June 18, 2009
Sue Walsh of San Francisco hiked seven miles withinthe Grand Canyon to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2007.
In 2008 she race-walked her first marathon, this time a 26.2 punishing miles through Rome.
So is she tired yet? Hardly. Now she's preparing to race-walk the Nike Women’s 26.2 mile Marathon on October 18, 2009, in San Francisco. And she’s thanking her donors with handwritten note cards of the Golden Gate Bridge from the California Collectors’ Series.
The way marathon participants personalize their trek on the pavement is to put on the backs of their T-shirts the names of people in whose honor they walk.
So if a walker begins to huff and puff and think no way can she go one step further, all she has to do is to look to the person in front of her and see the names of people who have been afflicted by this disease.
Among the names on Sue’s back again this year will be Pat Eberling, a woman who for over 30 years was a terrific Salvation Army social worker, consultant and friend. She died of multiple myeloma in 2007.
Look sharp, walkers. You're following Sue, and she's walking for Pat.
An ardent cheerleader for the City, Sue leads tours of the FerryBuilding and NorthBeach by Night for San FranciscoCity Guides (www.sfcityguides.org) and co-created its popular NoeValley tour of Victorian homes.
June 5, 2009
Yes, we call it the Golden State because the sun is always shining
Except in the summer, of course, when tourists are flabbergasted to find it’s not. Locals know that when it's hot in San Francisco, it's hotter in the central valley. So after a glorious day in San Francisco, that pent-up heat in the valley rises, creating a vacuum...and you know how Mother Nature abhors a vacuum. Hold onto your hat. Here comes the cold air rushing in from the ocean to fill it up.
Copa del oro (cup of gold)
That's what Spanish settlers called the golden California poppy(eschscholzia californica),citing a legend that its petals turned to the gold which filled the soil. Natives prized it for food and oil extract. Now our State flower, it's also the logo of California Collectors' Series. To understand why we like it, fly from Yosemite over a hillside of poppies some day. Watch as everybody on the plane huddles at the windows while the pilot makes a circle around to gawk. Sailing up the Pacific Coast in the 18th century from the south, the Spanish would have seen enormous fields of these native wildflowers. German botanist Adelbert Von Chamisso, who named them in 1816, was also a poet. Imagine his wonder at seeing hillsides of orange.
And, finally, there's the Gold Rush-- golden for some, slim pickings for others....
In 1848 there were roughly 400 people in this town we now call San Francisco, half of them Mormons who had come around the Horn to escape persecution and settle in a new territory.In 1849 after their leader -- that enterprising entrepreneur Sam Brannan -- marched through the streets shouting that gold had been found on the American River, the rush began! More than 600 ships from all over the world arrived. And many never went home. Crews jumped ship and immediately headed for the hills, stopping, of course, at Sam's hardware store to buy their shovels.When they returned, some were rich but more were poor. And suddenly the population of the town had jumped to 40,000! Historian Charles Fracchia describes it best. San Francisco was an “Instant City.”
From the Ernest Clayton Collection of California Wildflowers
Image courtesy of the
May 19, 2009
Lord, We Are ABLE!
Royce Vaughn named his California Collectors' Series for people who appreciate and collect fine art. The name he chose for his greatest success story with teenagers comes from the chorus of an old Methodist hymn, "Lord, We Are Able."
Make the last word a practical acronym, ABLE. "Arts and Business Learning Experience." In addition to describing what motivates him, ultimately it became a specific program for talented but unmotivated young people.
Art is his overriding passion. Every segment of his life has revolved around it. Business, oh my! that's the business of making passion profitable. Ask any artist from the beginning of time how that works. Learning, it never stops. Look at the bookshelves on every floor of this house. If a book has been written on the subject, he wants it. If it's not in its proper place, woe to the housekeeper who has moved it. Experience comes with the territory. Royce has always opted to be a trailblazer. And the territory has no boundaries.
Teaching Kids Film, Photography and Videotape
In the late Sixties at San Francisco State where he worked in the Audio Visual Department, Royce and philosophy professor Art Bierman conceived the idea for ABLE -- a film, photography and videotape training program for young people.
Networking is Royce's middle name. Soon he had partners like the Neighborhood Arts Alliance, the Redevelopment Agency, the Department of Labor and local corporations like Fibreboard and Kaiser Industries.
Ultimately the building loaned by Redevelopment at 2209 Bush Street was renovated with friends like Dr. Jack Noyes hammering nails and often applying dry wall late into the night. Opening weekend was stunning. Several hundred guests arrived, all excited about ABLE's potential. Professional filmmakers offered to teach. The phone rang incessantly. Eventually nearly $500,000 was raised in grants, including $250,000 from the Ford Foundation. And when it was time to move on, another building with expanded darkroom and meeting space was renovated at 641 Golden Gate with the same kind of enthusiasm, the same nail hammering, the same dry wall, the same intensity.
