Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

Inventing Old America

A Harvard-educated Congregational minister, Wallace Nutting (1861-1941) abandoned the ecclesiastical pulpit in 1904 to preach a gospel in which he proselytized romanticized views of the American past. Despite his staunch stance as anti-modernist, Nutting built a symbiotic business empire by embracing contemporary technology – photography, mass-­market publishing, the automobile, and manufacturing. Nutting sold more than five million hand-tinted, platinum prints of pastoral landscapes and domestic “Colonial” interiors to the country’s middle class. His essays and articles appeared in dozens of popular mainstream periodicals before the outbreak of World War II. Nutting’s quality reproduction furniture – intended for the affluent – was manufactured in twentieth-century factories. Assisted by a Madison Avenue advertising agency, he shrewdly exploited the new culture of consumption and created a cult of personality. Largely due to his marketing acumen, Wallace Nutting remains synonymous with the fashionable Colonial Revival movement of the early twentieth century to this day. Yet there is substance beneath the hype.

Nutting had amassed an unrivaled collection of early American decorative arts, from seventeenth – and eighteenth-­century furniture, much of it crafted in New England, to hundreds of examples of ironwork, household wares, and pre­-industrial age tools and implements. His scholarly decorative arts studies also reinforced his stature as an authority on “Pilgrim-Century” America. Nutting’s collection was purchased by third-generation financier J.P. Morgan Jr. (1867-1943) and donated to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1925.

Wallace Nutting became a household name and a trademarked brand, and the Allentown Art Museum is exploring his legacy as tastemaker, cultural critic, photographer, and antiquarian with an exhibition aptly entitled “Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America.” The exhibit examines various facets of Nut­ting, who opened a window on the art and life of early America, while at the same time helping today’s museum visitors to understand the dawn of modern practices of collecting and marketing Americana.

Drawn from the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Nutting Collection, described as the single most important collection of early American furniture in the country, “Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America” features reproduction furniture made in Nutting’s factories in Saugus, Ashland, and Fram­ingham, Massachusetts, vintage photographs, architectural plans, books, and ephemera.

Continuing through Sunday, May 23, the traveling exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue by the same title, published by the Yale University Press. Special programs will be conducted during the exhibition’s run.

For additional details, write: Allen­town Art Museum, P.O. Box 388, Allen­town, PA 18105-0388; telephone (610) 432-4333; or visit Allen­town Art Museum website. Admission is charged.

 

A Glorious Burden

Only forty-two men have held the post, and their names recall some of the most famous (Camelot) and infamous (Watergate) periods in the history of the United States. They have been revered and reviled, made larger than life and cut down to size. Each has, however, played a role in the development of the nation from a group of fledgling colonies to the world’s most powerful country. They are the American presidents and their lives and administrations are being explored in an exhibition on view at the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center in Pittsburgh.

“The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden” explores the power, the glory, the challenge, and the heartbreak of the American president. The exhibit includes more than three hundred objects and artifacts drawn from the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and the History Center, designated an affiliate of the Smithsonian in 2000. The Smithsonian Institution’s component includes many of the nation’s presidential treasures, such as a compass used by George Washington at Mount Vernon and the inkwell used by Abraham Lincoln to write the Emancipation Proclamation. The History Center has showcased western Pennsylvania’s connections to the White House with maps, photographs, artifacts, and a recently rediscovered home movie of John F. Kennedy’s motorcade through Emsworth. On October 12, 1962, President Kennedy arrived in Pittsburgh for a series of political speeches. After making an appearance in Aliquippa, his motor­cade proceeded down Ohio River Boule­vard toward Oakland for a speech at the University of Pittsburgh. He was stopped in Emsworth by the children of the Holy Family Institute, originally founded as an orphanage in 1900, who presented him with a doll for young Car­oline. This exchange was captured on forty seconds of film footage, which is screened in the exhibit.

“The American Presidency: A Glori­ous Burden” is divided into ten sections, including presidential campaigns, inaugural celebrations, the White House as symbol and family dwelling, assassinations and mourning, and the presidency in popular imagination. The diverse selection of objects featured in the exhibition includes the microphone used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to broadcast his informal radio “Fireside Chats”; an overcoat and top hat worn by Grover Cleveland to his first inauguration on March 4, 1885; and an ornate musket inlaid with coral and silver, presented to Thomas Jefferson by Siddi Suliman Mella, ambassador of the bey of Tunis, after the end of the Tripolitan War in 1805.

With its strategic location, significance, and rich industrial history, western Pennsylvania has played an important role in the presidency-whether as a stumping grounds for candidates or as the center of work being undertaken for a national cause, such as its role as a major ammunition supplier during the Civil War and World War II. In addition to Kennedy, many presidents have visited the area, including Washington, Lin­coln, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt. As a young man, Washington played a pivotal role in several French and Indian War battles. On his way from Springfield, Illinois, to the nation’s capital for his inauguration, Lincoln stopped in Pittsburgh in February 1861, where he addressed throngs of well-wishers from a balcony at the Monongahela House, reputedly the city’s finest hotel. In Octo­ber 1940, Franklin Delano Roosevelt toured western Pennsylvania, during which he dedicated Pittsburgh’s second public housing project, Terrace Village, in the Hill District, a largely African American neighborhood. Roosevelt praised the creation of “these bright decent houses.”

