For more than thirty years, Fred Rogers captivated and delighted children as the host of the beloved television series, “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.” The show’s 31 seasons have been outpaced only by “Sesame Street” as the longest-running children’s television series. Mister Rogers became a cultural touchstone, known to generations of PBS viewers for his calm, patient and inclusive attitude toward children and the community at large. We were inspired by the recent release of Morgan Neville’s documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” to spotlight scenes of daily neighborly activity in our inventory. These paintings tell simple stories, inviting viewers to contemplate the flow of everyday life. We are pleased to present a selection of neighborhood and community scenes as part of our newest online exhibition, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”
In a review of the documentary published by the 'New York Times', David Brooks declared, “The power is in Rogers’s radical kindness at a time when public kindness is scarce.” The kindness displayed by neighbors takes many forms and can be found in many places. The locales included in this exhibition vary widely, from contemporary Boston streets to inviting doorways to a lush community playground, yet they share narrative undertones of ordinary people coexisting in a shared space, each performing small acts of uncomplicated compassion.
In Joel Babb’s 'On Commonwealth Ave, two acquaintances stroll down a sunny sidewalk bordered by hydrangeas and leafy trees. One woman carries a notebook and gestures emphatically as the other watches, suggesting a thoughtful conversation as they walk home. In the distance, several other figures are visible talking on cellphones or interacting in small groups. The local sidewalk becomes a catalyst for interaction as people run errands, attend classes, and connect with family and friends.
Abbott Fuller Graves takes a different approach in 'Flickering Shadows'. This sun-dappled entryway combines Graves’ two passions, gardens and architecture, to evoke the warmth of coming home at the end of the day. A glance at the neatly painted shutters, thriving flowers, and orderly steps confirms that this home is well-kept and cared for, alluding to the contentedness of its inhabitants. The gentle shadows cast from a nearby tree along with the flowering bushes lining the brick path allude to the outside world. While the front door remains shut, a bronze knocker offers an invitation to the sanctuary within.
Mabel May Woodward’s 'Afternoon at the Playground' captures many of the small scenes of community nurturing that inspired this show. A shallow pool at the center of the work draws children of all ages together, some splashing and holding hands, others playing with toy boats. The edges of the scene are similarly rich with narrative details. Near the front edge of the shallow pool, an older girl comforts her little sister, worn out by the noise and splashing behind them. On a shaded bench, parents and caretakers quietly keep to the periphery as the children play. Most charmingly, on the left side of the pool, two figures hold the hands of a young toddler, leading her to the edge where she might wade in the water for the first time. Basking in the glow of the afternoon sunlight, Woodward’s painting prompts nostalgia for summer days gone by.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” includes more than 30 works of art and will be viewable online March 20th – April 27th.