West Chester & Chadds Ford Life Spring/Summer 2016

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Spring/Summer 2016

West Chester & Chadds Ford


Catherine Seisson Owner of La Baguette Magique - Page 34

Inside • The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center expands • Artist Brett Walker returns to the spotlight

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West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

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West Chester & Chadds Ford Life Spring/Summer 2016

Table of Contents 10



A place where imagination takes flight


The love inside of Maddi’s bag


Q & A with Catherine Seisson


In the spotlight: Side Bar & Restaurant


Profile of John Blankenbaker, a pioneer in personal computers


Brett Walker returns to local art world with two shows


From Farm to Table at Westtown School


The Prana House





Cover design by Tricia Hoadley Cover photograph by Jie Deng 6

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Spring/Summer 2016

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


An area rich with interesting—and sometimes inspirational—stories Letter from the Editor: Welcome to the spring issue of West Chester & Chadds Ford Life. Our writers and photographers once again found the area to be rich with interesting— and sometimes inspirational—stories. In this issue, we spotlight the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center, which is currently renovating and expanding its facility. One of the facts that a visitor to the American Helicopter Museum learns is that the museum is located in the very heartland of helicopter innovation. Many of the technological breakthroughs that allowed the helicopter industry to soar took place in the Delaware Valley. Writer Richard Gaw profiles the Raimondo family, whose work to begin Maddi’s Bag Foundation has helped children with head injuries find a little bit more joy at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We also meet Chadds Ford resident John Blankenbaker, who is credited with inventing the first commercially available personal computer. West Chester & Chadds Ford Life was there in March when West Chester University honored its retiring president and his wife, officially unveiling the newly named Greg and Sandra Weisenstein Veterans Center. Writer John Chambless profiles artist Brett Walker, who returns to the local art world with two shows. We take a look at the Westtown School’s student-run farm program. The subject of the Q & A is Catherine Seisson, the owner of La Baguette Magique. We also talk to Blaise Labik, one of two executive chefs at the Side Bar & Restaurant, who won this year’s Chef’s Best competition during an event that benefits a local nonprofit organization. The staff of West Chester & Chadds Ford Life always enjoys the opportunity to meet and talk with the people who help make the community such a wonderful place to live and work. By the time this issue reaches readers, we’ll be hard at work planning for the next edition, which will arrive in the fall of 2016. If you have any comments or suggestions for future stories, please let us know. Sincerely, Randy Lieberman, Publisher, randyl@chestercounty.com, 610-869-5553 Steve Hoffman, Editor, editor@chestercounty.com, 610-869-5553, x. 13


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A place where imagination takes flight The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center is located in the heartland of helicopter innovation. It is a one-ofa-kind destination that displays a collection of vintage helicopters, and offers guided tours, interactive exhibits, and much more

Courtesy photo

Visitors can see a large collection of vintage helicopters on display.


West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


t would be an understatement to say that the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center is a unique attraction in West Chester. After all, how many museums can offer helicopter rides as one of the activities? But the one-of-a-kind nature of the museum extends far beyond the helicopter rides. The museum, which opened two decades ago, features interactive exhibits, guided tours, an education center, and various Continued on Page 12 Courtesy photo

Some of the helicopters on display were used by the military.

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Continued from Page 11

science and technology programs to spark a visitor’s imagination. The museum has an impressive collection of about 35 different civilian and military helicopters from World War II era to the present. Some notable examples are a Bell 47B (1945), Bell AH-1F Cobra, Piasecki HUP and H-21, Boeing CH-46E, Sikorsky S-51 (1946) and a Sikorsky VH 34 D that was recently donated by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The museum also has the only Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor currently on display by a museum anywhere in the world. One of the facts that a visitor to the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center quickly learns is that the museum is located in the heartland of helicopter innovation. “Going back to the 1930s and 1940s, a lot of technology breakthroughs occurred in the Delaware Valley, or development was being done by people who had roots here. A large percentage of the American helicopter companies have operations here today,” explained Marc Sheffler, the Chairman of the helicopter museum’s Board of Trustees. Sheffler, a retired engineer from Boeing who enjoyed a 38-year career in the industry, explained that there is a three-fold mission for the museum—to preserve, to educate, and to inspire. The American Helicopter Museum and Education Center (AHMEC) opened to the public in 1996. Three years earlier, a group of helicopter enthusiasts got together to discuss ways to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the American Helicopter Society, a milestone that the organization was going to reach in 1994. This group decided that they didn’t want a onetime event to mark the occasion, so discussions about a permanent museum Courtesy photo took place. This led The expansion project will provide for to the formation more room to display helicopters like of the American these.

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

Helicopter Museum and Education Center, a place to collect, preserve, research, and exhibit artifacts and documents related to the origins and development of rotary-wing aircraft. Sheffler explained that Peter Wright, a distinguished aviator and the founder of Keystone Helicopter Corporation, was instrumental in the formation of the museum, as were Treb Lipton and Bob Beggs of Boeing. From the very beginning, an important part of the museum’s mission was to document the origins and development of rotary-wing aircraft. Exhibits in the museum honor the efforts of industry pioneers like Harold Frederick Pitcairn, Frank Piasecki, W. Wallace Kellett, and Arthur Young. “We have an exciting new exhibit coming soon called Pioneer Hall,” Sheffler explained. “There are kiosks where visitors can learn about the challenges that the early pioneers faced and then try their hand at solving a problem to test their innovation skills. A modern museum has to have more hands on interactivity, and that’s what we will have.” While helicopters are a relatively new invention in the grand scheme of things, man has long had a fascination with the concept of vertical flying machines. The earliest references about vertical flight can be traced to around 400 B.C. when Chinese children played with a bamboo flying toy, called a Chinese top, that has a two-bladed rotor on a stick that could be rolled between the hands and released to fly vertically. Around 1485, Leonardo da Vinci designed a helicopter based around the concept of an aerial screw, but it would still be a long time before scientific knowledge increased to the point where the designs could be transformed into machines capable of vertical flight. The museum documents and showcases the history of helicopters as they evolved through the years. “We have about 35 helicopters on display or in storage,” Sheffler Courtesy photo explained. “In addition The museum has a full slate of special to the helicopters, we events and activities that are open to Continued on Page 14

the public.

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Helicopter Museum Continued from Page 13

have 18,000 items in our archives.” These archives include everything from helicopter designs to early original patent documents and other artifacts that are significant to the history of helicopters. One item that Sheffler particularly likes is a slide rule used by Igor Sikorsky. “We tell visitors that this is one of the first computers,” Sheffler explained. The museum has been recognized numerous times for offering an outstanding educational and scientific experience for children, and the close proximity to the Brandywine Airport is an extraordinary gift for visitors. There are many times during the course of a year when helicopter rides are offered. In 2003, just seven years after the museum opened, the organization decided to buy the building that it is located in so that this would be a permanent home. The effort to complete the purchase was helped immensely when Frank Robinson, owner of Robinson Helicopters, donated $1 million to the effort. Currently, the American Helicopter Museum and

Courtesy photo

While the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center has an impressive collection of more than 35 vintage helicopters, there are still important examples of rotary-wing history that officials would like to have on display some day. Marc Sheffler, the president of the museum’s board of directors, said that autogyros would be one thing that he would like to see added to the collection.

Education Center is in the middle of an expansion project that will increase its exhibit space, add a fully-equipped theater, and add two state-of-the-art classrooms for education programming. One of the classrooms will be set up for hands-on experiences for visitors. Continued on Page 16

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Helicopter Museum Continued from Page 14

“Adding two classrooms and a larger theater will enable us to serve more school groups than ever before,” said executive director Sarah Sands. There is now extra room for the museum to host corporate conferences. For example, 400 realtors recently held a meeting at the museum. The facility can also be booked for rehearsal dinners, engagement parties, weddings, and other events. “Corporations will find these additions invaluable for training programs and social events,” Sands explained. The new space for the Restoration Center will allow the museum’s volunteer craftsmen to work on helicopters that are too large for existing rooms. They will also be able to do the restoration work, utilizing the necessary machinery and chemicals, in a space that doesn’t interfere with other visitors. The building can now be open seven days a week to visitors and guests, if necessary. Sheffler said that the museum is very reliant on volunteers—there are approximately 125 men and women who assist with the facility’s operations in a lot of different ways. “There are a lot of helicopter industry retirees who


Courtesy photo

The American Helicopter Museum attracts about 35,000 people annually, but with all the new improvements and offerings that will likely increase.

volunteer here,” Sheffler explained. “But you do not need to be a helicopter engineer or mechanic to volunteer. There are a lot of different volunteer opportunities, and we train people. Even volunteering one hour a week is appreciated.”

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Helicopter Museum Continued from Page 16

According to Sheffler, with the expansion nearing completion, this is a very exciting time in the history of the museum. “We are always working to improve and expand programs and workshops to inspire the next generation of scientists, innovators, and pilots.” These educational programs are targeted toward students of all ages. Erica Zwilling is the education program director, and Sheffler said that she works hard to schedule as many public education programs as possible. This year, the helicopter museum teamed with officials from the West Chester Area School District to bring a rotor blade design course to all 7th grade technical education students in one school. This program will be expanded to three schools in the district in the next school year. “We have a range of programs for children, from kindergarten on up,” Sheffler explained. Additionally, the museum also offers a popular Women in Aerospace and Technology Program that is designed for girls in grades 3-12 to promote their interest in science, technology, engineering, math, and flight. The museum works with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania and

Courtesy photo

There is sign at the entrance to the museum that helicopters save lives.

other organizations to make this program possible. The museum has a full slate of special events and activities that are open to the public, including a gala event that takes place each year. There’s also a Father’s Day celebration called Fatherfest that features an open house, a classic car show, vendors, a drone demonstration, and helicopter rides.

