Michener Art Museum Oral History Collections

In the fall of 2014 the Solebury Township Historical Society (STHS) and the Michener Art Museum Archivist Department (MAM) began a project to document and post to both web sites the Michener Art Museum’s Artist’s Oral Histories Collection. This volunteer effort by STHS will take some months, however postings on the web site will begin and continue as the documentation is ready to publish. This opening summary of the work will also change as we discover the exact contents of the archives and we can subdivide it into specific “topic collections.” (The STHS and NHHS Oral History Collection is available here.)

The Michener Art Museum’s Audio and Video Oral Histories

Often these single efforts were given or created and stored for researchers to access in some future day. Anyone one who has detailed knowledge of any of these interviews and can add to the information about them is encouraged to send an email to the Michener Archives Department.

Dana Garber Applestein (MAM)

Dana is the granddaughter of artist Daniel Garber, who was an STHS Honored Citizen in 2009. She is sometimes joined in the presentation by her sister, Tanis Garber Shaw. The Michener Art Museum in Doylestown sponsored, organized, and videotaped this presentation in their grandfather’s studio at Cuttalossa Farm. Video and details.

Marian Jensen Barford  (MAM)

At the time of the interview Marian was the Executive Director of the Bucks County Council for the Arts, which was the organizing body that created, after many years of work, the James A. Michener Art Museum. Recording and details.

Ranulph Bye (MAM)

This is a tape of a live radio interview of Ranulph Bye conducted by WBUX host Louise Collins. Ranulph was one of the foremost watercolorists in the United States. He was a resident of Bucks County from the age of 15 until his death. Recording and details.

Charles Hargens, Jr. (MAM)

Illustrator, painter, photographer, Charles achieved success in the magazine and book publishing world. He was born in South Dakota and was known for his scenes of the Old West. He and his family moved to Carversville in 1940. The MAM recording is #2. The NHHS recording is #1.  Recording 2 and details. Recording 1 and details.

Erika Oeschler Luitweiler (MAM)

Erica was a New Hope-Solebury Elementary School art teacher who also wrote poetry in her later years. The Michener Art Museum holds three separate interviews of Erika. The first and third are from the MAM general collection. The second is from the class collection of Professor Nancy Hellebrand of Bucks County Community College. Recording 1 and detailsRecording 2 and detailsRecording 3 and details.

Paul Matthews (MAM)

Paul was born in Princeton, NJ, and is a Lambertville resident. He attended Cooper Union Art School and taught at Gill/St. Bernard’s School and at the Parsons School of Design. He describes his paintings as “peoplescapes,” not portraits. He works primarily in oil on canvas. Recording and details.

Rae Solowey (MAM)

Rae Landis was the wife of artist Ben Solowey, who was known for his sculptures, paintings, and drawings. Rae and Ben were married in 1930 after a brief courtship, and she became his primary model. Recording and details.

Lester Trauch (MAM)

Lester was a lively Doylestown personality during and after his long career at the Doylestown Daily Intelligencer newspaper. He was born in Bedminster and attended Doylestown High School. He started working as a reporter for the paper in 1931 and remained there until he retired in 1981. His “Man About Town” column touched on many subjects including a strong presentation of the Bucks County theater scene and the famous actors, producers, and writers who populated New Hope and the county. Credited with “knowing everyone in Doylestown and everyone knowing him,” he was also a schoolmate and lifelong friend of James A. Michener. Recording 1 and detailsRecording 2 and detailsRecording 3 and details.

Charles Wells (MAM)

Charles attended the George School and Amherst College. Initially he intended to become a writer, but after seeing designs by Leonard Baskin he became determined to be an artist. He was apprenticed to Baskin and later lived and worked in Italy. His works are in the permanent collections of many prestigious galleries and Museums. Recording and details.

The Michener Art Museum Oral History Donated Archives

In 1978 Professor Nancy Hellebrand of Bucks County Community College (BCCC) set up a course exercise to record oral histories of many Bucks County artists. The interviews did not all verbally record names, times, dates of birth of interviewee, and other information. For clarity we have inserted this information from notes on the actual cassette tape and Michener Art Museum’s records and web site where full documentation on most of these artists is posted.

