10 January 2013

Mrs Stevenson and Ada Louise Huxtable

Two great ladies in the arts died in the past few days: Ruth Carter Stevenson and Ada Louise Huxtable.

Mrs Stevenson was the president of the Amon Carter Museum when I worked there in the early 1990s as well as many years before and after. Though I didn't interact with her often, she was aware who I was and would greet me warmly when our paths crossed at the museum. She usually met with staff members every few years. One year, several of us from the library and others were in the conference room for one of these catch-up conversations with Mrs Stevenson. Milan Hughston, my boss, mentioned that he and I would be going to some conference in a colder clime. Mrs Stevenson looked at me and asked if I knew it might be too cold to wear Birkenstocks. I guess she knew who I was and something tell-tale about me. She said it with humor and generosity, which is not to say that she'd be caught wearing Birkenstocks to work.

I don't know what I would have done if I'd worked there the next couple of years after I left. The museum was going into a major construction phase and folks were told they had to wear closed-toe shoes until they moved offsite for a couple years.

The picture of Mrs Stevenson in the Amon Carter Museum galleries is from artdaily. The fellow standing behind her is not identified. There are also wonderful obituaries of Mrs Stevenson on the TCU website and in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. [The fellow behind Mrs Stevenson is Andrew J. Walker, director of the Carter since April 2011.]

Ada Louise Huxtable was the architectural critic at the New York Times when I first started reading architectural criticism. She was thoughtful and spot on, an urbanist and contextualist, opinionated. She taught me how to look at cities and architecture, along with Jane Jacobs and others. I cannot hear "Bruckner Boulevard" without thinking of her book Will they ever finish Bruckner Boulevard?

A recent exchange on Facebook moved The invisible dragon by Dave Hickey up the to-read list. Reading anew about Huxtable has moved her On architecture up the list too.

You can read more about Huxtable in her obituary in the Times by David Dunlap and in an appraisal by Michael Kimmelman, also in the New York Times. The accompanying pictures in each are also wonderful and evocative.

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