Continued on Page 20

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The Heartland of Helicopter Innovation Historic Site (Est. Pre-1960)

R iv er

Piasecki Helicopter Corp/ VERTOL Aircraft Corp. Morton

AgustaWestland Philadelphia

ia lph e d ila Ph

Gloucester County NJ

New Castle County DE

Gerard Herrick Boulevard Airport Philadelphia

Burlington County NJ

Franklin Institute Philadelphia

Camden County NJ

Univ of Penn Philadelphia Sterling Helicopter

Salem County NJ

Platt-LePage Eddystone

Philadelphia Seaplane Base Essington

Pitcairn Field 1 Bryn Athyn PV-2 First Flight Roxborough


Cecil County, MD Arthur Young’s Farm Radnor Boeing Rotorcraft Ridley Park

Montgomery County PA

Delaware County PA

Keystone Helicopters Malvern


Chester County PA

Lancaster County PA


MBB Helicopters West Chester

Mercer County NJ


Bucks County PA

Pitcairn Field 2 Willow-Grove


Berks County PA

E. Burke Wilford Philadelphia-Main Line Airport

American Helicopter Museum & Education Center

Huntington County NJ

Lehigh County PA

Present Site

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Kellett Autogiro Company Upper Darby

The museum is located in the very heart of helicopter innovation.


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Helicopter Museum Continued from Page 18

Nina Kelly, the director of marketing and communications for Chester County’s Brandywine Valley, the official tourism agency for Chester County, said that the American Helicopter Museum has multi-generational appeal, with everyone from military veterans to children having an interest. “Who doesn’t like helicopter rides?” Kelly asked. “It’s a really great experience.” She added that the helicopter museum has a great space to rent out for business meetings and other events. Sheffler said that the American Helicopter Museum attracts about 35,000 people annually, Continued on Page 22


Courtesy photo

Exhibits tell the story of rotary-wing aviation history.



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but with all the new improvements and offerings that will likely increase. That will mean that more people will come to enjoy this hidden gem, and more people will understand why West Chester, with its proximity to so much helicopter innovation, is the perfect spot for this museum. “We’re still kind of a hidden treasure,” Sheffler explained. “Once people find out about us, they are surprised by all that we have to offer here.” To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@chestercounty.com.

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The love inside of Maddi’s bag

Scott and Jenny Raimondo of Glen Mills may have endured a near tragedy, but it’s what they decided to do as their youngest daughter recuperated from serious injuries that is the stuff of who they are – and we are, as a community By Richard L. Gaw Staff Writer


Photo by Richard L. Gaw

Jenny Raimondo and her seven-year-old daughter, Maddi. 24

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

fter spending 20 years succeeding at one job, Scott Raimondo of Glen Mills handed in his letter of resignation in the spring of 2014, so that he would be able to write the next chapter of his professional career, all on his own. He decided that he wouldn’t just work in business. He would own one. His parents had a house and a boat on the island of Isla Mujeres near Cancun, Mexico, so Scott and his wife Jenny thought that this would be the perfect time to take a family vacation with their three daughters, Sammi,

Ella, and the youngest, Maddi, who was only five. Scott needed the short respite away from what had just ended and what was soon to begin, and the week was a picture postcard of rejuvenation: fishing, sun, family and glorious weather that seemed to fall like a gift from the sky. April 20 began as the most spectacular day of the entire week they had spent in Cancun. The flight back to Philadelphia was early the next morning, so Jenny and Scott spent the better part of the late afternoon lounging with the kids at the yacht club pool, and then packing. They drove golf carts to a seaside restaurant for an early dinner, and because the approaching sunset was so spectacular, the family decided to take their party to the rooftop deck. There, they took photos of all of the Raimondo children -- cousins locked arm-in-arm, captured in the golden light. These days were what Scott needed -- what Jenny and the kids needed. Below, the deck, the street was crowded with vacationing revelers, come to drink in the same nightly vistas. For guests who choose to dine the rooftop deck at this restaurant, they are protected from the street below by two ropes, strung through pillars, that wrap around the deck’s perimeter, and on April 20, 2014, the lower rope was sagging. In the distance, Jenny heard someone say, “This was the best vacation ever.” Immediately after snapping the last photo, Jenny called Maddi to her, and then everything in the world seem to slow itself down: Maddi coming toward her mother. A tiny misstep that caused Maddi to lose her footing. Maddi trying to stop her momentum but not being able to. Maddi falling, backward, managing for a blink of a frame to look directly into her mother’s eyes as she vanished to the street below. Continued on Page 26

Photo by Richard L. Gaw

Maddi’s Bags are gifted to all children in the surgical and trauma unit at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Courtesy photo

Several schools throughout the West Chester area have participated in Maddi’s Bag events and donation drives. www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


Maddi Continued from Page 25

Jenny and her mother-in-law flew down the stairs of the restaurant and fought through the crowd to get to Maddi, and when they reached her, Maddi lay limp and unconscious. Jenny stared down into her daughter’s eyes. Someone had called for an ambulance, and within minutes, Maddi was taken to the island’s first aid center. The medics there called her situation “grave,” and she was then quickly taken again by ambulance to the island’s ferry depot in the hopes of getting on the next ferry over to Cancun. Eventually, the ferry came for the 30-minute ride to Cancun, which was followed by another 30-minute wait for another ambulance to the nearest hospital. By then, Maddi had regained consciousness, but was unrecognizable. Her head had swollen to three times its normal size, she had broken the femur bone in her right leg and bleeding on both sides of her brain. She was screaming in pain, as the doctors applied pain stimulus to maintain her consciousness and begin the first round of neurological assessments. How do we get off the island? Scott and his father kept thinking. What is the quickest ways to get Maddi back home? They spent the next 36 hours at a hospital that could best be described as sterile, but one that was woefully under-equipped

Courtesy art

The organization’s annual Shop 4 CHOP event has raised over $15,000 for families of children who are being treated for head Photo courtesy of Raimondo family trauma injuries at the Children’s Hospital of The Raimondo sisters: Sammi, Ella and Maddi. Philadelphia.

to treat a pediatric trauma patient, let alone communicate in English to the patient’s parents. In the murkiness of the nightmare that was happening in front of them, Jenny and Scott were trying Continued on Page 28

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Maddi Continued from Page 26

to understand what the doctors were doing through the broken English spoken to them by the nurses and doctors. There were two fractures to the head, they said, and the bleeding would not stop. The only English words Jenny could understand were from a doctor, who kept telling her, “Three days. We need three days.” “That’s all he told me that I could really understand,” Jenny said. “I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t know if they meant life or death. It was horrifying to sit there and watch them put things into her, pumping her with medicine, and all along, they couldn’t communicate with me what was happening, or what they were doing.” At one point, there was so much blood loss that the doctors pointed to Maddi’s leg and said that they needed to perform a blood transfusion. “It instantly set me off into a panic,” Jenny said. “I used to work at Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital, so I was quite knowledgeable about traumatic brain injury and medical scenarios. I understood a blood transfusion could be life saving but I wasn’t comfortable with one about to be done on my daughter in Mexico. Clearly, they couldn’t take our

Photo by Richard L. Gaw

Maddi’s Bag continues to receive donations of coloring books and toys from individuals and organizations.

blood and screen it in time, so it was a game-time decision. I just had to trust them. I had to trust God. I think the power of prayer and trusting the unknown played a huge role in saving her.” At one point, the doctors told the Raimondos that they felt that they needed to do surgery on Maddi’s leg, but as


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they were about to wheel her away, Scott’s father walked up to them and said, “You’re not going to touch her.” The surgery for the femur could wait. The injuries to the brain could not. Scott and Jenny called everywhere, to friends back home, to hospitals in West Chester and Philadelphia -- literally, anyone who could make a connection to the hospital they really wanted their daughter to be: the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The only connection they had to CHOP was a very remote one; a neighbor they barely knew worked at CHOP, and through a friend, a connection was finally made to her. The neighbor quickly sent an internal page throughout the hospital, and almost immediately, five-year-old Maddi Raimondo of Glen Mills became Priority One at CHOP, but now the question was, How do we get her here? Scott and his father were finally able to make financial arrangements to obtain the services of a medically-staffed flight to transport Maddi from Mexico to Philadelphia, and two-and-a-half days after falling from the second floor of a restaurant on an island off the coast of Cancun, Maddi arrived at the doors of CHOP in Center City. “We went from three people in the hospital who couldn’t speak English to a personal security guard who escorted

us right into the hospital where 20 people were standing there, telling us, ‘We’ve been waiting for you,’” Scott said. “They did more examinations on Maddi in the first three minutes than the doctors in Mexico did in the entire time we were there. There was a feeling I had that told me as those doors opened, ‘Everything is going to be all right.’” Although Scott and Jenny finally had the reassurance that their daughter was back home and in the best care, the news turned out to be much worse. There were seven skull fractures, mixed subdural and epidural hematomas on both the right and left side of the brain, two fractured vertebrae, and Maddi’s right leg absorbed a femur fracture. Maddi stayed at CHOP for nine days. She was immobile and non verbal. Her face had darkened from all of the bleeding. The only invitation into her feelings was to look into her eyes. To the Raimondos, the Child Life Department at CHOP was truly a Godsend and the therapist who was assigned to Maddi provided her with activities that allowed her to communicate with her parents, grandparents and sisters in games and projects that the hospital had made available to children in the trauma unit. There were coloring books, small toys, birdhouses to make. Friends sent more Continued on Page 30

