Saturday, July 24, 2010

Memento mentor

Tomorrow, there is a memorial service in Port Washington, NY for
Anne Buerger.

I met Anne Buerger around 11 years ago through the mentoring program that paired students from the High School of Art and Design with adult mentors from AIGA, the professional association for design. Anne was the teacher coordinator for the program. Anne loved the kids. The kids loved her. So did the adult designers in the program.

Anne seemed like a spirit from another world: gentle, graceful, ethereal. Yet, mentally she was a strong person. She was smart, perceptive, incisive, a diplomatic questioner. She knew about complications, but she approached people with kindness, grace, and clarity. One student who's now at City College in Architecture described her as the best teacher he had.

Anne reminds me of a moment from my college days, when I was lucky enough to be one of the thousands of college students doing Europe on less than $5 a day, seeing, with awe, most of the art and architecture covered in survey courses. My college roommate and I visited many MANY gorgeous, vaulting, elaborate cathedrals with complex stained glass. Then, one day, we went to Vence, a small town in France, to see the Matisse Chapel. It was quiet, simple, calming, full of light and without any of the usual icons of religiosity. Light streamed through simple shapes. We were moved. I recall us gently weeping. The time in that chapel has stayed with me for decades.

Like Matisse with his Chapel, Anne had a quiet genius for illuminating life. Like the interior of the chapel,she was unassuming, thoughtful, lovely, inspiring, memorable. For decades.

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