Members and friends of the Folklife Center found themselves in a unique “ethnographic confluence” at the opening reception for our latest Vision & Voice Gallery exhibit Up Home: Hand-Colored Photographs by Susanne & Neil Rappaport on Thursday evening, February 1.
Our main-floor galleries were humming with some 60 guests eager to learn more about this collection of over 45 hand-colored photographs taken in Minnie Griswold’s Pawlet, VT, home. Minnie died in 1952, whereupon her two devoted sons closed up their boyhood home as a sort of shrine to their mother. They had lost their father to a grizzly mill accident when they were very young, and had been raised by Minnie, single-handed.
In the mid-1980s son, Charlie (then in his 80's), invited the Rappaports into the house to have a look around. This singular collection of photographs resulted after two years of shooting and hand coloring. Now, for the first time since they were made in 1986, these intriguing images—an ethnographic time capsule—are on view again.
What made the opening reception so remarkable, in addition to the photographs? Attending the event was Minnie’s great grandson, Alan David Griswold, who, learning of the opening 10 days earlier, had driven from his home in Pennsylvania. With him he brought Minnie’s vintage hand-crank Victrola record player, on which he played Minnie’s original records. This is a family that honors its past.
Once the Victrola wound down, VFC Gallery Curator Ned Castle introduced Alan, and conducted a live interview with him in the center of the gallery, with attendees surrounding the pair in rows of chairs to watch and listen. And listen they did, rapt by Alan’s vivid recollections of family reunions at Minnie’s home, of his Grand Uncle Charlie having the children run and play outside before allowing them to ask to enter the home, and then being ushered in with his firm admonition: “do not touch anything.” Alan marveled at his grand uncle’s devotion to his mother, and at his own father’s upholding of family traditions, saying that Minnie’s values, deeply instilled in her sons, had been lovingly handed down the generations to him.
The interview over, Alan took questions: “Is the house still there? Who owns it?” As if on cue a young couple raised their hands and shared, "we're the proud owners of Minnie’s home." The crowd gasped. Joy and Matt Proft were moved by Alan’s words and by the show. And they value Minnie’s home, having made no major alterations.
Just another evening at the Vermont Folklife Center; join us next time, won’t you?