"Those students taught me far more than any professor I ever had!"
Throughout its ten years of life, students signed on eagerly as they learned about themselves and the profession. "They were so excited," Royce remembers. "You didn't have to tell them to come in early in the morning. They just did. Came in every day with things to do and places to go. They were up and down the street taking pictures from every angle. And they couldn't wait to get into the darkroom to see the results. It was a decade in which a great deal of happiness and fulfillment came through ABLE and those kids. They weren't just students. They were associates. Like students of the Greek philosophers, they were my teachers. They taught me far more than any professor I ever had. "
Go to boxed sets on the California Collectors Series main menu to see ABLE photos. Proceeds from sales of cards in the "Lord, We Are ABLE" and "Tuxedo Series" will go to The Salvation Army.
ABLE Christmas card featured
students and their work
May 5, 2009
The Rain It Hath a Friendly Sound
“The rain it hath a friendly sound to one who’s six feet underground.” That’s what the youthful poet Edna St. Vincent Millay used to say.
As a gentle, much-appreciated rain is falling today, I think about 91-year-old Colonel Marie Koerner, whose funeral was yesterday. I think of her body lying in The Salvation Army plot at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California. And I think of the lovely phrase Salvationists use to say that a person from their ranks has died.
“Promoted to Glory!”
In other words, Salvationists not only believe in heaven, they believe it’s something to be accepted and embraced, an assignment with eternal rewards. Would there be a contingent of former colleagues on hand at the Pearly Gates waiting to welcome the gentle Marie? Of course, smiled the officers in unison.
The Salvation Army grew out of the Methodist Church, so the service brought back memories of a long time ago, hymns from out of the past, songs that once you know you can sing by heart.
Some songs, like some poems, stay with you forever.
Marie Koerner and her husband Henry served as career officers in The Salvation Army’s Western and Central territories. They were avid historians and invaluable resources to the writing of “The Bells of San Francisco, The Salvation Army with its Sleeves Rolled Up.” Proceeds from the sale of California Collectors' Series black and white photographic note cards from the "Lord, We Are ABLE" and "Tuxedo Series" go to The Salvation Army.
April 29, 2009
SF Symphony Store Selling California Collectors' Series Note Cards. Thank you, Mussorgsky!
The San Francisco Symphony Store is now carrying scenic note cards created by watercolor artist Royce H. Vaughn of the California Collectors’ Series.*
Give Modest Mussorgsky credit for making it happen.
Vaughn is an ardent fan of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” as arranged by Ravel. As he walked into a Thursday afternoon matinee at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, he spoke glowingly of a performance he had heard years ago. That one had been directed by Fritz Reiner of the Chicago Symphony and Vaughn’s memory could hardly contain the feelings he had watching it as a young college student. He was sure no one could match the excitement of that day.
However, a standing ovation in San Francisco had a similar effect. In an ironic turn of events, both conductors Oliver Knussen and then Alasdair Neale called in sick. Donato Cabrera filled in and brought down the house!
Filled with the exuberance that filled the auditorium, marveling over the precision of the violins and drama of the percussions, humming the grand finale, Vaughn marched into the symphony store proposing that they carry note cards representing pictures from his own body of work.
His enthusiasm showed. Within the week, his cards were in the shop.
*California Collectors’ Series cards can be found on the main menu under “Note Cards” or “Boxed Sets.” 11x17 prints are available by special order.
April 22, 2009
Mission Dolores School Students Are Terrific!
Always, always, this California Collectors Series web site starts out with the premise of creativity. We paint. We photograph. We write. And boy, do we love it when we see kids who care about learning. Recently a group of eighth graders from Mission Dolores School in San Francisco visited Grace Cathedral. What a group! They had done their homework. They were respectful, energetic and full of lively questions!
Their thank you letters took note of the commemorative AIDS “blanket” in the healing chapel, making a pilgrimage through the “really mellow” labyrinth, seeing that the church is open to all faiths, learning the role Bishop James Pike played in completing the structure and the profound sadness they sensed in the “Wounded in America” exhibit deploring gun violence.They left prayers “stored” in candles they lit throughout the church.
The mural of Saint Francis was a big hit, of course. And Saint Clare with her long beautiful hair about to be shorn. The illustration of the Portiuncola chapel in Assisi intrigued them, as well as information about the facsimile built by Angela Alioto at the corner of Columbus and Vallejo.