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Maddi Continued from Page 29

toys, more coloring books. These simple activities allowed Maddi to reconnect with her sisters and friends, and enhanced her ability to communicate with her doctors. At first, the idea of giving back began very quietly for the Raimondos. The family would go shopping for crayons and coloring books to bin up for CHOP’s trauma unit. Eventually, Jenny imagined that these contributions could come not just from the family, but from other individuals, agencies and organizations in the West Chester community. Single contributions soon became entire bins filled with goodies. Eventually, the Child Life team at CHOP team called the Raimondos. “They told us that they have a wish list of initiatives, and one of them was to create a comfort bag for children who are admitted into the trauma unit,” Jenny said. “They then asked us for permission to use Maddi’s name, and help them fund the program. The idea was that we would help collect items and raise funds, take the bins to the hospital, and from there, the Maddi’s bags would be stuffed and given out.” In November 2014, Jenny held her first Shop for CHOP

at her home, which allowed guests to avoid the aggravation of visiting a crowded mall and do their holiday gift purchasing in a relaxed setting. Twelve vendors participated, and $5,000 was raised for the Maddi’s Bag Child Life Fund. Last year, at the second annual Shop for CHOP, the event hosted 22 vendors and raised $10,000 for the fund. Although the Shop for CHOP events -- a third is scheduled for November -- may serve as the primary fundraising wing of the Maddi’s Bag campaign, they are by no means the extent of the cause. The outpouring of community involvement has been the engine that moves the campaign, Jenny said, and it is seen everywhere, from individual donations to fund-raising events held by organizations throughout the past year. KICKS Academy of Dance recently hosted their second annual collection drive, and Girl Scout Troop 4871 organized a movie night at Starkweather Elementary School. Both events accumulated dozens of bins filled with coloring books and toys that were donated to Maddi’s Bag. It doesn’t end there; The Rose Tree Dental Group donated Continued on Page 32

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Maddi Continued from Page 30

dental hygiene items; students at Penn Wood Elementary School gathered several boxes of gifts; Marinella Jewelry has designed a custom Maddi’s Bag bracelet; and the Whole Foods in Glen Mills has donated gift cards that will be gifted -- along with a Visa gift card and the Marinella bracelet -- to the recipient of the Maddi’s Bag Child Life Nurse of the Month. “Charity is contagious,” Jenny said. “I’ve had so many people who have reached out to me. My daughter Sammi’s sixth-grade classmates took it upon themselves to rally around National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness in March. Now it’s our turn to give back. We’re working to help the other kids feel as great as Maddi felt when people reached out to her. It is our life goal to help comfort children and families when life confronts them traumatically.” Scott grew up in a Roman Catholic family. He attended Cardinal O’Hara High School, and then attended and graduated from St. Joseph’s University. “I hadn’t gone to church in about 30 years, nor did I even give much thought to religion, but during the time Maddi was in the hospital, I kept receiving texts from family and


friends, telling me that they’re praying for Maddi and the family, and that prayers are being said for Maddi at mass,” he said. “I kept hearing that the entire community was rallying around us. Gifts came to our house. Neighbors brought us food.” After 30 years away, Scott began to attend mass on Sundays, soon after Maddi got home. He still attends. “I don’t know if I buy into faith, but I felt like I had to repay those people who do buy into faith,” he said. “Whenever people ask us about Maddi, I tell them, ‘We’re truly blessed.’ I don’t know if I ever felt that way before. I do now. We have a nice home. I’ve been fortunate to make a nice salary, and we’ve never had many large worries, but I never felt blessed until we had the outcome with Maddi.” The Raimondo sisters were always close before Maddi’s accident, but Scott and Jenny see that the bond Sammi, 11, and Ella, 8, have with their 7-year-old little sister is even stronger. Normally, the Raimondo home is a flurry of activity and noise, but when Maddi first walked into the front door after leaving CHOP, the Raimondo house became quieter. It still is. “It slowed us down,” Jenny said. “Our kids do activities one at a time now. It’s not ‘Hurry up and put your shoes

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

on’ anymore. So what if we’re late two minutes? If they wake up and they’re having a bad day, it’s okay, they will go to school a little later. You come out of tragedy with this kind of grace. We are humbled. In a split second we saw our lives could have been changed for the worse and we are forever grateful for the miracle we were given. Never once did we have to explain the severity of the situation to the kids. Everyone has stepped in and happily embraced this new path we were presented with. Ella and Sammi are in this with their hearts.” To this day, Scott cannot bring himself to look at the photographs that were taken of his three children on April 20, 2014. The memories of them are very likely to open a piece of himself that he’d prefer to avoid, but the irony is this: the Raimondos are a family that is documented by photographs. An entire wall of their home is devoted to shots of Scott, Jenny and the girls. One photo stands out for Scott. Jenny took it on the first day Maddi returned to school, after spending months recuperating from her injuries. The young girl’s eyes radiate a flash of anticipation and hope, and there is a smile on her face that is as bright as the setting Cancun sun. It tells the entire story of where she has been, and where she is now going. “I love that photo,” he said. For more information about Maddi’s Bag, visit the Maddi’s Bag Facebook page, or e-mail Jenny Raimondo at maddisbag@gmail.com. To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty. com.

Photo courtesy of Raimondo family

The Raimondo sisters model the Maddi’s Bag.

www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


Owner of La Baguette Magique Photos by Jie Deng


It happens at the moment you first walk through the door, and you cannot help but come back again. When you first enter La Baguette Magique on Market Street in West Chester, you are swept up and taken on a journey to halfway around the world, and when you finally land, you realize that you have been temporarily placed along the Left Bank in Paris, and smack into a Doisneau photograph. In the little more than a year that Catherine Seisson has owned and operated her La Baguette Magique, thousands of her customers have delightfully taken that carpet ride of the senses, to where the taste, touch and fragrance of fresh baked French bread and pastries is both tantalizing and tactile. Recently, West Chester & Chadds Ford Life sat down with Catherine to hear the story of her own journey, her own carpet ride, one that went from a professional life to the fulfillment of a childhood dream. West Chester & Chadds Ford Life: After 23 years in the pharmaceutical industry, you decide that you want to learn how to bake, as a way of taking you back to the pleasures you had of being a young girl growing up in France. What led you to this noble life decision. Seisson: I spent 23 years in the pharmaceutical industry, and in that time, I learned how to run complex projects, but the world changes every day, so I changed along with it. I had turned a certain age and asked myself, ‘What do I want to do with the rest of my life?’ My father was a chef, and my younger brother is also a chef, but from the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be a bread maker. I had raised my kids, and I could not envision staying an extra 15 years with a group that had become so big. I had lost my meaning. I needed more direct interaction with people, and I knew I wanted to bake. I spoke with my kids and my husband, in order for them to be ready for the change, too, one that involved moving to another country as well. Life was telling me to do something else.

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

Photo by Jie Deng

Fresh bread is baked throughout the day.

Photo by Jie Deng

At La Baguette Magique, products are made the French way, with great respect shown toward the proper selection and use of the flour.

You didn’t just step out of your career and walked into a bakery one day and just start working. You graduated from a prestigious school in France. You learned on the job, in bakeries in France and in the United States. How did what you learned both in school and early in your baking career prepare you for eventually starting your own business? Seisson: First, I learned a lot when I was still in the pharmaceutical industry. I was running projects, so I learned how to put things into perspective and order, determine how we can be compliant, put things into motion, determine what must be done first, etcetera. Baking is simple... and complex at the same time. There are four ingredients to bread: water, flour, yeast and salt. But you need to understand several parameters, such as temperature, fermentation, and shaping. I needed to master all of this simplicity, to be able to become capable of organizing our production. When I had the opportunity to come to the States for internships, I could measure all the differences and get adjusted to ingredients, equipment, units of measure. There was a lot to learn. I developed a business plan and had it reviewed by individuals at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania and Kutztown University. When you have a plan, you can adjust easily, so I was able to fine tune it. I came prepared. Take me back as a young girl growing up in France. What role did the preparation and enjoyment of food play in your early life? Seisson: As a kid, I was asked quite often to help my parents. I would love being with my father, early in the

morning -- just with him -- in his kitchen, and enjoy the smell of everything he was chopping. Ground herbs, parsley, onions. Every Wednesday, he and I would climb in his truck at three in the morning -- because there was no school on Wednesdays in France -- and go to see this huge marketplace of flowers, vegetables and foods, where he would do his shopping for the week. I have such great memories of those moments. He passed away before I moved here. I’m sure he can see where I am now. I owe him a lot. He loved what he was doing, being in his kitchen -- touching and feeling -- with the smells and the noises. He inspired me. How did you arrive in West Chester? Seisson: When I was in the pharmaceutical industry, I spent two years in Toronto, and would come hundreds of times to one of our production facilities in the Poconos. I spent summers there with my kids, and also had the opportunity to visit Philadelphia, Lancaster and other towns in the area. This place -- West Chester and the Brandywine Valley -- is really unique. My kids felt that way, too. My husband is the CEO of a company in France, and most of his potential clients are on the East Coast here in the States. He is opening a subsidiary of his company here. West Chester was the perfect place to be for me, for him, for us as a family, and for the bakery. One Summer, we rented a car and with a paper map of Pennsylvania, we drove everywhere between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. My husband prepared an XL spread sheet with all of our criteria. It had to be a place where food was Continued on Page 36

www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


Q&A Continued from Page 35

important, but one that had no bakery. West Chester had all of these things. When it comes to your experience, what are the differences in the tastes and needs between customers in France and customers here in the States? Seisson: When I was figuring out my business plan, I had almost everything that you see here in the store -- baguettes, French bread and pastries. The bakers with whom I did my internships with in the States suggested that I incorporate cinnamon into my foods. In France, we know about cinnamon but it’s not in our tastes, and anything made with apples in France, is made without cinnamon. I realized early that I would not compete with places who made donuts and bagels -- which I love -- but I was willing to take a risk here. One year later, you would be surprised to see the number of people -- American people -- coming in here to get their French baguettes, willing to try new things, and coming back. People from the neighborhood; we know their names, we know their children’s names. It is so much more than simply a transaction here!

