Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Hysterical Society

I reminisced recently about a group my parents were part of when they were young and how it enabled them to buy good art. I was asked to pass it along via this blog so here it is. Back in the 50's when my parents were a young couple living in a village outside of Youngstown, Ohio, they formed a group with other young couples in the area. They called it the Hysterical Society. They were all interested in art, books, current events, good cooking and martinis. There were, if I remember correctly, 12 couples in the group. They met monthly at one couple's home- that couple cooked the dinner, other members of the group contributed dishes- another couple was responsible for the evening's entertainment. There were many delightful evenings at our house that I got to catch glimpses of from the stairs- and yummy leftovers the next day. All well and good.
But the thing that caught the fancy of the people I was telling this to was the unique and wonderful system they worked out to purchase art.
Each year, all the couples would contribute a set sum of money into a common fund. That year one couple would pick out a piece of work at the annual Mid-Year Show at the Butler Institute of American Art and purchase it with that pooled money. The work of art would then be hung for a month in each of the homes of all the other members of the group. At the end of the rotation, the work would be the property of the couple that picked it out. The next year, all the members of the group would again contribute to the fund and the next couple on the list would choose a work and it would rotate through the other households and so on.
This was a great way to build a community, buy art and support artists. The works people chose may not have been my parents' taste in art- the art they chose may not have been another couples' cup of tea either; there were undoubtedly works that did not hang in the place of honor during the month. The great thing was that the work did not have to appeal to everyone. It also enabled young families to purchase art that they otherwise may not have been able to afford. Because of this plan, I was privileged to grow up in a home with good books on the shelves, good original art on the walls, and music- and my family was not wealthy by any means.
I offer this idea to anyone who wants to employ it.

3 comments:

loelbarr said...

Thanks for sharing this, Polly. Such a great idea...did they come up with it themselves? When I was a kid, my dad a professor, my parents would check out prints of great art from the college library and they would live on our walls. It was my first intro to Van Gogh and many others. I wonder if libraries still do this...? Not that it helps us artists sell our work...!

P.M.Law said...

Thanks Loel. I have absolutely no idea if they thought this up themselves or if it came from someone else. The Hysterical Society started before I was born and, if I remember correctly, and petered out when I was 13 or so.

Mark Monlux said...

My Uncle and Aunt has a wine club with their friends. The club started off as a bottle of wine to enjoy. But then they wanted more expensive wine, so they would throw in money, not for wine, but for stocks. They then used the dividends of the stock the next year to buy the wine. With delicious wine as an incentive they did pretty well.