Added to that was another piece of pertinent information.
What kind of nickname would St. Francis have had? Author Donald Spoto who wrote “Reluctant Saint, The Life of Francis of Assisi,” says the early Italian nickname for Francisco or Francesco was Sco!
To our knowledge, nobody ever called him Frisco!
The California Collectors' Series has note cards featuring Mission Dolores. See "Lord, We Are ABLE" boxed sets on main menu. Proceeds for this series go to The Salvation Army.
April 7, 2009
Pilgrimage at Grace Cathedral
In the Middle Ages, people usually went on pilgrimages for three basic reasons: 1) to ask for healing; 2) to give thanks for healing; or 3) to ask forgiveness.
On the Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California, visitors make pilgrimages daily.
It’s a trek. Whether they come from across the continent or across the world, they've made a pilgrimage to get to the cathedral...even if all they did was climb the California Street hill!
In the courtyard and again inside, a labyrinth beckons. It's a vehicle for meditation. A symbolic pilgrimage. A metaphor for life, if you will. Start at the beginning.Keep on the path.Follow the rules. And you WILL reach your goal. Of course, when you think you’re almost there and ready to sit back and savor your success, it may seem as if you have to go all the way back to the beginning. And while you're bemoaning the fact that you’re far away and never, ever going to get ahead, hurrah, suddenly the path opens up right in front of you!Be respectful of the people you meet going forward, say the sages who know such things. You’ll probably meet those same guys on the way back.
Children chase each other joyously through the intricate design. Adults, seeing it for the first time, tend to avert their eyes as if to say, “Better wait until no one is looking.”But eventually, even they realize no one’s really watching.One person inches forward, lost in his thoughts.Others briskly pass him by.
Last year, on the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq, the American Friends Service Committee created a very special pilgrimage at the cathedral by placing more than fifty pairs of combat boots on the labyrinth. Some were old and beat up. Some were brand new. Each had a name tag with the name of the person who had died wearing them. It was crowded and quite astounding. As many as a dozen people at a time walked the path, stopping every few steps to remember the Northern California troops whose boots they passed.
Outside on the cathedral steps were hundreds of other shoes -- high heeled pumps, baby shoes, house slippers. These were civilian shoes -- a silent salute to families whose lives have been touched by the war. Again, a powerful sight.
A year later, the fighting continues.As of April 5, a total of 4,585 troops had died.
California Collectors' Series does not currently have a note card depicting Grace Cathedral. However, we have a close connection with the Cathedral's docent program. In preparation for a trip to Ravenna, Italy, and in general preparation for a better understanding of world religions, we continue to look for ways that profound ancient ideas have found their way to the present.
March 17, 2009
Why Man (and Woman) Creates
Tenacity wins!For years Royce Vaughn has been talking about a Saul Bass film he showed to his students at Project ABLE (Arts and Business Learning Experiences) in the 1970s. The animated “Why Man Creates” film was a huge hit with the teenagers, mostly drop-outs, mostly unmotivated young adults dipping their toes for the first time into the world of film, photography and videotape.
Over the years, Vaughn periodically sent up flares looking for a copy of the film that inspired them.Calls to the archives at Kaiser Aluminum which sponsored the production and then to Richard Kauffman* finally led to www.pyramidmedia.com.
Project ABLE ran for ten years with almost $250,000 in funding from the Ford Foundation with matching funds from the Rosenberg, Miranda Lux, San Francisco and Wells Fargo foundations, and produced films for clients such as the US Department of Labor. Almost thirty years later, Vaughn no longer has regular contact with the students.But in chance meetings with one who had become an engineer at KRON-TV and another who became a self-employed photographer, he knows some have succeeded in the film world. While the odds are great that others possibly have not, he maintains the basic tenet that money spent on encouraging young people to study creative arts takes them into new spheres of thinking, new groundwork for finding sustainable jobs, new respect for their ability to succeed.
"Why Man Creates" was winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film in 1968. With wonderfully animated humor, satire and irony, "it emphasizes the uniqueness and creative potential of each individual."
*Kaufmann's wife Tina also does original note cards, featuring photographs and watercolors of the Oakland hills. We especially like her "Poppies in the Diablo Foothills." Poppies are not only California's state flower, they're the California Collectors" Series logo.
December 29, 2008
The Content of His CharacterFirst, because it sets the tone, we have so much hope for the administration of Barack Obama– not because of the color of his skin, but because he seems so elegantly smart, measured and willing to address the mess this country is currently in. In that spirit, we reach across many aisles this year. We send you greetings in the best sense of personal note cards and holiday letters wrapped in hopes for the future.