Your mission statement is to create a bakery that nourishes the mind, body and spirit. Achieving that takes more than just making great products. How does a bakery nourish a spirit? Seisson: When I started baking at school, it was a difficult time. My father was dying of cancer. My oldest child was going through a difficult time with several conditions. I went to baking school. I found it so therapeutic. Even now, I enjoy being here at night, where everything is quiet and peaceful, being focused on what I need to do. In baking, the entire body needs to be used and focused. You work, and you wait. You divide and you wait, then you shape and you wait. You need to wait. Time and observation are important factors in baking. You can see the results. You can smell the results. You have to feel it. All senses are contributing. You have no instrument -- no knife, no spoon. It’s your hands. Not every job takes you through your entire body the way baking does. And then, at the end, you eat. You nourish. You share. You could probably spend less and just get your ingredients elsewhere, but instead, you have chosen to work with local vendors. It’s a true collaboration.





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West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

Photo by Jie Deng

In addition to its signature baguettes and fresh bread, La Baguette Magique is also known for its delectible pies and tarts.

Seisson: Although I chose to come to West Chester, I was welcomed here by a community. The least I could do to become a part of this community was to partner with those vendors who are here. What is your favorite spot in West Chester? Seisson: Marshall Park. I like the atmosphere. I like the project for the fountain. I spend a lot of hours here, but I need to see the trees, and beside, it’s in the heart of West Chester. Dinner party guests? Seisson: Because I like the history of this guy, Louis II de Baviere, the king of Bavaria from 1864 to 1886. There would be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There would be Ella Fitzgerald. There would be Audrey Hepburn. Then there would be my dad, as well as our customers... and also all of those who have not yet come over! What food is always in your refrigerator at home? Seisson: Pineapple. I love pineapple. I have fresh juice and the fruit, all of the time. La Baguette Magique is located at 202 W. Market Street, West Chester, Pa. 19382. For more information, visit www. magicbaguette.com. -- Richard L. Gaw www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


—————|Around West Chester|—————

In the spotlight:

Side Bar & Restaurant By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


Courtesy photo

The Side Bar & Restaurant will defend the Chef’s Best crown at the 2017 event. The Chef’s Best competition is a fundraiser for ACT in Faith, an interfaith ministry that provides physical, financial, and spiritual support to people in the Greater West Chester area.


West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

or this year’s Chef’s Best competition, Blaise Labik, one of two executive chefs at the Side Bar & Restaurant, prepared a Korean barbecue short rib slider with a choice of green onion slaw or a spicy Kimachi slaw. The dish was so popular, according to Hallie Romanowski, that there was a steady line of people waiting to try the slider throughout the evening. At the end of the night, the Side Bar & Restaurant was the winner of the Chef’s Best competition. “People seemed to enjoy it,” Labik said, “so I was really happy.” So was Romanowski. She is the executive director of ACT in Faith, an interfaith ministry that provides physical, financial, and spiritual support to people in the Greater West Chester area who are lacking basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. The Chef’s Best competition has been a successful fundraiser for ACT in Faith for the last five years because West Chester chefs like Labik lend their culinary talents to

the event. Guests get to sample the best food in West Chester. This year’s Chef’s Best competition included Spence 312 (the winner of this event in 2015), Avalon, and the High Street Caffe. Romanowki said that the 2016 event attracted more than 180 people and raised more than $25,000 for ACT in Faith. Winning the contest was nice, Labik said, but it was even better to help out the West Chester community. “It’s a very good charity, and it’s good to support the local community in any way possible,” Labik explained. Jon Traina, one of two co-managers at the Side Bar & Restaurant, said that Labik and Dave Young III, also an executive chef at the restaurant, like to make “elevated versions of everyday foods” to pair with the large selection of craft beers. Labik likes to grab a cookbook off the shelf, pick a recipe for a classic dish, and then find a way to put a creative, modern spin on it. “You can still have a lot of fun with them,” Labik explained of the classic dishes. He and Young will also work collaboratively to come up with new ideas. “We bounce ideas off each other,” Labik explained. Labik added that the Side Bar & Restaurant also hosts beer dinners that pair beers with dinner. Information about upcoming special events can be found at www.sidebarandrestaurant.com, or by calling 610-429-8297. The restaurant is very active on social media, including Twitter. The Side Bar Restaurant is located at 10 East Gay Street. To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@chestercounty. com.

Courtesy photo

Blaise Labik, one of two executive chefs at the Side Bar & Restaurant, accepts the award for the Chef’s Best competition.

Courtesy photos

A steady stream of people lined up for the Korean barbecue short rib slider with a choice of green onion slaw or a spicy Kimachi slaw.

www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


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A pioneer looks back

John Blankenbaker, circa 1971, with his Kenbak-1 personal computer.

John Blankenbaker of Chadds Ford is credited with inventing the first commercially available personal computer.

Photo by John Chambless

John Blankenbaker of Chadds Ford, with the 1970 circuit board for his Kenbak-1 computer and his home desktop. 46

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

An early ad for the Kenbak-1, and the interior of the original unit.

By John Chambless Staff Writer


ohn Blankenbaker was born in 1929 on an Oklahoma dairy farm. As a boy, he would lie in the grass outside his house on summer nights and ponder the stars. “I did have an interest in the physical world. I was impressed by the stars,” he said. “And I remember wondering why a jar of water would disappear through evaporation. “Then I did a little experiment once – I wondered what was inside a .22 bullet,” Blankenbaker said, smiling. “So the thing to do is take it apart, and for that purpose, a hammer was as good as anything. So I beat on a .22. It went off and hit a cast-iron kettle out in the yard, I think. It made a lot of noise. Everyone was running around the house.” Today, at 85, Blankenbaker has seen the world change in just about every respect. In the tidy living room of his Chadds Ford home, he has three large circuit boards and some papers that attest to the role he played in building what the Computer Museum in Boston has called “the world’s first commercially available personal computer.” Admitting that he doesn’t have a cell phone and uses his desktop computer primarily for doing genealogical and historical research, Blankenbaker shows a quick

mind and a clear memory, and he traces his path through the technological leaps and bounds of the last century with a self-effacing tone. “The first time I saw a real computer was SEAC at the Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “It occupied a building that was larger than my house. It was built just for the computer. One of the things they had to include was air conditioning, because it generated a lot of heat. This was in Washington in the summer, so it was a pleasant place to work. I worked there as a summer job in 1951.” In those days, no one had their own computer. Universities and research institutions maintained the room-filling computers of the day, and outside parties had to line up for a time to run their research. “It had been working for a while, but they were still discovering little flaws in the design,” Blankenbaker recalled. “They were still fine-tuning it. There weren’t too many working computers at the time. The ENIAC was working for the Army down at Aberdeen. And SEAC was operating, and there was SWAC out at UCLA.” One problem with the SEAC was that operators couldn’t tell what it was doing when it was working. “Oh, you couldn’t tell anything,” Blankenbaker said. “The input was on paper tape, and you normally read in the entire Continued on Page 48

www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


Blankenbaker Continued from Page 47

problem. It computed and then it punched paper tape and you printed it to see what it said. The language was strictly zeroes and ones. It looked like gibberish.” The computer was so busy that private individuals weren’t authorized to use it, “except during thunderstorms,” Blankenbaker said. “It was so unreliable that, during a storm, they didn’t want to risk a big project, so private individuals could try a personal program.” Blankenbaker, who was one of four students who got to work with SEAC, wrote a program for it that didn’t work. The engineers didn’t know why, since it looked fine. Before that summer, in 1946, Blankenbaker had enlisted in the Navy at 16 to learn how to repair the increasing amount of electronics aboard ships. When he was a college freshman, “I happened to read an issue of Popular Science or Popular Mechanics, and it was probably about ENIAC. It had 17,000 tubes. And the number system only had a zero and a one. In those days, people never heard of things like that. I spent some time figuring out how you compute, how you convert to numbers that you understand.


“My motivation was that we had to do a fair amount of computations in the physics lab, and I thought maybe I could automate it,” Blankenbaker said. “I spent a lot of time, using relays, trying to design something more like a calculator. I started adding up the cost, though, and it was well beyond my budget, so I abandoned it.” After college, he went to work on airborne computer navigation systems for the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1952. “It was only suitcase-size,” he said. “I remember at the time that one man said, ‘Someday planes will be flown by computers, and they’ll have a man who just looks like a pilot to keep the passengers calm.’ I said that was crazy.” Then he worked on a business data processor at Hughes. That project eventually ended when the manager asked how many units they could possibly sell. “The guess at the time was that maybe 20 computers could meet the needs of the country,” Blankenbaker said, laughing. “So he said he didn’t think there was enough profit in that and he canceled it. “I’ve always, throughout my career, underestimated

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

the future,” he said. “I never saw the future clearly, much to my regret now. There were many investment opportunities along the way, you know? I thought some things were clever work – like this Xerox machine that made copies. What I should have thought about was, ‘Where do I buy some stock?’” he said, laughing. After being associated with the burgeoning computer field for so many years, in 1970, “I was unemployed and had some extra money,” Blankenbaker said, so he decided to start tinkering with building an affordable personal computer in his California garage. He recruited his brother to help lay down the tape that would become the initial two-sided circuit boards. The resulting unit, which he dubbed Kenbak-1 (a shortened version of the middle of his name), had 130 integrated circuits and

A circuit board for the Kenbak-1 was put together by John Blankenbaker and his brother.

