“And finally, after 32 years in Barnstone Studios in Coplay, we made the tough decision to shut things down. We had a sale. We sold all the furniture. I wasn’t there for that. That would have been too painful. Cathy negotiated all that, and it was painful for her, too. She grew up there.
Even though we had a rocky start to our relationship, the landlord and I had become close friends. He inherited me – I was already renting the top two floors of the building when he bought it. He was Chilean, and had been the butt of so much racial prejudice when he moved to this country. He was picked on because of his accent and he had a ponytail. He was a very wealthy fellow, and made his fortune producing tassels. They’re used in fine decorating on curtains, furniture and all kinds of things.
He eventually learned that he could trust me, I respected him, and I ended up becoming the best tenant he had ever had. I was grateful. If I ever needed anything, he was Johnny-on-the-Spot. It was done. And I looked out for him. If there was anything threatening or damaging to his investment in the building, I alerted him. We were grateful, each to the other.
After I closed the studio, I decided to move to Frederick because that’s where my daughter and her husband were.”
While Myron’s personal narrative ends there, the story about the next generation of Barnstone Studios is just beginning.
Two short years after Myron closed the Barnstone Studios Coplay location, he died at the age of 83, surrounded by family and friends. Besides leaving behind thousands of students who have gone on to distinguish themselves in art-related fields, Myron left a treasure-trove of his own personal work – over 500 pieces – that had never been displayed in public.
He realized that consciously or unconsciously, his students would seek to emulate his work, and Myron wanted to ensure that could never happen. The pieces remained in storage, under lock and key, hidden away for 40 years.
Several months after Myron’s death, daughter Catherine “Cat” Barnstone Szafran began the emotional work of sorting through and cataloguing Myron’s decades of belongings – newspaper clippings, programs from his early European exhibits, photographs, all the slides he used in his lectures – and the paintings, sketches and photos hidden away until they would no longer be a distraction for students.
A treasured Barnstone Studios tradition Myron enjoyed with his students for 32 years was an October Homecoming. Alumni and current students would gather in the studio to share their work, reconnect, tell funny Myron stories and feast on a pot-luck banquet.
Since Myron died October 29, 2016, Cat bravely felt the best way to honor the beloved art teacher was to hold a special memorial Homecoming October 20, 2017, in the old Barnstone Studios location. The landlord was only too happy to help.
Cat and her team transformed the empty floor into a world premier exhibit of several of Myron’s original paintings and sketches. Professional photographer Bill Stank, a Barnstone student, took photos of all of Myron’s stored works, and 68 prints were displayed during the homecoming in addition to the original pieces. Hundreds of alumni from across the country were overwhelmed to experience, for the very first time, the work of their mentor and champion.
Barnstone alumnus and Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts instructor Roger Brinker presented Myron’s artistic heritage – the culmination of extensive research into the instructors Myron had studied with, and the instructors’ instructors, back through the 1300s. Roger established a direct link to such classical masters as da Vinci.
While the October 2017 Homecoming was the world premiere exhibit of Myron’s work, it is just the first of many gallery showings being planned under Cat’s direction for this next generation of Barnstone Studios.
Myron’s classes continue to be available on DVD or downloads through the BarnstoneStudios.com website, and alumni are available to provide personal critiques of student works through the Barnstone Master Guide program.
Cat is also working to restore and frame all of Myron’s original works and partner with galleries for traveling and permanent exhibits. Limited edition prints of Myron’s paintings, sketches and photos, and a complete listing of exhibits, are available at BarnstoneStudios.com.