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Continued: An artful book club in more ways than one

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 3, 2014 - 4:01 PM

Barbara “Babs” Shelton, a casting director, said the book club has gotten her back into reading for pleasure, something she’d moved away from, she said.

The book club is a low-pressure setting, and Luer is good at drawing people out, she said. “You get to know each person a little more each month through the book.”

In the past, some book clubs she’d belonged to read too many repetitive-type things. Here, no two books are the same and there are so many avenues to explore, she said. Also, none of the readings are too dry or academic, she said.

“A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano,” by Katie Hafner, showed how important pianos once were, how everyone used to have them. Also, before that, she had no idea who Glenn Gould was. He’s a fascinating, eccentric character, she said.

“The Girl With the Gallery” by Lindsay Pollack centers on Edith Gregor Halpert, who is said to have opened the first modern art gallery in the country, in 1926, “when people thought modern art wasn’t art,” she said.

She’s also connected with some of the book club members outside of the meetings.

Often, quite by chance, one book will relate to another in some way, maybe shedding light on a certain aspect of an era or a milieu. For example, “Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder,” by Lawrence Weschler, about how people in the 16th century would bring back exotic things from their travels, displaying them in curio cabinets, was fun to read right after “Chrysalis.” It kind of piggybacked on the same topics, she said.

Minnetonka resident Mary Jo Bartos said she’s also learned a lot about art history, things that never came up in school or in a textbook, she said.

It’s fun to learn about the artists’ idiosyncrasies such as in “Loving Frank,” by Nancy Horan, she said. Sometimes the artist’s work affected their lives, and not vice versa. That’s apparent in “Strapless,” by Deborah Davis. It showed the controversy that ensued when prominent American painter John Singer Sargent painted a portrait of a woman wearing a strapless gown.

“The Art of Acquiring: A Portrait of Etta and Claribel Cone,” by Mary Gabriel, was informative in a totally different way. It explained how the Cone sisters came to acquire so many Henri Matisse works. Some club members then visited the Matisse exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, she said.

As an analyst working with computers full-time, Gabriel finds that the book club is a good way to “make sure I stay connected to art. I have to be creative in how I keep art in my life.”

Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at

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  • Artist Pam Luer led a discussion at a recent meeting of the Artful Book Club, which she helped found. The group meets at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

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