Continued on Page 50


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Blankenbaker Continued from Page 49

256 bytes of memory. That amounts to 1 byte for each letter. The input was done by eight switches, and the output was indicated in eight lights. It was priced at $750. In those days, people simply didn’t see how a computer would be of any use to them. “Even if you’d wanted one, you’d have to go down to the bank and negotiate a loan,” Blankenbaker said. He pulled out a paper that was distributed with the Kenbak-1 and showed how you could program information into the unit with a series of numbers that stood for commands. It worked on “machine language,” he said, and could do simple computations, such as determine the day of the week if you input the month, date and year. The unit was marketed to schools, a decision which Blankenbaker now regrets, because of the 40 machines he managed to sell, he had to wait for school funding processes to get any payment. “I should have gone after the hobbyist,” he said.

This Kenbak-1 was auctioned for $28,000 last summer.

With only three employees at the peak of his company, Blankenbaker went out of business and sold the units to CTI Educational, which didn’t do much better with them. The problem was that technology was changing so rapidly in the 1970s. “The thing that made computers possible was not the microprocessor, it was the memory. That’s been the key factor,” he said. Of course, another garage in California held the men who would start Apple Computer in 1976 and change the world forever. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak met at the Homebrew


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Computer Club, a group of computer enthusiasts who met to swap ideas in Menlo Park. “Sometime before the Apple computer came out, I was invited to go up there to demonstrate my computer,” Blankenbaker said. “I’ve often wondered if some of the people there saw what could be done, but I don’t know. I don’t have a guest list or anything to know who was there.” That fateful meeting may have given Jobs and Wozniak some pointers, but it didn’t lead to Blankenbaker becoming a billionaire. “I don’t have a problem with that,” he said with a shrug. “I’d do the same thing, too. I’m not feeling bad about it.” Several years ago, one of the first Apple 1 computers – housed in a homemade wooden case – sold for more than $904,000 at auction. That got Blankenbaker thinking, and he restored his only remaining Kenbak-1, the prototype, to working condition and auctioned it through Bonham’s last summer. It brought $28,000, which was nice, but hardly life-changing. “I had dreams and visions of what it might bring,” he said. “Mine was five years ahead of Apple.” There are perhaps 10 remaining Kenbak-1 computers in collections around the world, he guessed. They were durable, but the problem in restoring them is a lack of parts. “There’s one guy in Canada who has a few, but I’m not sure if they work or not,” Blankenbaker said. After his computer venture fizzled, Blankenbaker worked for a company working on a pioneering method of sending voice to digital through a phone line, and recreate the voice on the other end of the line. “At the time, that was about 9,600 bits per second, the most you could send down a telephone line. That’s nothing today. But the voice quality was poor,” he said. “It didn’t pick up certain sounds, and they never sold enough systems to make a profit.” Blankenbaker was a relatively early adopter of computers and bought his first desktop in 1980. He is dazzled by what computers have become. “It’s hard to believe the increase in the amount of data that can be transmitted,” he said. His wife has an iPad, “but she uses it to play Scrabble with her daughter. I don’t use it,” he said. He regards computers as great tools, but fraught with great peril. “Cyber threats are scary, and the other big question is privacy,” he said. “The net result is that privacy is going to be eroded. You’re going to have to live as if the world knows everything you do, and it’s stored somewhere. “Technology is not everything it’s cracked up to be,” he said. “It’s got a negative side to it.” To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com. www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


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Roxann and Olen truly give back to the community, supporting The Interact Club at UHS, The Longwood Rotary Club, The Kennett Food Cupboard, and the Kennett Symphony. www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


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Brett Walker

Photo by John Chambless

Brett Anderson Walker in his West Chester studio. 56

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———|West Chester & Chadds Ford Arts|———

Delving into what it means to be human Brett Walker returns to local art world with two shows that pull no punches By John Chambless Staff Writer

“My favorite response to my work is either people love it or hate it. I embrace both,” Brett Anderson Walker said with a wry smile. “If they hate it, they have to think about why. If they love it, they have to analyze why. That’s a direct relationship between the viewer and the painting. The worst reaction is, ‘Yeah, that’s interesting,’ because that means they don’t get it.” With an international reputation and collectors on both sides of the Atlantic, Walker is delving back into painting after several years of devoting himself to writing. The evolution, he said, was a natural one. “West Chester was blooming with art galleries back maybe 10 years ago,” he said. “I was doing a lot of exhibiting locally, as well as in New York. I still had a couple of things in France going on. But I had always been writing. What I decided I needed to do was focus on just my writing, and some filmmaking.” Walker worked on some short art videos, and over the past six years, he has devoted himself to writing. His first published novel, a thriller titled “The Killing Name,” will be out in the late fall and sold in bookstores and online. Continued on Page 58 ‘Portrait II’ www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


Brett Walker Continued from Page 57

“It’s about an American private investigator living in Paris whose dream was to become an artist. He works with the most wealthy families of Europe and gets caught up in a Russian prostitution ring in Paris, which takes him throughout France,” Walker explained. Walker knows Paris well, having spent years visiting and sometimes living there, off and on, with his wife, Brigitte. She is currently a professor at West Chester University in the Foreign Languages and Cultures Department, and also teaches in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. Walker has another novel finished. It’s about an artist in the Brandywine Valley area who gets involved with a serial killer. “I did visit the Philadelphia Homicide Department and they gave me all the information I asked for so I could be more accurate in writing the novel,” Walker said. For him, blending the arts comes naturally. “Writing and painting are the same thing to me,” he said. “When you’re painting and putting a show together, you work in a series and put it together. It all makes sense. Writing is exactly the same thing. You’re working with visuals of the story and putting them together in your head. It’s just turning visuals into words. For me, writing, filmmaking, painting, and sculpting are always linked.” After focusing on writing for a prolonged time, Walker is returning to the area art scene with a vengeance in September, when he will have two concurrent exhibitions – a solo show at the Chester County Art Association, and a collaborative show with abstract artist Antonio Puri at Continued on Page 60 58

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com


‘The Flautist’

‘Bound No. II’

‘Blue and Black’ www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


Brett Walker Continued from Page 58

the Church Street Gallery. For the collaborative show, he and Puri traded large canvases back and forth, each adding something new, until they had swapped the works four times. Then, they decided, the works would be finished. Stacked in Walkers’s sunny front porch studio, the unfinished works display the best of both artists, with Walker’s figures and Puri’s abstract additions of string and other textural elements. Walker actually put a toe back into the art world about a year and a half ago with a successful solo show at the Church Street Gallery in West Chester. But building up to this fall’s two big exhibitions is another feat altogether. “Now that I have two novels finished and I have two more in the works, I can put those on a slow burner and get my paintings back out there,” he said. Walker laughed and admitted that it would be easier for him to paint pretty Chester County landscapes, but his work has always been challenging. The figures in his portraits are smeared, blurred, assaulted by vivid swipes of color. They are confrontational and richly emotional. “My work is all about understanding our humanity,” Walker said thoughtfully. “That’s why I keep going back to the portraits. The most important thing, for me, is to expose the viewer to multiple states of being. It’s like a mirror. When viewers are looking at the painting, the more they look at it, the more they’re thinking about who they are as people. We, as individuals, are complex. That complexity shows our strengths, our weaknesses, our beauty and our flaws. That’s the beauty of being a human 60

‘Horn Man’

being. We’re not perfect. We have issues, we have strengths, and we need to embrace that. That’s what my art’s about.” For his newly completed works, the colors are vivid, and the scale is large. “For the new series, people are loving the colors,” Walker said. “It’s been very positive. They’re interested in analyzing what I’m doing, even if they’ve never seen my work before.” The first floor of Walker’s home in West Chester is a gallery for his new works. They hang in place, sometimes getting a retouch or two, in a constantly evolving exhibition. A room full of them can be almost overwhelming, but Walker’s signature style bursts clearly from each one. “The most important comments that I’ve gotten from both professional artists and viewers and collectors is that anywhere in the world, if they see my work, they’ll recognize it immediately,” Walker said. “They know it’s Brett Walker. For all artists who

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

‘Self Portrait’

‘Red Hat’

strive to be the best they can be, that’s what they’re looking for. That voice. “So it’s time to get back on the horse with my painting,” he said, smiling. “And I’m getting ready for a fast ride.” ... Brett Anderson Walker will exhibit at the Chester County Art Association (250 N. Bradford Ave., West Chester) from Sept. 8 to 29, with an opening reception on Sept. 8 from 5 to 9 p.m. Visit www.chestercountyarts.org. Collaborative works by Brett Anderson Walker and Antonio Puri will be shown at the Church Street Gallery (12 S. Church St., West Chester) from Sept. 9 to 30, with a reception on Sept. 9. Call 215-989-1449 or visit www. churchstreetgallerywc.com. To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

Walker with his painting, ‘Songwriter,’ in his West Chester home.

www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


————|West Chester Spotlight|————

Greg and Sandra Weisenstein Veterans Center unveiled West Chester University honors retiring president and his wife

Photo by Steven Hoffman

The Greg and Sandra Weisenstein Veterans Center is officially unveiled. 62

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Photo by Steven Hoffman

The West Chester University community honored Greg and Sandra Weisenstein during a ceremony on March 21.