Royce Reaches for the Stars On his easel today is an oil painting of the Nebular Hypothesis he did several years ago which he is now expanding as he keeps re-pondering the universe. Julie’s “Blue Angels over San Francisco” is a popular note card. Perhaps, he wonders, would it be good to make prints for SF tourist shops?The note cards are now in gift shops in two San Francisco Kaiser Hospitals. And finally, with sadness but great resolve, Royce is resigning his post as CEO of the Oceanview, Merced, Ingleside Business League (OMIBL) to concentrate on Ravenna. (Italy, not Ohio!) Will this Renaissance artist ever relinquish the dream to study the influence of Asian and African art on early Christianity? Even as we talk, he’s looking for a sponsor.
Grace A tourist asked the lady docent why San Francisco’s Episcopal cathedral is named for Grace and not Saint Somebody. “What exactly does grace mean?” he asked. The answer, remembered from Salvation Army Colonel Ray Robinson years ago, was just two words – “unearned favor”. For us, the cathedral is a blessing, a remarkable gift of ideas and solace, a place so inclusive that symbols of the world’s great religions are placed equally in the AIDS interfaith chapel of healing – Islam, Christianity, Taoism, Native American, Shintoism, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism and an all-encompassing circle recognizing other traditions.
We ask the question again and again. How can we ever heal if we don’t reach across the barriers which separate us?
All That Jazz A few years ago, Jerri Lange* and I were sitting across the table from each other at a Sunday brunch in Oakland. Some African-American guests were giving wonderful histories of their heritage. Jerri teared up and said, "God, I love black people!" "Me, too, Jerri," I said. "Me, too! I did not marry the black community. I married Royce Vaughn.But what a world he opened up for me…."
This November we went to the 80th birthday party of Dr. Willis Kirk at the Oakland Boat Club. Royce knows him as the former president of City College, a drummer of note, composer of a jazz Mass, author of a book on drum brush skills, mentor to many and a good customer of California Collectors' Series cards. In addition to City College people, a wide variety of old friends from Willis’ jazz drumming life were present, including San Francisco favorite John Handy. They arrived with instruments in hand and after a down-home catered meal, the music began! Keyboard, drums, trumpets, saxophones, trombones, bass - each with solos and then all jamming together. At one time there were six trumpets, two saxes and one trombone playing at once.
Next, a fabulous surprise, “scat”, that special variety of vocalizing like an instrument that Ella FitzGerald made popular. The man who did it was incredible! Until now, “scat” was a word this Indiana honkey knew only through crossword puzzles. I was spellbound and ran back to Jerri who was sitting at another table, and reminded her, "Jerri, I love black people!" "Me, too," she said. "Me, too! Jazz is so much of our heritage. Kids today don't know how important this music was to us.”
After that, a young woman sang (make that wailed!) the blues. Using a California Collectors' Series card, Willis presented $100 to a 99 year old in honor of her years. A 90 year old who still performs on Thursday nights at a club in San Clemente, crooned "You Make Me Feel So Young."
The musicians -- both black and white -- had come from all over the country, including Indianapolis (Nap Town), Kokomo, Akron and Cleveland, those places we came from, too. It was a magical evening full of memories of people remembering fondly the days of Max Roach, Cal Tjader, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker....
An incredible evening.
From our family to yours, from our part of the world to yours,
we hope your pilgrimage this year is full of healing, peace
and wonderful adventure.
“We are a part of all we have met,” said Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
We believe that. We really do!
* Author of“Jerri: A Black Woman’s Life in the Media”
December 29, 2007 by Judy Vaughn
It’s hardly earth-shaking news, but as times change, this old lady and her artist husband are tiptoeing into new media. Kudos first to the Small Business Administration which offers classes, mostly free, at 455 Market Street in San Francisco. I am often the oldest person in the room and sit glassy eyed listening to riveting discussions about search engine optimization! I’d rather be riveted by the Middle Ages. Royce would rather go to Ravenna, Italy, to study the black influence on early Christian art. But we're learning. We're learning!
Veteran’s Administration. Although he does not have hepatitis, Royce does have liver problems and was in the Veterans’ Administration Healing Arts program. www.hepatitis.va.gov/.vahep?page=ptartvaughn-&post=1&slide=2.
His “partnership” with the VA has been quite wonderful. They take good care of him and on every visit he makes the rounds to meet new people. In the outside world, he’s their number one publicist.
