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TRA Exhibit on TR and Horses Brings TRA Members Together

TR and the Horse: Comrades in Arms, Friends in Life, the Exhibit at TRA HQ in OB

Theodore Roosevelt still has the capability of drawing a crowd, as evidenced at the recent exhibit at the TRA headquarters in Oyster Bay. The Theodore Roosevelt Association opened its premier exhibition, TR and the Horse: Comrades in Arms, Friends in Life, on Jan. 9, to a full house. The exhibition centers on Roosevelt’s enduring devotion to his horses and how they played such a central role in his life. Three artists—Dan Christoffel, Alecia Barry Underhill, and Jocelyn Sandor Urban—were inspired to create art portraying Roosevelt’s favorite horses: Little Texas, Bleistein, and Manitou.

Photographer Elizabeth Roosevelt also exhibited her work, including her most recent images taken on her fall 2009 voyage on the Danube.

The TRA’s beautiful gallery (with elegant offices in back) at 20 Audrey Avenue in Oyster Bay were open to the public for the first time and received enthusiastic accolades. The rooms, filled with over 100 supporters and friends of the TRA, took on a party atmosphere. The equestrian art on display served to rededicate the TRA’s galleries as a space for the cultural arts. A previous exhibit mounted by the Oyster Bay Historical Society featured art by living and dead Roosevelts.

At the January exhibit, guests enjoyed delicious cuisine provided by Fiddleheads. Although the event advertising said Rick Lazio, a member of the TRA advisory committee, would be the speaker, he was unable to attend, but without a hitch, the TRA itself supplied the speakers.

Interim Executive Director Howard Ehrlich thanked all for coming to help support the TRA and strengthen its presence in Oyster Bay. He introduced Dr. William Tilchin, an academic from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the vice chairman of the TRA’s executive committee, who expressed Chairman Tweed Roosevelt’s appreciation for the success of the event. (His mother died recently and he was unable to attend.) Exhibiting artist Dan Christoffel and TR re-enactor Jim Foote engaged in lighthearted banter before addressing questions from the audience.

Noted Oyster Bay artist Mort Künstler spoke about the historical accuracy of his great body of work and graciously offered to sign copies of his Rough Riders poster for the benefit of the TRA. TR became a national celebrity after leading the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War in Cuba. Künstler also created the painting of TR in an open Ford, during a Fourth of July parade in Oyster Bay – with the Moore’s building in the background.

The event was in actuality a fundraiser for the TRA and the equestrian art will remain on exhibit and for sale through February. The gallery will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week. Elizabeth Roosevelt will be there greeting visitors, or by appointment. Next week there are already a group of 12 people scheduled to see the exhibit. For information please call the Theodore Roosevelt Association at 921-6319.

The exhibition and event were co-curated by Yvonne Cifarelli and Philip Blocklyn. Co-curator Yvonne Cifarelli explained, “We used the front gallery space for much of the art, and the party itself took place in the TRA headquarters. It’s beautiful. The food was on the conference table. The room has beautiful, bright, navy blue walls; and artist Alecia Barry Underhill’s work was displayed there and just looked beautiful. People could roam from one area to the next viewing the artwork.

“We sold a few pieces and a large portion of the funds go the TRA,” she added.

Ms. Cifarelli said there was a wonderful fallout/ripple effect for the event. “The artists were so involved with the concept of taking one of TR’s horses and doing work around them. Dan Christoffel, a professor at C.W. Post and an excellent sculptor, never focused on horses before. He got so enthused about doing horses, he is now on a mission to do horses. He spent hours at the C.W. Post Equestrian Center readying for the exhibit work.”

She added, “The TRA is considering having Phil and me do a show every two to three months, around TR and with local artists included.” They will focus on TR and the family. “It can inspire an artist by giving them something new to focus on, that they haven’t done before, as it has for Mr. Christoffel.”

Ms. Cifarelli summed up the event saying, “It was a lively evening centered around the art, and it was the first time many people had been in the TRA office, too. It was just fun. It was an approachable good group of people: artists; TRA members, including Colonel Greg Wynn of Glen Cove. Mr. Wynn is both a TRA board member and is a huge collector of anything related to TR. He was talking to the artists.

“It was not the typical fundraising group – it was a whole group, but different,” she added.

Philip Blocklyn, co-curator of the exhibit, said, “It was a good event for the local TRA membership to come and talk to each other, other than at the annual meeting. It was a nice time for people to get together. Many people knew of each other but hadn’t met. The TRA is not a public society. It is a different kind of organization and it was an excuse for a lot of people to have a party and meet each other.”

Mr. Blocklyn added, “Mort was very gracious in signing posters and talking about how he treats history in his art work.”

Dr. Susan Peterson Neuhaus and her husband Dr. Robert Neuhaus attended the exhibit. Ms. Peterson is a horse lover, collects equestrian art; and annually runs the Day at the Races at Belmont racetrack, a benefit for Doubleday Babcock Senior Center. She said, “I would love to have some of the art. The quality of the art was fabulous, especially the sculptures in the front area of the TRA headquarters. They looked alive!

“The artists were extremely good and I hope they sell some of their work. It was great fun to meet the artists. I coveted almost all the art but I have restricted space in this Victorian House. You have to go up the servant’s staircase in the back to see what I have here,” she said.

“But I have a collection of horse art in my office [at A-1 Resumes].” She said she was delighted to see the exhibit focused on this aspect of President Theodore Roosevelt and is looking forward to whatever TR exhibits are in store for the future at the TRA.