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Revitalize Downtown New Rochelle with a Norman Rockwell Museum

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Revitalize Downtown New Rochelle with a Norman Rockwell Museum

May 31, 2011 - 19:35

College students came from all over to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity but they were in for a special treat by its Executive Director, Jim Killoran. Richard Barclay, Producer of the Academy Award Winning 1973 Best Short Subject, "Norman Rockwell's World An American Dream," had been invited to address them and show that film. Showing his Oscar Statuette, Barclay said "his heart stopped" when he heard he had won the award. He explained how their company had convinced Norman Rockwell to be in the film. The cover of the film says: "This Academy Award winning film is the only authorized film of America's greatest illustrator. Narrated by Norman Rockwell, the film uses actual footage, dramatic reenactments of the artist's work to show how Rockwell recorded the world around him, and reflected the aspirations and concerns of a whole generation." Since Rockwell and his wife took a bike ride every day for energy, this was used as the theme of the picture. The two rode "through memory lane" in the village they lived in, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The film shows many clips from Rockwell's paintings, especially faces. Rockwell says in the film, there was almost nobody in town he hadn't painted.
After explaining how as a young man he brought sketches to the Saturday Evening Post, he says he :became "their man" and referred back to the years when he lived in New Rochelle. Many of the paintings during that time reflected models and settings from this area. His words, "I paint the way I would like life to be," crystallizes many of the themes he embraced such as civil rights and strong family values.
Norman Rockwell had moved to New Rochelle when he was 17 years old. His family first lived on Prospect Street. At that time many famous artists lived in the city. The first studio he rented was at 360 North Avenue. At age 21 he sold his first cover to the Saturday Evening Post and in l939 he married his second wife and moved to 24 Lord Kitchener Road. In l939 he moved to Virginia.
An inquiry at the New Rochelle Public Library about this film produced the response "No one has taken out the film for five years." But many New Rochelle residents are now taking notice of this famous illustrator. Doug Fleming of the Thornton Donovan School said Rockwell "is about as American as anyone can get."
Jim Killoran has spoken about his American dream of bringing a Norman Rockwell Museum to New Rochelle. Seeing a resurgence in a "Rockwell America" Killoran cites the local world renown artist, Charles Fazzino who is helping him to establish a local Norman Rockwell Museum. He had Fazzino present last summer at the Stockbridge Museum and donate a piece to their collection. Some people feel this ground swell of interest in Rockwell is due to the desire for the community to rise again and for Main Street to be filled with people. The "average Joe and Jill," according to Killoran, "should be the everyday heroes Rockwell always portrayed." Emphasizing Main Street in New Rochelle, he wants to create jobs and have the hotels filled with tourists. Rockwell in his view, saw "life as it is," using the Thanksgiving ,meal as an example, adding, "I don't think New Rochelle knew Rockwell was New Rochelle." Recently he said, Rockwell paintings were displayed throughout the Miami airport, the Brooklyn Museum and paintings lent by George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg were displayed at the Smithsonian. He emphasized, "Art and history can help revitalize Main Street in So No New Ro with more jobs and visitors than any game center ever will."

In the May 27 isue of the Westchester Guardian