River Art Museum seeks to save more works by local artists

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Posted: Mar 30, 2022 8:00 AM

What happens to an artist’s work after his death? For many, their life’s creations fall into the hands of those who are unable to preserve them properly, and in too many cases the objects are discarded, leaving no legacy for the artist.

With such a sad fate in the art community, River Art Museum Inc in Newtown was established to preserve the works of contemporary artists and celebrate them, whether or not they are alive to see them.

River Art Museum Secretary/General Assistant Frederika “Fredi” Leet explained, “America is full of artists who are not recognized for their work. Often, these artists struggle to make their creations survive. When they die, their families inherit this burden. Too often it becomes a losing battle that ends in the complete disappearance of the artist’s achievements.

Leet’s brother, Glen River, is a Newtown resident who founded the River Art Museum as a non-profit organization in 2018.

“He has such a passion for saving works of art,” Leet said. “There are so many good artists, and their work just gets lost, and people never know about them.”

She later added, “Having personally suffered the loss of much of his artistic work to fires, floods and building collapses, he realized that all artists struggle to their creations survive.”

With the help of volunteers, including former Newtown resident Faith Vicinanza, who now lives in nearby Southbury, and Bridgeport resident Gus Moran, the River Art Museum has been able to document, catalog and preserve artists’ collections individuals in secure temporary storage facilities.

“Providing temperature-controlled storage for endangered art is a vital contribution to the core of our mission. We are thrilled to have people like Faith step in to help us,” Leet said.

The non-profit group currently does not have a physical location and is looking to establish or acquire a permanent site to meet their unique needs.

“Right now, that’s our main need. We need a climate controlled building. Ideally, we would like to have an air-conditioned storage space. All works collected would be in storage, but packed in a box or crate, all computer coded and ready, so you could send it anywhere in the world if you wanted to have a show,” Leet said.

Additionally, the River Art Museum hopes to have an exhibition area where local artists can give presentations and host community events.

Volunteers wanted

Another big need for River Art Museum is more volunteers.

Leet says they would appreciate help promoting the nonprofit, filming and advocating for a real construction facility.

Leet shared, “We are happy to be part of the Newtown Nonprofit Network. It’s great to see so many people contributing to the community.

River Art Museum is also looking to connect with more artists to help preserve and promote their work.

“We would like to involve more local artists,” Leet said.

So far, the River Art Museum has housed the works of various artists from Connecticut and New York, including River, Tom Scippa, and Lisa Daugherty. Their work can be viewed on the association’s website.

“Also on our website, we include instructions with lists of tools so that artists or collection owners can catalog their art themselves. On the website, anyone can fill out a simple form suggesting an artist we should watch whose work might be at risk,” Leet said.

For those interested in volunteeringto donate or get involved as an artist with River Art Museum, visit riverartmuseum.org.

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Journalist Alissa Silber can be reached at [email protected]

Newtown resident Glen River, who is the founder of the River Art Museum, captures the beauty of a building in his acrylic artwork titled “7 Glen Road painting 2009”. —photos courtesy of Frederika “Fredi” Leet

The Newtown Labor Day Parade is featured in this colorful acrylic painting on canvas titled “Newtown Parade Skateboard Flyer 2013” by Newtown resident Glen River, founder of the River Art Museum.

Several bottles can be seen depicted in this acrylic art by Newtown resident Glen River from 2010.

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