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‘Painter and Poet’ bid Culver farewell

December 6, 2011

After more than a quarter Century documenting the beauty of Culver’s landmark structures and scenery, Esther and Ward Miller, proprietors of Painter and Poet Gallery at 307 N. Main Street near downtown Culver, are setting sail for other shores - more specifically into a Condo at Robin Hood affiliated with with Grace Village Retirement Community. “ We love Culver dearly, and are very sad to leave,” says Esther, “ but at 82, with all of our children scattered, we think this is a wise decision for us.”

The loss of Culver’s resident artist and poet leaves some consolation: Painter and Poet prints will still be readily available via Gail’s Shop in downtown Culver, and Academies related prints will be sold through that school’s bookstore. Although Ward and Esther will not have a retail outlet at their condo, they will maintain their active web site: www.painterandpoet.com, where any of their listed items -- including their unmatted prints, many of their boxed notecards, all of Ward’s poetry books, and their cook books -- can still be ordered. And Esther is determined to work hard on many of the commissions she “should have finished a long time ago.” Ward has been waiting patiently much too long, she says, for Esther to finish small watercolors as illustrations for his poem, “My Indiana Home.”

When finished, poem and watercolor together will be a poster. To find out about their new art and projects, friends and fans may go to the top of their website and click on their blog: www.painterandpoet.blogspot.com

“At this stage in life, we both want to slow down and live an easier life style,” explains Esther. “We will soon be settled in a regular condo, where I will have a convenient studio, and we’ll mostly take care of ourselves -- cooking, cleaning, shopping, etcetera. But Grace Village takes care of the difficult things: all exterior maintenance, repairs, and will help us get settled - even hanging pictures for us, and changing up high light bulbs. We will feel safer there -- and will have 24-hour emergency assistance through their skilled care nursing home, located several blocks from our condo. And we will have transportation and more help as we need it.”

Esther Powers Miller began drawing before she learned to write or read, and after high school, married and attended Kansas City Art Institute for two years, next pausing to raise four children -- all the while dabbling in art. In her late thirties, she had the unexpected good fortune to come across a watercolor workshop taught by John Pike, an outstanding painter and an inspiring and kind teacher. She was “hooked” from that day forward. A few years later, she was divorced and needed to find a “good job.” Afraid to risk painting, she opted for a real estate career -- first in brokerage and later in appraisal -- all the while wishing to paint, paint, paint! So she followed Pike’s suggestion for people who wanted to paint, but didn’t yet have time. He said to “look, look, and look some more.” She looked and dreamed, she says.

Meanwhile, Ward wrote his first poem in 1951, walking guard during the Korean War. Both single and living in South Bend, they were introduced, and after their second date, Ward sent her a poem, “My House by the Lake.” She was thrilled by the sensitivity inherent in that poem, which is included in his first paperback book, “Small Town,” about Culver (it’s been reprinted several times and is still available on their web site).

They married and continued work -- he at the phone company, and she in real estate. The painting and poetry journey began a little over two decades ago when she painted a winter scene of Culver Academies’ Memorial Chapel, and he wrote a verse to go with it. This was sent as their Christmas greeting in 1989.

The Painter and Poet, focused on their journey, traveled to art shows by camper, usually painting and selling regional scenes. Tiring of the transient life style, they first rented the space currently occupied by Gail’s Shop, then later established their gallery at the now defunct Bear End, also on South Main Street, before eventually buying the house they’re now leaving -- used both as their home and business.
Esther Miller’s paintings have ranged from local landmarks such as the Washington Schoolhouse, Council Fire ring, and Vandalia Train Depot, to more regional scenes including Notre Dame, Michigan lighthouses, and Plymouth scenes, including Chief Menominee, with Ward’s eloquent poem, and a history of that sad day in our past.

The Painter and the Poet has been a means for the Millers to do “something special and interesting” after retirement, notes Esther, and something which has paid its own way, and even made a bit of money as well. Ward concedes it’s more a hobby than a profession, but it’s been an interesting and enjoyable one. Esther adds her thanks to Ward for encouraging her to go ahead and try to live her dream, and she thanks all the collectors who have been so supportive.

“It’s been a joy to share their painting and poetry with so many...I now hope to finish many of the watercolors that are still ‘pictures in my head.’”

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