Susan Futterman is my hero.
Tenacious, passionate, determined, at times downright in-your-face, Susan Futterman has brought to the attention of thousands of people the life, artistry and importance of one of the most talented artists of the Arts & Crafts era – Francis Gearhart.
Both Frances Gearhart’s reputation and her color block prints had languished for years amid the inventory of various art dealers, but all that began to change seven years ago when, at a show in San Francisco, Susan Futterman came face-to-face with one of Frances Gearhart’s color prints.
The chance meeting set Susan on a course, a journey, a calling that has dominated her life ever since. Her research took her to Princeton University Library where she found buried in their stacks the original hand-printed illustrations and poems for a children’s book entitled Let’s Play. The book project had originally been a collaborative effort by the three Gearhart sisters in 1927, but the Great Depression pushed it aside before it could be published. In Quixote fashion, Susan latched onto her Impossible Dream: to see Let’s Play published.
In true Susan Futterman style, she began imploring, pleading, even hounding anyone and everyone who could assist in the publication of Let’s Play. She traveled across the country, enlisting help from researchers and writers, and seeking out the necessary funds, including a grant from the Arts & Crafts Research Fund, to get the book published. Along the way the idea sprang to mind to also mount an exhibition of Frances Gearhart’s watercolors and block prints, and her project grew even more enormous.
This past year saw the publication of Let’s Play by the Book Club of America and the exhibition catalog Behold the Day: The Color Block Prints of Frances Gearhart at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. For all of her work, time, energy and personal expense, Susan Futterman insisted that she not benefit financially from either the book or the exhibition.
Next month, Susan will again be at the Grove Park Inn, at her own expense, with copies of both Let’s Play and Behold the Day.
A few feet away will be the Silent Auction to benefit the Arts & Crafts Research Fund. It should feel good to know that those of you who have bid at the Silent Auction in the past helped to secure the publication of Let’s Play.
And those of you who support the Silent Auction next month will be doing the same for another, yet unknown researcher, someone, we hope, as dedicated, as passionate and as determined as Susan Futterman.