By Steven Hoffman Staff Writer


est Chester University said farewell to retiring president Greg Weisenstein in a variety of ways this year, and certainly one of the most significant came on March 21 when a dedication ceremony took place to formally name the veterans center as the Greg and Sandra Weisenstein Veterans Center. “This honor that you have bestowed on Sandra and I is very meaningful,” Weisenstein told the university officials, students, friends, and family members who gathered for the dedication ceremony at 624 South High Street. A new sign for the renamed veterans center was unveiled, followed by a campus-wide tribute to the Weisensteins at the Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall. Weisenstein, who became the president of the university in 2009, played a leading role in the establishment of the veterans center as a way to assist the current and former members of the armed forces as they transition back to civilian life. Weisenstein said that the veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for their country that one of the best things that the university can do is to develop programs that will now help the veterans transition back to civilian life. Weisenstein was lauded for his tireless support for the veterans center and its mission, and for enrolling a record number of veterans.

“From the start, he took a keen interest in the veterans center,” explained Lillian Morrison, the volunteer center coordinator. “His advocacy for the center has been… responsible for raising attention about the center. We have seen unprecedented growth and support.” Sarah Tolley, the president of the university’s Student Veterans Group, called Weisenstein an inspiration to student veterans at West Chester University. Commenting on the decision to name the veterans center after the Weisensteins, Morrison said, “Dr. and Mrs. Weisenstein have played an extremely vital role in bringing us to this point and it is only fitting that their contributions be acknowledged and memorialized in this fashion.” During Weisenstein’s tenure, programs for returning military veterans have grown considerably. The number of ROTC members has increased from six to approximately fifty-five, and currently there are more than three hundred veterans who attend the university. In addition to the facilities and programs, Weisenstein has arranged for scholarships for both ROTC students and returning veterans. The veterans center itself offers space for student veterans to utilize a variety of services, including everything from accessing GI Bill benefits to serving as a community center for the students. A $500,000 endowment gift from Student Services, Incorporated will provide ongoing resources to support Continued on Page 64

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Weisenstein Continued from Page 63

student veterans pursuing degrees at the university. The increased opportunities for student veterans is just one example of Weisenstein’s impact on the university during his seven-year tenure at the helm. The university’s enrollment jumped 20 percent, from 13,621 to 16,609 students, making West Chester the largest university in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and the fourth-largest university in southeastern Pennsylvania. Along with the increased enrollment came an expansion of the academic programs. More than a dozen new academic programs were launched with Weisenstein as president, including the university’s first doctoral degrees in nursing, public administration, and education. STEM (science, technology, and math) programs have been expanded, pushing enrollment to more than 4,000 students in the sciences and health sciences. The number of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty increased by 23 percent, from 503 to 618. There has also been a series of construction projects designed to meet the growing needs of students. In response to financial challenges—state support for the university has fallen from 32 percent of its operating budget to just 17 percent—West Chester has been able to increase its philanthropic support to record levels of more than $4 million annually. Overall, the university’s economic impact on the region has increased from $220 million in 2006 to more than $500 million in 2015. To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email editor@ chestercounty.com.


West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

————|West Chester & Chadds Ford|————

Photo courtesy of Congressman Jim Langevin

West chester student interns with Rhode Island Congressman Langevin Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin meets with West Chester resident Olivia DeRogatis, who participated in Langevin’s Rhode Island District Office internship program over the spring semester. DeRogatis is a junior at Bryant University, and is expected to graduate in December of 2016 with a degree in Economics. In the District Office, interns experience a variety of tasks, including answering phone calls, drafting constituent correspondence and supporting staff members on various projects.

www.westchesterlifemagazine.com | Spring/Summer 2016 | West Chester & Chadds Ford Life


——|Around West Chester & Chadds Ford|——

From farm to table at Westtown School By Lisa Fieldman Correspondent


Photo by Westtown School

Students enjoying the fall harvest.


West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

he Westtown School, which has been recognized for its educational excellence and student diversity, was founded by Quakers. There is a strong focus on stewardship, service and social responsibility. In keeping with these Quaker ideals, teachers Tim Mountz, Beth Pellegrino and Mitch Bernstein are dedicated to supporting local and natural agriculture. At Westtown, they’ve created a sustainable agrarian microcosm in which students play a big role. Mountz oversees the student-run farm at Westtown School. Known affectionately as “Farmer Tim,” he lights up with enthusiasm when talking about his students. In addition to teaching lower, middle and upper school science, Teacher Tim also works side by side with his student-farmers to grow organic vegetables on the Westtown farm. Utilizing two acres of gardens, a greenhouse and a smaller farm at the lower school, Tim has revamped the farm experience to be educational and exploratory. He explains, “We grow things from all around the world. Students can experience new tastes and smells, plus we grow stuff we use everyday.” The “everyday stuff” includes vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, lettuce, potatoes, and zucchini that are used to feed the school community. The students also help with a plot of land that is farmed to benefit the Chester County Food Bank. Mountz proudly says, “We recently planted 10,000 onions!” When the student-farmer program began years ago, there were only three interested students. The number has swelled to twenty this year. In addition to working in the field, the student-farmers plan and run agricultural events such as a fall harvest and potato picking.

“We recently held an event for one hundred people and the kids ran it flawlessly,” Tim explains. It’s clear he is very proud of his hard-working students. In between the farm chores the kids find time to have fun. Everyone is enjoying the new outdoor wood-burning pizza oven. “It’s huge, it’s fantastic!” Mountz enthuses. Located adjacent to the farm, the pizza oven was the focal point of this year’s Earth Day celebration. All the pizza ingredients were grown in Westtown soil. “We pulled garlic right from the garden,” Mountz says. “The crusts were made from Pete’s Produce flour,” adds Pellegrino, the food service director. The eager students jumped in to help Teacher Tim make the pies. “They saw I was getting behind and they just started making pizzas,” Mountz explains. “Despite flipping the first pizza upside down onto the hot stones, it was a great success.” All of the crops grown by the student-farmers make an appearance in the dining hall. When meals include local and naturally raised meat and locally grown organic produce, they can’t fail to please the most finicky eater. There are always vegetarian and gluten-free options available. Westtown also boasts a scratch kitchen, meaning no processed baked goods are served. Everything is made from fresh ingredients. Pellegrino arrived at Westtown 17 years ago. With a background in business dining, she came to Westtown because school dining intrigued her. She stayed because of the “awesome kids.” Pellegrino explains, “They inspire me every day. They care for the earth, the community and one another.” Pellegrino enjoys getting to know the kids. Working in the kitchen is one of the service jobs performed by all students. “That’s how we grow a relationship, by the cutting board,” Pellegrino says. “You get to know their names and hear their stories. It’s such a gift to connect with these kids.” She radiates excitement when speaking about feeding the school community. “We are a conscientious kitchen,” Pellegrino explains. “We’re respectful of using as much local and naturally grown food as possible.” Feeding 700 people a day is a huge undertaking, especially when you are giving them a farm to table experience. It’s a priority to use the vegetables grown by Farmer Tim, as well produce grown by Peter Flynn, of Pete’s Produce, who farms 200 acres of Westtown land. “Everything that Tim and Peter grow, we say ‘bring it in, let’s make something amazing,’” Pellegrino says. Pellegrino also purchases food from organizations that support sustainable agriculture, such as Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op and the Common Market. “We have the freedom to go out and find local farmers to supply what we need,” she explains. “Seven or eight years ago, three percent of our purchasing power was local, and we’ve been able to increase that to 35 percent. Today, we can state that all of our chicken and beef are locally and naturally raised.” Helping people make healthy food choices, like eating more vegetables, is made easier when students can enjoy the fruits of their labor. When a student-farmer brings freshly harvested vegetables up to the kitchen, then sees it at lunch labeled “farm tomato” it comes full circle. Sourcing organic and natural food supplies can be more expensive, but by working to change mindsets and palates, Pellegrino has not needed a budget increase to maintain a natural, sustainable kitchen. “We are actually saving money,”

Photo by Westtown School

Tim Mountz teaches agriculture and oversees the Westtown Farm.

Photo by Westtown School

Summer offerings at the Westtown farm market.

Photo by Westtown School

The kitchen crew performs service work.

Continued on Page 68

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Farm to Table Continued from Page 67

she says. “We have found ways to shift focus on the plate. Today, our lunch is meatless and no one will even notice.” At the start of each school year, Pellegrino tells the students, “This is your kitchen, it is your home away from home.” She finds that kids gravitate toward the kitchen. She explains, “Many of our students are thousands of miles away from mom and dad. When there are challenges at school, just creating something in the kitchen can help relieve stress. It can be a great creative outlet for them.” In addition to the kids who wander into the kitchen, Beth has student help to prepare meals. Mitch Bernstein is Westtown’s Work Program and Service Coordinator. To assist Pellegrino, Mitch has created vegetable prep crews as a work rotation. “Cooking is naturally labor intensive,” comments Pellegrino. “We have crews stripping kale and chopping carrots. They are awesome!” Bernstein explains how the work program teaches responsibility. He says, “Students learn to show the community they care by keeping things clean, neat and working. It’s about taking initiative.”


