Remembering an Artist Dear to Our Hearts

Posted on: July 23rd, 2012 by admin No Comments

When I heard that Arlene Skutch had passed away I couldn’t believe how hard the news hit me.  Afterall, I had only known this 88 year old woman for the past year and had seen her only on a few occassions. Yet, if you met Arlene you would know why she would stay in your heart and mind forever. I met her when I approached the artsist/students who painted as her students in her pink house in Westport, Connecticut.  She offered me time to approach the artists about participating in the Sudan Canvas Project. Arlene immediately wrapped her arms around the project within the first five minutes of my explaination that I wanted her group to raise awareness for the atrocities women have endured in Sudan and to help women in South Sudan to learn a trade.

Arlene pictured with Pink House Painters and Gabriel Bol Deng, Founder of Hope For Ariang, the recipient of funds raised from The Sudan Canvas Project

She inspired many to paint for the project and did two of her own paintings for the first Sudan Canvas Project event  in Fairfield, Connecticut  last November.

Arlene was born and raised in Fostoria, Ohio and began her artsistic career as a classically trained professional singer. In 1945 she moved to New York City and began her stage career in broadway musicals such as Finann’s Rainbow, Bloomer Girl and Of Thee I Sing.  She married had two children, Laura and Andrew, and moved to Westport, Connecticut where she bought and renovated a charming saltbox colonial house built in 1876. Having spent her honey moon in Cuba, she loved the bright colors of the homes and decided to paint  their new house pink.

Along with the house came an artist’s studio in the backyard designed by Eliot Noyes, the celebrated modern architect. After her children were in school, Arlene started to study painting locally with several well respected teachers mainly at the Silvermine Art School in New Canaan, Connecticut.

In 1972, Arlene opened her own studio to students and began a four decade journey as an art teacher. She soon developed a devoted following of students who call themselves “The Pink House Painters”.  The incredible group pf artists who helped kick off the first Sudan Canvas Project  event and brought awareness to the past and current human rights atriocities in Sudan and helped to finance a market project in the village of Ariang, South Sudan.

I will never forget seeing Arlene on the night of the event at The Fairfield Theatre Company sitting in the front row of the theatre so proud and distinguished. She intensely watched as Gabriel Bol Deng and I spoke of the history of genocide, the women of Ariang village and the importance of artists using their talent as a tool and voice. I could tell she was proud to be there and to have many of her art students represented at the exhibit.

Her painting Exodus vividly told the story of the escape of civillians as their village was being attacked during war. Through vibrant color she told the story of fear, panic and chaos. Her paintings told the darker side of the lives of the women and were a huge contribution to the exhibit.

In “One Last Look”  Arlene portrays  the darkeness, lonliness and loss as villagers try to hold on to what is left of their home life and people.

I will be forever grateful for support and for the important pieces she did of her in contribution to the project, but mostly I will remember the tall, proud and elegant woman with the great big heart.

"Arlene taught through positive reinforcement, building on a student’s small successes, helping when asked how to deal with a particular problem. She nurtured the creative spark in her students in a non-interfering way, with just a gentle suggestion here and there and much encouragement. What a blessing that was! My own spark could have been easily doused by the wrong teacher since it was not backed up with much confidence…….Arlene says she has enough ideas for two more life times! I feel the same way and cannot thank her enough for being the right teacher at the right time, for helping me find my creativity so that I can look forward to doing art and “making stuff” for the rest of this lifetime."

                                                                                                                                                                             Artists Patricia MacQueen

“Arlene with her childlike excitement for life, her positive attitude and most of all her gentle mentoring, has left a place in my heart forever.”

                                                                                                                                                               Artist Barbara Cronin

Arlene will be greatly missed by all who had the great privilege of knowing her.

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