by Len Lear
Meri Adelman, 59, whose brain tumor forced her to leave the position of Curator of Education that she held at Woodmere Art Museum from 1992 to 2005, will be teaching a 6-session course on drawing for Mt. Airy Learning Tree starting Wednesday, Oct. 1, at Chestnut Hill United, 8812 Germantown Ave. This will be her ninth semester teaching for MALT.
Adelman, a familiar face in the local arts community because of her 13 years as the Robert L, McNeil Curator of Education at Woodmere, has been drawing for more than 40 years. And since the successful removal of her benign brain tumor in 2005, she continues to happily paint, exhibit and teach.
Adelman exhibited and drew only in black and white until a benign brain tumor was removed eight years ago. Told by doctors to expect nothing to change except maybe needing some rehabilitation, it was dramatic when her voice was transformed permanently.
The West Mt. Airy resident remains somewhat off-balance and was for years an avid member of the “sleep festival,” needing 12-14 hours a night. “But I no longer sleep 12 to 14 hours a night,” she said last week, “because now I’m making awesome plates with my drawings on them, and I wake after eight hours to walk to Center in the Park to work in their clay studio.
“Being in a wheelchair and drooling really shook me up,” she said in a previous interview. “Luckily, I can use my own legs now, and I only spit occasionally, but hey, so do camels.”
Meri took advantage of a bad situation. “You might say it blew the top of my head off, or, as I like to say, ‘popped my cork.’ I even have a painting of that.” Still loving black and white, Meri admits that life and her consciousness of it have been changed permanently. “It’s like an on-going hallucination; everything is more intense than ever before.”
She ferociously set about making pictures. She used to do life-size portraits, but now her works are much smaller. “She was driven, couldn’t be stopped; it was a necessary obsession,” said her agent and friend, Kathleen Statue, who watched her work flourish over the past 20 years.
Adelman received her B.F.A. in painting from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, 1980, and her M.A. in art history from Temple University, 2000.
Prior to her work at Woodmere, Meri was a freelance exhibition curator in Philadelphia. For example, she organized “From Salonika to Curacao: A Sephardic Odyssey” for Gratz College at the National Museum of American Jewish History. She researched archives and selected materials from 10 national institutions tracing the history of two Jewish communities in the old and new world.
And for the 250th Anniversary Exhibition of Congregation Mikveh Israel, the second oldest synagogue in America, Meri researched archives from the 1870s to the present day, selected objects and assisted with text and label writing.
Meri also taught art courses at several community-based non-profits such as Mt. Airy Learning Tree and Main Line Art Center; she lectured at Woodmere on such subjects as legendary abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock, French Impressionist Paul Cezanne and Ben Shawn, a Lithuanian-born, 20th century American artist famed for his social realist works. “I have been and always will be indebted to early Italian painting,” she said, “and then there’s always Cezanne. Always.”
From January to March of this year, there was an exhibit of Adelman’s work at Earth, Bread and Brewery in Mt. Airy, and in April another exhibit of her work took place at the J.B. Kline Gallery in Lambertville, N.J.
Gary Miller, a Chestnut Hill resident who is an artist and photo teacher at Germantown Friends School, commented in an earlier interview that Meri “represents all the good things about being in and of the arts.”
And it’s not unusual for a Chestnut Hill area resident to stop Meri and say, “You look like the woman who worked at Woodmere.” Meri said she always replies, “That’s because I am.”