This year, there are 18 different languages spoken by the student body, and despite cultural differences they all work side by side to keep the community thriving. “You can have an athlete, an artist, a musician, an actor and a scientist all working together,” explains Bernstein. “It levels the playing field.” It is important to Bernstein that the students understand why the work needs to be done, how it all relates. While removing thistles from the asparagus patch, the kids learn how the invasive weed impacts the crops’ growth. Understanding the “why” helps integrate responsibility into every day school life. When Bernstein sends out the work program assignments, he always includes his tag line “Thanks for helping to keep Westtown running.” Westtown recently won a $5,000 launch grant from The Campus Kitchens Project. Bernstein read about the opportunity and shared the idea with a student outreach director, who agreed it was a worthwhile endeavor. Campus Kitchen empowers students to fight hunger in their communities. Students re-purpose leftover food from their dining hall and from community businesses. They then deliver it to organizations that feed the hungry. To win the grant, the students had to create a compelling video explaining how they would implement the Campus Kitchen, and the need

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for it in their local community. The winning school was then picked based on the number of votes each video received. Westtown was competing with a college in Kentucky for one of the grants. The entire student body spread the word through email, Twitter and Facebook, and kept the votes coming in. “The support was amazing,” says Bernstein. Students will be engaged in the program through fundraising, special events, food collection, and delivery. “It’s all encompassing,” says Bernstein, “we are trying to include as much of the student population as possible in the project.” Westtown’s Campus Kitchen will be working primarily with the West Chester Senior Center. Talks with the center’s director revealed that senior citizens often lack fresh fruit. Bernstein immediately thought, ‘How can we best do this? What is the quickest way to provide fruit for the seniors?’ Mountz had the answer: “Cherries.” Using a portion of the grant money, cherry trees were planted. “Cherries are the quickest fruit to grow, easy to harvest, and are least affected by pests,” explains Mountz. In addition to the fruit and the leftovers, Westtown’s nutritionist will offer healthy food education and cooking demonstrations to the seniors. The school also has a long-standing relationship with City Team based in Chester, and through Campus Kitchen will continue to provide food to the organization. What would a farm be without chickens? Westtown has petite poultry farmers who start raising chickens in first grade. At the lower school farm, chickens entertain and educate, while the students do all the hands-on work.

Photo by Westtown School

The potato harvest, a Westtown tradition.

Continued on Page 70

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Farm to Table Continued from Page 69

“Yesterday the coops were cleaned out, the water was changed and the chickens were fed, all by first-graders,” says Mountz. The chicken coop was built at the primary school farm last year. When Mountz received an estimate of $10,000 to run electricity and water to the farm, he quickly came up with an alternative solution. He had some unused solar panels that he attached to the coop. He then installed gutters and a rain barrel to collect water. “I spent $300 and the rain barrel was the most expensive part,” he laughs. “The solar panels power an automatic door that closes every evening to keep out the predators. We have high-tech chickens!” Mountz is also giving the middle school a chance to play in the dirt. “The sixth grade is studying composting,” he explained. “They take all the farm residue and the prep scraps from the kitchen and create compost.” Turning waste into soil, they monitor heat, pH and moisture levels. “When you take the screen off the wheelbarrow, the kids can’t keep their hands out of it,” Mountz said. “It’s such a beautiful thing. Looking to master new farming techniques, Westtown students are now learning about aquaponics. A


Westtown alumnus with assistance from the design engineering class built an aquaponics system for the school. Consisting of two grow tanks and two fish tanks, the students are currently growing basil and kale. Eventually the fish tanks will house Tilapia and Sunfish. The teachers see daily how the students benefit from their experiential education. Mountz describes watching a student have an epiphany when he tasted a freshly picked radish. “He asked why it tasted so different from a supermarket radish, and I told him it was because he grew it.” Pellegrino recalls a student who asked to opt out of sports for an internship in the kitchen. They explored sustainability, basic cooking skills, chopping technique and general kitchen management. “At the culmination of the program he made dinner for the whole community. It was awesome,” Pellegrino said. Bernstein shares the excitement of the students involved with the Kitchen Campus project as they plan how to help alleviate hunger. Social responsibility and a sense of community are visible values at Westtown. At the end of the day, when they gather for a meal, the students can appreciate the origin of the food on their plate and the cooperative effort that made it possible. Pellegrino sums it up best when she says, “At Westtown, the meeting house is our soul, but the dining hall is our heart.”

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

——|West Chester & Chadds Ford Business|——

By John Chambless Staff Writer


Photo by John Chambless

Jacque Maldonado opened The Prana House on Church Street in November 2015. 72

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

hen you walk through the door at The Prana House, you’re immediately wrapped in a nurturing environment and surrounded by products that will help you on your path to wellness. The store’s owner, Jacque Maldonado, is a cheerful guide through the vast world of organic apothecary products and holistic wellness, and she’s happy to let visitors experience as little, or as much, as they want. “It’s about mind, body and spiritual growth,” Maldonado said during an interview at the cozy store on North Church Street. “It’s about using the tools that are put here by Mother Nature for us to use. It’s preventive care. As a society, we look for a quick fix, rather than prevent illness in the first place. “I grew up with my mom and my grandmother and my aunts. I was raised by a fleet of women,” Maldonado said, smiling. “My family’s originally from Guatemala on my mother’s side, so that’s how I’ve been

Photos by John Chambless

Tea samples are offered at one table in the store.

brought up. A lot of it had to do with money – not having the ability to go to a western doctor for healing, and having to live off the land. We found out what plants can do the same thing in a natural way. I was born in America, but all the teachings came with my family. I’m really grateful for it now, because it brought me here.” Maldonado and her mother lived in Pennsylvania when Jacque was in high school. “When I went to Drexel in college, a lot of the holistic things started to come back to me, along with diet, fitness, exercise. My passion for it was reignited,” she said. “When I got pregnant and became a mom, that’s when the full-blown idea of this came about. That was about seven years ago.” When she graduated from Drexel, Maldonado had a concentration in entrepreneurship. “I always knew that I wanted to own a business, but I just wasn’t sure what kind,” she said. “I got my certification through the American College of Healthcare

Healing crystals, with books that offer insight into their use.

Sciences. I was a little concerned that we didn’t have a one-stop shop of this kind in Pennsylvania. “I also learned a lot about organics and found out that a lot of the big-box stores that claim to be 100 percent organic truly aren’t. Just because something is labeled USDA Organic doesn’t necessarily mean that it is 100 percent organic. The standard is that a minimum of 70 percent of the ingredients have to be organic. The remaining 30 percent, who knows? “Now that I’ve been open a few months, I’m starting to introduce more local products,” Maldonado said. “And I’m finding a lot of artisans in the area, too. I love West Chester. I live 20 minutes outside of town. I wanted a place where I had that feeling of community. Another thing I like is that the majority of the businesses are small businesses. You’ll walk into a store and you’ll most likely see the business owner working in the store. Continued on Page 74

Stones, including quartz, agate and opal, are in stock, along with tips for their use.

A handwritten sign reminds shoppers of the mission of The Prana House.

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The Prana House Continued from Page 73

“I saw this space a year before I leased it, and I knew this was going to be my space,” she said of the storefront that most recently held an Irish gift and clothing store. “Last summer, the owners were buying the building, and they brought me to the space and it was just like, ‘OK, sold.’” Prana House opened in November, and has been drawing a diverse clientele – everything from people who are dabbling in holistic medicine to those who are deeply involved in the spiritual nature of the lifestyle. “When I opened the store, I wanted to carry only items that were truly earth-based and 100 percent organic. My big thing is education,” Maldonado said. “We started with the workshops and they’ve been sold out, so there’s a need for this. I want to educate people and go beyond the myths, such as that we’re anti-religious. We welcome everyone. The word prana means life force energy, and what I want to do here in the store is help grow and heal that energy that we all have within us.” The store has more than 80 kinds of organic and ethically harvested bulk herbs – everything from alfalfa to


Yerba Santa – and Maldonado is opening the lower level of the store as a place to have educational workshops on herbalism, crystal healing, reiki treatments, body work, private yoga sessions, meditations, and other spirit-lifting activities Even if customers aren’t looking for a complete lifestyle change, they can find products that are simply better for the body, Maldonado said. “Many body care products, such as lotions and soaps, have animal product testing, dyes, heavy metals and unnatural fragrances that lead to all sorts of allergies, and some have been known to have cancer-causing ingredients. “We’re all so used to buying our products from a commercial company and big-box stores,” Maldonado continued. “As consumers, we trust that these places have stuff that’s edible. We don’t question where it came from, or what’s in it. Commercialism, packaging, advertising – all of that has contributed to us turning a blind eye on what we buy.” Maldonado meets with manufacturers and suppliers of every product she offers. Everything is certified fair trade, eco-friendly, organic and usually artisan-made. Products come from around the world, but all share a common goal – to do no harm, either in their manufacture or in

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

their use. “The workshops and the events are the most important thing for a business such as mine,” Maldonado said. “Educating people on everything we have is a great tool. It gets them through the door, and then they feel more confident when they come in.” Maldonado has a few part-time employees, but most days, she’s behind the counter. Running a business “is a challenge every day,” she said. Prana House has an inviting website (www.thepranahouse.com), and Maldonado uses social media to keep in touch with customers. Even people who just stroll into the shop on a whim are welcome to browse. “I tell people, ‘It’s an experience. Look around. Take your time. Learn about it at your leisure,’” Maldonado said. “I just like feeling that I’m honoring Mother Nature with sustainability in the products, and where they come from. At the store, the motto is ‘Be well and blessed be.’” The Prana House is at 109 N. Church St., West Chester. Visit www.thepranahouse.com, or call 610-436-1407. To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com. Photos by John Chambless

Oils from the Just Skin Food line are offered.

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——|West Chester & Chadds Ford People|——

The intersection of love and art

Photos by Leslie Grigsby

Left: Tigger / Tiger by Leslie Grigsby will be traveling to Africa as part of the Art in Embassies program. Center: Leslie and Lindsay Grigsby are partners in life and art. Right: Lindsay Grigsby creates a wood turning in his studio.

