until 2008, when it was stolen from the unlocked church one weekday afternoon. Another utilitarian enamel basin stood in, once again, until a replacement could be found.

As the parish approached its sesqui-centennial this year, an anonymous donor came forward to commission a baptismal basin in the spirit of the Arts & Crafts. Various options were considered—materials ranging from beaten copper, carved or turned wood, and ceramic—when an exhibit of the raku ware of Carrin Rosetti and Richard Gruchalla came to the vestry’s attention. Gruchalla and Rosetti are potters in Duluth, Minnesota, who sell their work through galleries in the Twin Cities (not that far from Agincourt, as the crow flies) and also travel to various street and craft fairs. A chance encounter at one of those exhibits led to a commission. While we don’t yet know the details of the piece, it will be in the spirit of some of their newest work:

We’re excited about the prospect and will share the end product with you in October as part of the parish 150th anniversary celebration.

Stained Glass Window

At the beginning of the last century, as the kindergarten movement of Friedrich Fröbel spread across America, Agincourt got its first kindergarten in 1904—a response to an exhibit on childhood education at the 1904 St Louis world’s Fair. A purpose built kindergarten was constructed adjacent to St Joe’s Episcopal church, though it was non-sectarian and staffed by teachers from several spiritual communities. The 1904 building in the domestic “Shingle Style” was enlarged in 1912, when a full-time teacher was hired to oversee the school. At that time a stained glass window was installed in the main assembly space, based on the traditional British puppet show that would probably be considered politically incorrect today due to its violence:

The window is based on “Punch and Judy”, a stencil decoration by Margaret Lloyd which appeared in the January 1905 issue of The Studio, a British magazine focused on the Arts & Crafts:

Rose Kavana’s Table and Chairs

When Anson Tennant returned home in 1936, following twenty-one years of amnesia in northern Spain, he never returned to his former architectural life. Rather, he turned to woodworking, skills he had sharpened while recuperating; working in his new father-in-law’s carpentry shop in Donostia was a sort of physical therapy which he continued upon his return. Several old friends stepped forward with “commissions” for new pieces—very likely to keep him busy and aid his integration with a community he barely recognized. One of the first of those commissioned works was a writing desk and two chairs requested by Miss Rose Kavana, who had become principal of Anson’s old elementary school, Charles Darwin. Miss Kavana’s furniture and some of her other decorative artifacts (a stained glass lamp and some of her book collection) will form a tableau in the new exhibit:

Crafted in cherry, the chairs nestle beneath the table like a mother hen and her chicks, a folksy analogy that probably never crossed the mind of either Tennant or Miss Kavana.

Among Tennant’s other crafts was the manufacture of children’s building blocks, possibly influenced by the above mentioned Fröbel, but he would have already been fourteen when the kindergarten opened and probably beyond the German educator’s reach. In 1912, Tennant had crafted a set of blocks based on a church he had seen during a summer in Mantalocking, New Jersey, and his newest sets include one based on the house that inspired a dollhouse he had made in 1905. Both the dollhouse and the building blocks will be displayed:

Preliminary design for a set of wood blocks based upon the C. S. French house by architect William Halsey Wood

The wrought iron column cap from Tennant’s 1914 design for the Agincourt Public Library will also be on display (as it was in 2015).

Tabor Air

Finally, some of the manufactures of another branch of his family—Tabor Agribusiness and Tabor Air—will join the show. This time, it will be a scale model of the bi-plane from the 1930s using Ford engines and components of grain bins adapted for flight and first flown by pioneer aviatrix Phyllis Tabor, twin sister with Ella Rose, Agincourt’s very own “Daughters of Flight”.

My guess is that a few other pieces will materialize along the way. At least I hope so.

See you on October 25th!


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