What struck Margaret Penn when she first traveled to Haiti with her sister in 1969 was the vivid colors. Not in the landscape — "it's not one of the places with the greatest environment," she said — but in the artworks.
"There was art all around me. Everywhere you looked. And the colors. Haitian colors are so bright," Penn said. "We were spellbound. We spent days and days from then on looking at art."
She made friends with well-connected artist-gallerist Nehemy Jean, "He just let us plunder all day," she said. She made many return visits to visit friends and buy more and more art.
Today, the avid collector, who lives in Windsor, is the focus of an exhibit at Windsor Art Center. "Living With Art" opens on Saturday, July 19, ith a reception.
When living conditions in Haiti got worse in the late '90s, she visited less frequently. That's when she started collecting African Amercan art, which she found on her travels as a member of the National Association of Black Social Workers.
The Kentucky-born Penn, who still works as a social worker at age 75, found a well-connected gallerist in Hartford, too. "Jonathan Bruce raised me on art," she said of the man who ran the Community Renewal Team's Craftery Gallery in the North End of Hartford from 1973 to 2002.
The Windsor exhibit features 49 artworks, including some by Craftery Gallery's exhibitors — Donald Boudreaux, Stanwyck Cromwell, Paul Goodnight, Gary O'Neal — as well as dozens of other painters, printers, potters and sculptors.
Penn doesn't buy much art any more — "I haven't got the money," she said — but she encouraged working people who think they can't afford it, to buy art.
"Don't tell me you can't buy art. If you think that, talk to the artist," she said. "You can always work out a lay-away plan."
LIVING WITH ART: SELECTED WORKS FROM THE MARGARET PENN COLLECTION OF HAITIAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN ART is at Windsor Art center, 40 Mechanic St., from July 19, when it opens with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m., until Aug. 30. Gallery hours are Thursday 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Details: www.windsorartcenter.org.Copyright © 2015, CT Now