Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Highsmith’


Highsmith Catalog Art

May 31, 2013

I’m delighted to report that the library has received a gift of art from Duncan Highsmith in honor of the late Hugh Highsmith and his wife Frances Highsmith.  This art collection contains works of art that were commissioned by the Highsmith Company for their catalog covers over the years.  We are delighted to receive these beautiful and original pieces and find it fitting that they are donated in memory of Hugh and in honor of Fanny.

Hugh was so important to our library as a board member and also as the person who saw to it that the library became a donor designated fund in the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation. Additionally, as the founder of the Highsmith Company, he made a difference for libraries all across the world in that his company was the go-to library supplier for many of us, for many years. Fanny was a library leader as well serving as a library board member and president. She served for many years and I had the great privilege to work with her during those years as well as during her tenure on the Jefferson County library board. She’s just such an inspiration to me.  I have learned a great deal from Fanny Highsmith over the years and I hope it makes her happy to know that this incredible art collection has found a home in the Dwight Foster Public Library—and it is dedicated to her and her late husband Hugh.

The pieces are:

Four Banners: Myth & Fantasy, Dialogue, Knowledge, Universality, Lois Ehlert, Appliqué in silk & nylon (1982)
Lois Ehlert is a Milwaukee author-illustrator-artist and Caldecott Award winner. The banners were a commission to represent different types of libraries: Myth & Fantasy, the children’s library; Dialogue, the school library; Knowledge, academic and special libraries; Universality, the public library. The banners are now hanging in the youth department in between the high windows on the main floor of the library.

Storyteller Puppets: Child, Man, Woman, Benevolence, Protector, Threat, Lois Ehlert, Fiber and found objects (1984)
Another commission by Lois Ehlert: A set of puppets that can be used to tell “almost any children’s story.” The puppets are on the ledge above the new non-fiction in the circulaton area on the main floor of the library.

Verständigung, Guido Brink, Painted steel (1985)
Guido Brink (1913-2002) Milwaukee sculptor, painter and educator was commissioned to create a sculpture illustrating the human, emotional, informational and technological characteristics of libraries. The sculpture stands on the floor and is currently placed in the circulation area on the main floor of the library.

1986: Windows: View for a library, Clark Waterman, Stained glass panel (1986)Highsmith Art Collection 026
A stained glass window for a library, it is hanging in the window between the quiet study area and the non-fiction wing on the upper floor of the library.

Arpilleras: Market, Daily Life & History, Cooperative Renacer (Santiago, Chile), Appliqué and embroidery, cotton, 1996
The arpilleras were commissioned from a Santiago, Chile women’s cooperative as examples of the covert communication and documentation employed by Chilean women during the Pinochet dictatorship. Such embroidered & appliquéd images were used to communicate among mountain villages through imagery and through concealed texts within the appliqué when conventional communication was forbidden.  You can read more about the women’s resistance here. Two of the pieces hang in the new large print area on the upper floor of the library. One of them hangs in the Highsmith Young Adult room.

Come in and see the beautiful pieces if you are able.  Photographs (at least the ones from my camera!)  just are the same as seeing them in person.


A special legacy of Hugh Highsmith

June 19, 2009

Hugh Highsmith passed away on June 7, 2009 at the age of 94.   Even though Mr. Highsmith lived a long and fruitful life, it is still hard to say goodbye.

Mr. Highsmith personally touched many by providing employment to hundreds of people at his library supply company in Fort Atkinson for over 50 years.  I have heard employees remark about Hugh’s obvious interest in them as people.  Quite simply, he cared about the well-being of his employees.

Mr. Highsmith, a truly philanthropic gentleman, contributed financially to projects of all kinds, including our own library and The Hoard Museum.  He did so at key times, for example, when the library project relied on a gift in the early stages of our expansion in 1983.  He contributed to the county by acquiring and donating the land for the Jefferson County Indian Mounds Park.   He was quiet, humble, and so giving.

He gave…so that others could enjoy and grow.

At his memorial service, I could tell by the comment from grandson, Cyrus, that he fostered growth in his family too.   When Cyrus Highsmith, an artist,  spoke of the voice he hears inside his head and how he came to identify that as Hugh’s, I couldn’t help but feel an incredible admiration.  To leave a gift like that for his grandson is a remarkable thing indeed.

Son Tod spoke about his connection with the land that was fostered from his early childhood exploration of the family’s beautiful property.   He recognized his father’s role in nurturing his lifelong love of the earth.

Son Duncan shared his sense of deep gratitude to be able to work with Hugh, side-by-side, for so many years until he’d learned enough to take over as CEO/President.

At the memorial service, it certainly clicked for me.  I understood that the similar refrain in all the stories was the way Hugh Highsmith fostered growth in everything and everyone he touched.  As I pondered that thought, I realized how fitting it was that he and his wife Fanny were selected as the honorary chairs of our “Foster Growth” capital campaign last year.

Foster growth.  Mr. Highsmith demonstrated they aren’t just words in a capital campaign slogan.  When you live it, you leave quite a legacy indeed.

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