These interviews followed a set list of questions designed to discover the artists as well as their particular Bucks County heritage and connections. The questions, expressed in each interviewer’s language, can be found here.

Carol Barany painter, woodcutter (MAM-BCCC)

Carol painted on location and her paintings were influenced by the Bucks County landscape. She exhibited extensively in Bucks County, including at the Doylestown Art League and the Phillips’ Mill art show. Recording and details.

Joan Bitzer painter (MAM-BCCC)

Joan was an art teacher in many Bucks County public schools and was the director of the Fine Arts Program at the Central Bucks YMCA. Recording and details.

Selma Bortner printmaker (MAM-BCCC)

Selma retired in 1991 as Professor Emeritus after 23 years as an instructor in the Department of Fine Arts at Bucks County Community College. Although trained in both painting and printmaking, she became known for her printed, graphic works. Recording and details.

Ranulph Bye painter (MAM-BCCC)

Ranulph was one of the foremost watercolorists in the United States. He was a resident of Bucks County from the age of 15 until his death. Recording and details.

Harriet Curtin Ermentrout painter (MAM-BCCC)

Harriet attended the Moore Institute of Art to study interior design and later continued her education in painting. Her specialties were historic homes, rustic buildings, and Bucks County landscapes, although her she sketched around the world and used those sketched as the basis for many of her large paintings. Recording and details.

Dorothy Grider illustrator, photographer, and painter (MAM-BCCC)

Dorothy Grider grew up in Bowling Green, KY, and settled in New Hope after 28 years in New York City. She attended Western Kentucky State Teachers College and was a well-known illustrator, mainly of children’s books. Recording and details.

Charles J. Gussman writer (MAM-BCCC)

Charles was a writer of radio and television shows including early 1950 soaps like “Search for Tomorrow” and “Young Dr. Malone.” His New York Times obituary states that he “brought delightfully tangled plots, addictively picturesque characters and heaping doses of steamy romance to soap operas.” In addition the Times said that “for years, Mr. Gussman had said he wanted his last words to be memorable. As his death approached, his daughter reminded him of his wish. He slowly removed the oxygen mask, she said, and whispered in the faintest voice: `And now for a final word from our sponsor. . . .’” Recording and details.

Ned Harrington poet and historian (MAM-BCCC)

Ned and his wife Betty moved to Carversville in 1947. He was the author of many books about the history of Carversville and Solebury Township. But in addition to writing histories, he also wrote poetry and it was as a poet that he was interviewed for the artists and writers oral history project of Nancy Hellebrand’s class. Recording and details.

Donald A. Hedges architect, painter (MAM-BCCC)

Don was an architect who moved to New Hope in 1930. He and his wife Peggy opened a craft shop in New Hope that she ran for many years. Don was involved in civic activities in New Hope, and in his later years he took up painting. Recording and details.

Judith Heep printmaker, painter, photographer (MAM-BCCC)

Judith was born in Brooklyn, NY, and relocated to Doylestown. Her work has been exhibited in public and private shows across the country. Her art currently consists of cast handmade paper pieces that are frequently colored with oil sticks, oil pastels, and gouache. She also at times incorporates her photographs into the work. She is a founding member of the Muse Gallery in Philadelphia. Recording and details.

Joan Kopchik painter, graphic artist, pencil drawer (MAM-BCCC)

Joan is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University who lives in Southampton and started as a painter and drawer, but we now know she makes designs from her own handmade paper. She also includes natural objects like river stones or bamboo skewers. Recording and details.

Eleanor Levy illustrator (MAM-BCCC)

Eleanor studied art at the New York High School of Art and Design. She had a successful career as an illustrator for many publishing houses. Recording and details.

Denver Lindley, Jr. painter (MAM-BCCC)

Denver grew up in the New York area. His was a graduate of Yale University and attended the Art Students League in New York. He served as a Bucks County Commissioner and was a member of the board of trustees of Bucks County Community College. Recording and details.

