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Life in art is on exhibit

Art served as a stabilizing force for Gerald Mead, who grew up in a Hamburg family of 11 kids, and whose father passed away at a young age.

"I was very fortunate that, with all of her responsibilities, my mother took the time to foster and encourage my interest in art," Mead recalls. "She bought me my first set of paints, provided me with art materials -- birthday money one year was for art lessons."

Today, he is an area curator, college professor and collector. And the public opening of his new exhibit "Writing Pictures" is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday in the Western New York Books Art Center at 468 Washington St. during Curtain Up! festivities.

Mead also recalls that, before his death in 1977, his father, Gerald Sr., created an art studio for him in a small shed that had been used to store garden tools.

"My father paneled and carpeted it for me, and a space heater made it usable in the winter months," Mead recalls. "That was quite a luxury. It allowed me to have my own space in which to be creative, and I filled it with my own art work and collected objects."

After his father died, family vacations were replaced with weekends at area art shows and festivals in conjunction with a new "family business," Mead remembers, "the operation of an antique popcorn wagon my mother acquired, so the family could spend time together."

"Seeing so much artwork year after year made an impression on me, and I was able to meet, and get to know the artists."

His mother, Margaret, kept their home full of art, he said.

"We were also all taught that a gift you made yourself was more meaningful than something that you purchased," the collector said. "So all manner of crafts were being done at any given time in our home, from leaded glass to quilting."

The Gerald Mead Collection -- over 450 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, photographs, crafts and video by over 400 artists -- has developed into such a comprehensive, representative survey of the significant artists associated with this region that he's often asked to lend artworks for exhibitions, like at the University at Buffalo's Anderson Gallery and the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University.

His show will be part of Friday's Curtain Up! scene and will continue until Oct. 5, featuring works by artists including Charles Burchfield, Michael Basinski, Nancy Dwyer, Bonnie Gordon, retired Buffalo News Art Critic Richard Huntington, Nina Leo and William Maggio, Barbara Rowe, R.D. Schroeck, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning News cartoonist Bruce Shanks, Craig Smith and Joseph Whalen.

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring?

e-mail, or write to: Louise Continelli, Sunday Profile, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240.

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