By Lisa Fieldman Correspondent


f you peruse history, you’ll find that artists and matrimony are not always easy bedfellows. Leslie and Lindsay Grigsby seem to have discovered the secret to a happy collaboration, in love and in art. Married for the past 32 years, husband and wife pursue different art forms. Leslie is a known for her beadwork sculptures. Lindsay has worked in many different art forms, though he is focusing on wood sculpture presently. In addition to following their own unique creative paths, they are often collaborative partners. When Leslie needs a form for her beaded sculptures, Lindsay is her go-to guy. Sometimes he also provides the finishing touches. “He’s great with metal leafing and lacquer enhancements,” explains Leslie. Her contribution to Lindsay’s work is not necessarily handson, but it is just as valuable. Leslie explains, “Admittedly, I contribute to his work more by saying things like,


‘Wouldn’t that look better if you moved it an inch to the left?’ or ‘Have you considered blue instead of red?’” From childhood, Leslie has been surrounded by or involved in the arts. Her parents were serious collectors of 18th century ceramics, primitive textiles and early clocks with unusual movement. Many family friends were collectors or museum curators. From an early age, she was immersed in an environment where creativity was valued. Her mother’s cousin is Mexican artist Leonardo Nierman, known for his highly colorful abstract paintings and sculpture. “He is considered a national treasure of Mexico,” says Leslie proudly. Though she spent a lot of time being exposed to art, and dabbled in watercolor as a child, “I never expected to be an artist,” she admits. A Chicago native, Leslie earned her bachelor degree in art history from the University of Illinois at ChampaignUrbana. She then studied in England, receiving a graduate degree in art gallery and museum studies from

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

Photos by Lindsay Grigsby

From left to right: “Orbit No.1” Lindsay Grigsby suggests mounting his orbits and spheres on the ceiling. Helmets “The Four Elements” depicting Air, Water, Earth and Fire by Leslie Grigsby “These sculptures were returned to the four elements when they were destroyed during a house fire in 2015.”

the University of Manchester. Upon returning stateside, Leslie took a position as assistant curator of ceramics and glass at Colonial Williamsburg. During her time there she authored several books on private and public ceramics collections. While working at Colonial Williamsburg, she met Lindsay Grigsby, an antiques dealer. Today, Leslie pursues her art while holding the position of senior curator of Winterthur Museum’s ceramic and glass collection. Lindsay’s defining force appears to be a driving, innate curiosity about the world around him. Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, young Lindsay made pocket money by mowing his neighbor’s lawn. The neighbor was a woodworker and Lindsay was fascinated by his workshop. “After I mowed his lawn, I would go to the wood shop to collect my money. I marveled at his work,” he explained. It is likely the woodworker appreciated the boy’s interest because eventually he taught Lindsay how to use the equipment. Lindsay never lost his love for woodworking, taking shop courses in school. After college, he learned brass and silver casting while working as a 19th century gunsmith for Colonial Williamsburg. His new position merged his recent interest of metal casting with woodworking, however Lindsay moved on after two years. “At $87 per week it was difficult to survive on that income,” he says. Lindsay had always been interested in 18th century antiques. He went into business with his uncle, an antiques dealer, and with his uncle’s guidance became a dealer himself. “The more stuff I saw, the more I wanted to know how and why it was made,” he explains. Lindsay challenged himself to study how pieces were built. He then figured out how to reproduce them using the original techniques. This skill helped him in the antiques business because he could discern true antiques from reproductions based on their construction. His research also helped him spot modern repair work on an old piece. During this time, Lindsay developed a keen inter-

est in 17th century floor cloths. These canvas “rugs” were hand-painted most commonly in a diamond pattern to mimic marble flooring. Using traditional methods, he created floor cloths that were purchased by the Valentine Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, and other museums. Several people living in 17th century homes have his floor cloths in their private collections. While living and working in Richmond, Lindsay also learned the art of glass casting. Additionally, during the 1990s, he was involved with the Mabrey Gallery, and was then the codirector of the Fulcrum Gallery in Virginia. “Whatever I find interesting to do, I do,” he says with a smile. In 1999, Leslie was invited to join Winterthur and the couple moved to Chester County. Lindsay continued to deal in antiques and pursue his various art forms while Leslie settled into her new position. A friend suggested that Leslie do some kind of craft for stress relief, so she searched for something that appealed to her interests. Leslie found a book called Creating Beadwork and was hooked. Using different sizes and colors of glass seed beads and thread, she meticulously stitches over a form to creates sculptures. Leslie compares her art form to pointillism. She seems to be inspired quite a bit by nature, science fiction and history. Leslie enjoys using beads as a medium as she can work in three dimensions and the colors give her flexibility for subtle shading. She most often uses a peyote stitch. Sometimes, when she is sculpting an animal, she uses taxidermy forms. “No animals were hurt in the making of these sculptures,” she says with a laugh. Other times, Lindsay will create the base or form based on her description and measurements. From time to time, exotic woods, such as Australian red morrel burl, are used for a base. Leslie will mark her form with a general beading pattern, then put in the shading as she works. “My projects take on a life of their own,” she says. It is pretty amazing to look at Leslie’s sculptures and Continued on Page 78

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Love and Art Continued from Page 77

realize they are composed only of wood, glass beads and thread. Her latest project Tigger / Tiger took 18 months to complete and was inspired by her (recently departed) cat. The sculpture is a blend of house cat and Caracal. The head has the coloration and markings of a grey striped tabby, but morphs into an orange and back striped caracal’s body, only to revert back to tabby at the feet. At 19 inches tall by 18 inches long, “It’s my largest sculpture to date,” Leslie says. A surprised Leslie received a call from the U.S. Department of State with a unique request. They would like to borrow Tigger / Tiger for a program called “Art in Embassies.” The cat will be displayed in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Africa until 2019. Leslie explains, “They are looking for U.S. artists whose work speaks to the country where the art will be displayed.” Leslie’s pieces include aquatic life, animals, landscapes, teapots, rockets and ray guns. She has always loved science and science fiction. Based on her ray guns and rockets, you might suspect an early yearning to become an astronaut. Her ray guns are whimsical pieces and most are in private collections. As for her rocket ships, she won a


NASA/Etsy competition and one of her rockets is now part of NASA’s collection. Her website, lbgrigsbybeadwork. wordpress.com, features all of her work, plus interesting commentary on her inspirations and construction details of the pieces. Leslie is represented by Snyderman-Works Galleries in Philadelphia. She started beading in 2004, and by 2006 had participated in her first art show. Leslie has been invited to have a solo exhibition at the New York Ceramics and Glass Antiques Fair in January 2017. She will be borrowing back pieces for the show as it takes her up to two years to complete a sculpture. Her newest project, a polar bear head, will be featured at the show. The bear will not be finished, but they are interested in showing a work in progress. When complete, the polar bear will appear to be swimming with only his head rising up out of the water. It promises to be another spectacular piece of art. Lindsay still deals in antiques, primarily metalwork, ceramics and furniture. However, a few years after moving to Chadds Ford, his wife gave him a wood lathe and he began experimenting with woodturning. At first, he made

West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

Photos by Leslie Grigsby

bowls, cups and plates, but grew bored with that and moved on to sculpture. His series of sculptural Orbits and Spheres appear to be interpretations of solar systems and heavenly bodies. “I thought, why should sculpture be confined to sitting on a table? So I created pieces that can be mounted on the wall or the ceiling,” he explains. Mounting the sculptures on the ceiling is Lindsay’s preference. Often made from exotic wood, the spheres are embellished with lacquer, gold or brass leaf, and metal work. Lindsay also turned his hand to making beautifully crafted furniture, using inlay and precious wood. His latest interests are sculptures he calls Spirit Sticks. On a trip to Australia, he was inspired by Aboriginal burial sticks. The burial sticks are carved and decorated to celebrate a deceased person’s life and spiritual journey. “I’ve always been fascinated with Totem poles,” says Lindsay, “and thought about trying to make them.” The spirit sticks are Lindsay’s contemporary take on a primitive custom. “I like to think of each spirit stick as the spirit of a person,” he explains. “Two of my oddest spirit sticks are shaped like a rocket and a bottle of wine with wings,” he says with a

Left: A Ray Gun from the Outer Space series by Leslie Grigsby shows her fascination with science fiction. Below: Lindsay Grigsby’s sculpture “Sphere No. 3.” Red, white and black lacquer, basswood, maple and lacewood were used to make this fascinating piece.

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laugh. There is no telling where his mercurial interest will take him next. “Once I start on a project it takes control of me, instead of me controlling it,” he explains. Lindsay participated in the Chester County Studio Tour 2016, and his work has been showcased at galleries throughout the tri-state area. His art can be viewed on his website lindsaygrigsbysculpture.wordpress.com, and the Lindsay Grigsby Antiques webpage features some of the exquisite pieces in his ceramics collection (lindsygr.wordpress.com). Whether working on a project together, or creating art separately, Lindsay and Leslie Grigsby have found a balance that works. Leslie comments, “It has been fascinating, over the years, to see how Lindsay’s and my relationship – in terms of creating artwork – has evolved. It has been a joy (most of the time) to discuss our artistic efforts, though it usually is best (and reduces bloodshed) if, during collaborations, we decide early on who is the ‘lead’ artist. It always works out happily in the end, though.” Perhaps Van Gogh was correct when he remarked, “What is done in love is done well.”

View Lindsay Grigsby’s work at: lindsaygrigsbysculpture.wordpress.com Lindsay Grigsby Antiques: lindsygr.wordpress.com

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West Chester & Chadds Ford Life | Spring/Summer 2016 | www.westchesterlifemagazine.com

Photo by Lindsay Grigsby.

Spirit Sticks by Lindsay Grigsby are influenced by Aboriginal burial sticks.



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