Pittsburgh and the region played a part in the way presidential election results were reported. On November 20, 1920, KDKA aired the world’s first commercial radio broadcast with the Hard­ing-Cox presidential election returns. In a wooden shack on top of Building K at the Westinghouse Electric Company plant in East Pittsburgh, a five-man team received updates on election returns via telephone from press correspondents and then broadcast the results to listeners in Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The microphone and transmitter used for that historic broadcast are featured in “The American Presidency.”

The exhibit, which also features letters written by presidents to prominent Pittsburghers, a tassel from Lincoln’s catafalque, gowns worn by western Pennsylvanians to inaugurations, and campaign memorabilia, remains on view through Sunday, May 2.

“The American Presidency: A Glori­ous Burden” was created by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.

For additional information, write: John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, 1212 Smallman St., Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4200; telephone (412) 454-6000; or visit the John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center website. There is an admission.

 

Kuerner Farm

On one of his boyhood walks, artist Andrew Wyeth discovered Karl and Anna Kuerner’s farm, located one mile from his parents’ home in Chadds Ford. Young Wyeth was intrigued by the couple, who emigrated from Germany, and by Karl Kuerner’s stories of his service in the German army during World War I. The Kuemers had strong ties to their heritage, continuing to speak their native language and socializing mostly with fellow German immigrants. Andrew Wyeth was one exception.

As a young artist, Wyeth developed a close relationship with the Kuerners, and after years of gaining their trust, was permitted to freely roam their property – even inside the house – to draw and paint. Many of his best-known works of art have emerged from his long fascination with the farm, including Winter 1946 (1946), Groundhog Day (1959), Young Bull (1960), Spring Fed (1967), Evening at Kuerners (1970), and Overflow (1978).

The Kuerners moved from Philadelphia to Chadds Ford in 1926, renting the farm they would work and call home for the rest of their lives. Nineteen-year-old Karl Kuerner, a machine gunner during World War I, had been severely wounded in the arm while serving on the front lines in 1917, the same year Wyeth, the youngest of illustrator N. C. and Carolyn Wyeth’s five children, was born. Following Germany’s loss at the Battle of Verdun, Kuemer returned to civilian life as a sheepherder near the Black Forest, where he met Anna Faul­haber, who, in 1922, gave birth to the first of their five children, Louise.

In 1923, Kuemer sailed to America, leaving his wife and daughter behind in Germany, and found work in a slaughterhouse in Philadelphia. Two years later Anna and Louise sailed to the United States with money sent by Karl. Living in Philadelphia proved stressful to Anna, who grew depressed and desperately homesick for the German village in which she grew up. The noisy city disturbed her and, as a result, she began showing the first signs of social withdrawal, which profoundly affected her in later years. The following year the family left Philadelphia and settled in Chadds Ford.

At the age of fifteen, Wyeth, in 1932, completed his first painting of the Kuemer Farm, a work in oil that marked the beginning of the property’s influence on him as an important source of artistic inspiration for nearly seven decades. He depicted scenes inside (Karl’s Room, in 1954) and outside (First Snow, in 1959) of the house, and he completed portraits of Karl and Anna Kuemer. The artist’s wife, Betsy James Wyeth, wrote Wyeth at Kuemers, published in 1976 by the Houghton Mifflin Company, a compilation of nearly four hundred pieces that give a startlingly intimate view of Wyeth at work. In her introduction, Betsy James Wyeth explained that her husband begins with scores of quick pre-studies in pencil, dry brush, and watercolor, which he spreads on the floor and tacks to the walls of his study when he is ready to begin a tempera painting. She also pointed out that nearly all of the artist’s work centers on only two locations: the farm of siblings Alvaro and Christina Olson at Hathorn Point in Maine and the Kuerner Farm. Wyeth has portrayed the Kuemer Farm’s people, animals, buildings, and landscapes in more than one thousand works of art.

Karl Kuerner died in 1979, followed by his wife in 1997. The following year, one hundred years after Karl Kuerner’s birth, his son Karl Kuerner Jr. approached the Brandywine Conser­vancy about preserving the farmstead. The conservancy, which administers the Brandywine River Museum, formally acquired the Kuemer Farm in 1999.

Beginning Wednesday, April 28, the museum will offer educational tours of the Kuerner Farm, enabling visitors to explore Andrew Wyeth’s creative process and view areas of the property depicted in many of his works. Tours will be offered at timed intervals, from Wednesday through Sunday. The tours will depart from the Brandywine River Museum by shuttle bus. Because of uneven walking surfaces, the Kuerner farm is not accessible to disabled individuals. Tours will continue through November 21. There is an admission charge.

For more information, write: Brandy­wine River Museum, Post Office Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; telephone (610) 388-2700; or visit the Brandy­wine River Museum website.