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‘Picturing America’ made easier on Tuesday, Sept. 19

Some husbands show their love by making extravagant purchases or by doing daring deeds. Mine shows his by doing both, on a somewhat smaller scale: He runs errands. Best of all, he does it with a smile on his face.

Can you pick up some broccoli and a loaf of bread (and some butter and that creamer you like and a pound of Honey Roasted Sara Lee turkey, shaved?)

Sure thing.    

Do you think you could mail this microscope on your lunch hour? (It’s fragile.)

No problem.

Remember that frame I should have bought and didn’t? (Here’s a picture to help you find it when you get to the store.)

Most recently his mission involved a visit to the Mississippi Library Commission in Jackson, where he picked up enough American masterpieces to fill four over-sized U-Haul boxes. Well, let me clarify that. They’re not the original masterpieces. They’re large reproductions of American masterpieces, laminated and framed for educational display — works like that famous one of George Washington crossing the Delaware (Emanuel Leutze) and Norman Rockwell’s recognizable “Freedom of Speech.”

It’s not every day that the Hendersons ride around with such a carload of culture. True, you can find a lot of stuff tucked away between the second and third rows of our Tahoe, but it’s probably not anything you’d care to look at two centuries from now. This particular stash of unusual cargo was the result of an inquiry I made of Caroline Gillespie of the Mississippi Humanities Council.

I’d read about a small set of traveling photographs they have available for loan, and I thought the black and white images would make a nice addition to a history class I’m teaching this semester. I submitted the request. A couple of emails later Gillespie ended up offering me the whole kit and caboodle — something called “Picturing America,” a mobile effort that brought masterpieces of American art into classrooms and libraries nationwide. The project concluded in 2009, but the materials are still available for use by students, teachers and lifelong learners.

I guess it was the lifelong learner in me that emailed her back: “So it’s like a whole museum of art at our fingertips?” (How could I pass that up?)

But it was the better half of me loading them up on a recent Monday, bringing them south to what I hoped would be an appreciative audience of more (maybe) than one.

Such treasures are meant to be shared, right?

That’s why next Tuesday, after our homeschool co-op finishes classes at the VFW building, we’ll open the doors again from 12:30-2:30 for anyone who’d like to view this collection of carefully-selected American masterworks. Art aficionados can cruise aisles dotted by John James Audubon’s “American Flamingo” and Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother.”

They can check out the sweet scenes of Mary Cassatt, as well as N.C. Wyeth’s cover illustration for The Last of the Mohicans. And even if you aren’t an art lover, you may find these pictures of America pique your interest in the arc of our nation’s history in a new way.

We hope to see you then.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.