Erika Oeschler Luitweiler artist, poet, and art collector (MAM-BCCC)

Erica was a New Hope-Solebury Art Education teacher who also wrote poetry in her later years. The Michener Art Museum holds three separate interviews of Erika; this Bucks County Community College interview is the second in chronological order. Recording 2 and details.

Bernard Mangiaracina artist, sculptor  (MAM-BCCC)

Bernard studied sculpture at the University of Pennsylvania and was Artist-in-Residence at the Guttman Center for the Fine Arts on Windy Bush Road. He has worked in various media creating sculptures, paintings, and prints, but sculpture has been his primary focus. He was an art professor at Bucks County Community College and ran the sculpture area. Recording and details.

Gustav A. Nilson painter (MAM-BCCC)

Gustav was born in Vienna, Austria. He studied at the National Arts Academy and with two of the most famous poster artists, Lucian Bernhard and Julius Klinger. He immigrated to the United States in the 1920s and worked in New York as a freelance designer for advertising firms and as an art director for several large lithography houses before opening his own business. He moved to Bucks County in 1941, and his well-known watercolors of Bucks County barns, covered bridges, antique shops, and old mills reflect his love for the area. Recording and details.

Robert Ranieri  painter, sculptor, stage and screen artist (MAM-BCCC)

Robert attended the Tyler School of Art of Temple University and studied in Italy on a Fullbright Grant. He lives in Bucks County where he paints, sculpts, and creates landscape architecture designs. Recording and details.

Charlotte Schatz sculptor, painter (MAM-BCCC)

Charlotte was professor at Bucks County Community College teaching sculpture and design. She began her art career as a two-dimensional painter but quickly moved to sculpture. She worked with diverse materials such as metal, plastic, glass, wood, and mirrors. Later in life she returned to painting. Recording and details.

Phoebe Taylor painter, illustrator, writer (MAM-BCCC)

Phoebe was a writer and artist in various media, probably training for a time with Fern Coppedge. She raised a large family and was a strong horsewoman. Although she illustrated many subjects it is clear that the horse captivated her spirit. She illustrated local magazines and self-published and sold a set of book/pamphlets. She is buried at Buckingham Friends cemetery. Recording and details.

 George Trivellini sculptor, painter (MAM-BCCC)

George served apprenticeships in commercial art studios and then worked as a staff artist and graphic designer. He was both a painter and a sculptor, but in his later years concentrated on sculpting with metal. His large sculptures can be found in corporate and private collections in both the United States and in Europe. Recording and details.

Avi Wortis writer (MAM-BCCC)

Edward Irving Wortis writes under the pen name Avi. He is the author of 71 books, all geared to children or young adults, and was awarded the Newbery Medal in 2003. At the time of this interview in 1978 Avi and his then-wife Joan were living in New Hope. Recording and details.

Joan Wortis hand weaver, textile and fiber art (MAM-BCCC)

Joan is an artist who works in textiles. At the time of the interview she was working mainly on garments. She was the wife of Avi Wortis, the writer. Recording and details.


Louise Collins broadcast live on WBUX starting in 1980 from the Goodnoe restaurant in Newtown, PA.  In addition she wrote and produced video documentaries for television.  Her tape recorder went everywhere with her as “you never know what interesting people you might meet.”

Florence Schaffhausen was a reporter for the Doylestown Intelligencer where she wrote a column from 1963 to 1989. She was a founding member of Bucks County Council for the Arts and the James A. Michener Museum. Florence passed away in 2000.

Joan Murphy Stack, a noted WBUX radio talk show host, was a native of Lambertville, NJ and lived in Doylestown, PA.  The Joan Stack Show was a daily half hour interview done live from Conti’s Cross Key Inn for over 20 years.  Joan passed away in August 2011.

Students of Professor Nancy Hellebrand of Bucks County Community College in 1978:  Wayne Aaronson, Terry Convey, Sharon Donarum, Jeremy Esche, Bruce Lazarovich, Nancy Menzies, Jesse Morac, Lydia Quill, John Shuman, John Sutton, Ivy Silver