Other art news. He’s in a November 3-4 show at Jones Methodist Church,which will include Afrigrams. His paintings for Julie Richey (Blue Angels over San Francisco) and Andy Heston (Lighthouse at Point Sur) were a smash hit. He sold four paintings in October, including the infamous “Red, White, Blue and the Green” marching band that was originally bought by Miss Phoebe Cole, organist at Saint Aidan’s Church, who later bequeathed it back to him when she died. Getting ready for February, he’s preparing “Quartet”, four sepia color portraits of George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass and Ralph Bunche for a show at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. This is part of a “Remembering Our Heroes” series he started many years ago. The portraits are terrific.
OMIBL.Still fighting forthe OMI Business League, which he founded, Royce recently nominated three strong community voices for the SF Examiner’s Neighborhood Business Awards: Bob and Marilyn Katzman (check out their Firehouse Adventures (www.fireenginetours.com) and Stacey Huey of Miracle Cleaners.
Our Particular Universe
Because it’s perched on top of a hill, our house has always seemed large, larger than its actual size. From the top of the hill we can look out over the entire valley. Mt. Diablo is on the far horizon. And beyond that? Isn't that Chicago? It’s as though we could take a running jump off the planet and fly out into space. And if, indeed, gravity should eventually pull us down, we’d most certainly land on the other side of the world. Maybe Katmandu.
From this vantage point, three quarters of the view is sky. Below that, the earth is clearly round. Watch the vapor trail from a passing plane many miles above. One hundred and eighty degrees across the horizon, it leaves an arched path following the curve of the earth.
This round, fragile earth is spinning on its axis at 8000 miles an hour. So are we.
For forty years this house has been filled to capacity with an overabundance of energy, creativity, hope, surprise, success and failure, unpredictable chaos, undeniable pain and inexhaustible curiosity. It’s something of a metaphor for our lives. We sit on the top of a hill on the brink of a valley in the middle of a universe.
Does the building appear to lean slightly to the right? We could hardly move into such a place so contrary to our lifestyle, we laughed to the realtor in 1966, watching as a dropped coin rolled to one side of the floor. “Not to worry,” he countered. Adroitly he did a complete about face, turning in the opposite direction. “You see,” he smiled, “it actually leans slightly to the left!”
We bought the house and the adventure began.
To pay the moving bills, bless the rooms and welcome our friends, we held an art show sponsored by The Negro Historical and Cultural Society.
A foreshadowing of things to come! This would be a public as well as private place. Christmas trees and candlelit dinners would happen here. Everyday life would happen -- sometimes splendidly, sometimes with enormous pain. But there would also be business meetings at this table overlooking the valley. Funds raised, contacts made, ambitious educational programs developed and implemented. There was a brave new world to be created and we were part of it. It was a heady time.
The ladies from the Historical Society sensed the spirit. Almost immediately, when the International Visitors’ Center needed a home to host a party for 100 Africans, they asked us to help.
Usually, mansions overlooking the Golden Gate host this kind of large international delegation. They have the space. They have the hired help which we, of course, do not. But the ladies who were our sponsors saw beyond the prestige of PacificHeights hospitality this time. They saw an opportunity for African visitors to see how middle class families lived. It’s not that we were so normal. We weren’t. But we loved to give parties. And our house was certainly big.
The evening came. The time of arrival came … and went. Where were our visitors? As we waited, we posted signs on the decks. Please, no more than fifteen at a time.
The ladies fussed. We waited. The music of Charlie Parker set the mood.
Suddenly, an advance scout arrived to tell us the situation. Drivers of the chartered buses carrying the Africans were perplexed. The hill was too steep. This was no place for a bus.
So the caravan took an alternate route and parked a block away. Then those 100 Africans with skins so dark and so intense they seemed almost purple, those 100 Africans with natural hairstyles only just then becoming popular in the United States, those 100 future African leaders that the State Department wanted to show how middle class America lived…those 100 Africans got out of their buses in their brilliantly colored dashikis and wonderfully long flowing robes. They hit the pavement, started knocking on doors to see where we lived and in a great wave of sub-Saharan color walked up the street to our front door.…
As home movies go, it was an entrance worthy of Cecil B. De Mille.
An auspicious beginning. A sign of things to come.
Next Newsletter. The purpose of this epistle is to start a conversation. We’ll talk about artists and filmmakers, The Salvation Army and other good causes which focus on young people, particularly minority youth, San Francisco City Guides and Grace Cathedral -- some things sublime and some things just plain fun. For instance, we recently found www.royceart.com which appears to have an astonishing readership of people looking for items depicting frogs and marine life. On the other end of the spectrum www.netSERF.com looks like a great resource for medieval research. Computer-wise, we’ve been in interminable discussions with www.acninc.net which was kind to us this week when an obdurate, take-no-prisoners anti-virus company was not. Maybe quill pens are best after all!