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Cultural Events

Library Summer Exhibition To Celebrate Longtime Friends, Former Residents; Opening Reception Thursday Evening



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It started some 65 years ago on the farm fields, frozen ponds, gravel roads, and scenic landscapes of this small rural town they both called home: two boys growing up on opposite ends of Newtown, joined by many common experiences.

From days of sledding down golf course hills, skating on frozen lakes, sailing handmade boats down rolling streams, and junior high dances at Sandy Hook School, to driving to the Lark Drive-In after Friday night basketball games with the top down, morning coffee at Joe’s Luncheonette, listening to Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, and even a trip to Greenwich Village for whiskey sours at O’Henry’s when they were but 16, their lives were connected in many memorable ways.

On Thursday, July 15, from 5:30 to 7 pm, C.H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street, will host the opening of an exhibit of the photography of these former Newtown residents, Tom Kretsch and Shapleigh Smith.

Their shared exhibition, entitled “Down Some Vermont Country Roads: Old Friends-New Visions,” will feature work from both of their portfolios. Both photographers are planning to be in town for the opening reception, Kretsch confirmed recently to The Newtown Bee.

Upon graduation from Newtown High School, Kretsch and Smith went separate ways.

Kretsch found his way to Springfield College, the Peace Corps, and a successful career as an educator in Norwalk Public Schools teaching physical education to young children.

Smith did a short stint in college, worked in a local bank, and then moved to Vermont, raising Christmas trees and sheep and then starting a very successful company in Stowe constructing beautiful homes.

Their paths connected again some years later on a snowy evening in Wolcott, Vt. Kretsch and his wife, Sandi, got snowed in at Smith’s home, and they spent the night there sharing memories of the past and catching up on more recent happenings.

Several years later, when Kretsch’s girls were five and seven, they bought a time share at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., and for the next 15 years they spent Christmas week at the magnificent property.

This made for wonderful annual gatherings in Stowe, where Smith lived, helping to keep the friendship alive.

Both have distinguished themselves through their inspired journeys in the art of photography. Smith has been a member of the Photographer’s Workshop, a group of eight creative photographers in Stowe who are committed to using their cameras as a means of personal creative expression. They work together to support each other in the art of project creation and portfolio development. They hold annual shows to share and sell their work in Stowe.

He has also been a member of the Helen Day Arts Center in Stowe, which shares the talents of artists in the area. He recently published a book of his work, India — Behind the Gates.

Kretsch has had a business, Peaceful Places, for some 25 years, selling his work at outdoor art festivals throughout New England.

Locally he is a member of Rowayton Arts Center and the Washington Arts Association, where monthly shows featuring works by members are exhibited. A recent show of his work, entitled “A River Runs Through Us,” focused on the Saugatuck River.

After ten years of summer visits to Maine, he recently published a book, Touching Maine, with essays and photographs of coastal Maine.

Avid travelers, Kretsch and Smith both immersed themselves in other cultures through photography, trying to capture the people, places, and things that touched their spirit. From India, South Africa, and Cuba to Mexico, Russia, and beyond Smith and his wife, Peggy, traveled with family and friends. The Kretsches, similarly, had ventured to Patagonia, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Guatemala, Nicaragua, France, and much of the United States.

Yet their love of New England and the beauty close to home has drawn them toward a focus on local images of serenity. This past winter they met up in Vermont, and Smith took Kretsch on a day-long tour through parts of the Northeast Kingdom that were immersed in a snowy blanket.

Wandering on the many back roads that encompass this magnificent area, they photographed barns, trees, sheep, and other things that spoke to each of them of the “Soul of Vermont.”

Out of that experience grew the idea to share some of their work taken on this trip and from each of their portfolios of Vermont as they had come to love and see it. This show speaks to the theme of “Down Some Vermont Country Roads.”

The bigger picture is the joy of celebrating a 65-year-old friendship; of two boys from a small New England town who found a similar passion through the art of photography and wanted to “come home” and share this moment together in this special place as a celebration of this long and joyful relationship.

Partial proceeds from the sale of their work will benefit the library and Sandy Hook Promise. The show will remain up through Labor Day weekend.

For more information, call the library at 203-426-4533 or visit chboothlibrary.org.

“Albany Farm #2,” by Shapleigh Smith, whose photography will be featured this season at C.H. Booth Library. Smith and Tom Kretsch are planning to be in town this week for the opening of “Down Some Vermont Country Roads: Old Friends-New Visions.”
“One, Vt.,” by Tom Kretsch, who will share exhibition space at C.H. Booth Library this summer with longtime friend Shapleigh Smith.
Tom Kretsch, photographed on Monhegan Island, Maine.
“Poetry of Barns, Vt.,” by Tom Kretsch, who will be sharing exhibition space at C.H. Booth Library this summer with lifetime friend and fellow former Newtown resident Shapleigh Smith.
Shapleigh Smith
“Browington, Vt.,” by Shapleigh Smith.
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