August 10, 2013

A loving memory of Pearlie Baskin, a Tacoma leader in supporting the arts

 Pearlie's latest Pot by

(Laughing Loon)

Pearlie’s Pots
Janelle Meraz Hooper
   Pearlie’s pots are under my stairs.  My linen drawers are stuffed with her potholders. Her books by independent authors fill my bookshelves. Some of her plants fill my flowerbeds. I have plenty of wall space, so her paintings hang on the walls of our home.
   No one else in the family knows who Pearlie is. Who is this woman? Why does she have so much of her stuff in our home? I know who she is, and whenever I open a closet and see a hand-thrown  pot  or an original watercolor, I smile.
   I first met Pearlie about 1984 at an art show on the third floor of the Frank Russell building where we exchanged a few pleasant words when I was on the Pierce County Arts Commission. At the end of the show,  I was on my way out the door when I looked behind me and heard an elderly woman carrying out a painting she’d purchased that was so big I couldn’t see anything but her shoes. I only knew it was Pearlie because she was chatting with a friend in line and I recognized her voice.
                “Pearlie,” I asked, “where are you going with that painting?”
                “I’m going to my car,” she said. Then she added, “I hope this thing will fit in the trunk!”
                “Where are you parked?” I asked.
   She indicated that she was parked on the street outside the building.  “That’s a long way to go. Let me carry the painting for you.”
   I had no idea who Pearlie Baskin was or the precautions that were made for her security. She turned to a board member of the art commission and asked, “Is she good people?”
  "The best,” the person answered.
   Still, Pearlie was confident she didn’t need my help. I was so worried that she might take a fall that I followed along behind. When we got to the elevators we discovered they were turned off. The security man said we could use the stairs. I saw Pearlie look at the long, steep stairs with trepidation. “Oh, no!” I argued. “Do you want to take the chance of this woman walking down three flights of stairs?” The man took one look at Pearlie and turned the elevator back on. By then, I was rattled and through taking chances. When the elevator doors opened on the first floor, I took the painting from Pearlie and said, “Lead the way.” I think she only relented because she was getting tired.
  At her car, she and her friend safely loaded the painting into her car’s trunk and she asked me to follow them to her house for tea. While we were waiting for her friend to boil the water, she gave me a tour of her beautifully decorated home that was filled with wonderful pieces of artwork in every medium.
  I was well aware of how special my presence in Pearlie’s home was. It was clear that not many outsiders were ever guests there.  What a treat! I followed her down the hall while she put her newest acquisition in a large closet because she had no more room left on her walls. She opened the closet door wide and pointed out her stash of art—possibly enough to fill a small gallery. When she saw my puzzlement, she cheerfully explained that she and her late husband were art enthusiasts and they regularly purchased  artwork to support artists.
  And that’s how the pots—Pearlie’s Pots—got under my stairs. I was so inspired by Pearlie that, through the years, I’ve tried to support the arts whenever I could.
  Pearlie is no longer with us. I wish there was a way for her to know that she has now branched out into supporting musicians: last weekend, my husband stopped at a street fair to toss some bills into the instrument cases of two very young musicians. I was all in favor of supporting local musicians (My mantra is: Always tip the musicians!"). I was also relieved he hadn’t stopped to buy a pot.  Anything but a pot! Our closet under the basement stairs is full!


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