Friday, February 15
NORTH ADAMS — He was an artist, husband, father and, by many accounts, quite the character. But soon, Norman Rockwell also will be the Official Artist of the Commonwealth.

A bill first advocated by a Sullivan Elementary School second-grade class last year was introduced in the House by Rep. Daniel E. Bosley and in the Senate by Sen. Benjamin B. Downing. It passed both houses easily and landed on Gov. Deval L. Patrick's desk yesterday morning, where it awaits his signature.

It will not be waiting long.

"We expect the governor will sign this bill in short order," said Rebecca E. Deusser, a spokeswoman for Patrick.

"I shared the news with my class this morning (Thursday), and they're very, very happy," said Anna Saldo-Burke, second-grade teacher at Sullivan. Because the students now are all third-graders, she called them to her room to give them the news.

She said that last year her class of 12 students proposed the legislation as a class project. Writing the letter took several months and included lessons in social studies, reading, writing and spelling.

"I think it's great that the proposal came from a second-grade class," Downing said. "It's always fun when the kids get involved in the process."

"We were talking about the symbols of the state, and we wondered why there was no artist listed as a symbol," Saldo-Burke recalled.

When the project was begun, she added, "we talked about how it may not get anywhere but would still be a valuable learning experience. And, now, for it to actually get this far — it shows that they can have an impact. It adds value to what they're learning."

It may add value to the region as well.

Downing noted that now that the bill will soon become law, the region and the state can publicize the new official state artist as a way to attract more visitors "to the state and to the region. And the Norman Rockwell Museum can use it in the same way."

"It's a wonderful honor and an absolute thrill for everyone here in the museum," said Kimberly Dawson, associate director for marketing and communications at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

"We're especially grateful to the kids for taking this on as a project and to think so highly of Norman Rockwell and his art," she added.

"Whether conveying America's core values through his 'Four Freedoms,' or making political statements about the racial realities of the 1960s, Norman Rockwell knew how to capture the American spirit and experience," Downing said, while advocating for the bill on the Senate floor. "Rockwell reached across the lines that divide and brought a nation together through his depictions of American life. It is fitting that he be named Official Artist of the Commonwealth, and I am proud to advocate for this special designation."

Rockwell moved to Stockbridge in 1953, where he painted many of his classic Saturday Evening Post and Look Magazine covers.

To reach Scott Stafford: sstafford@berkshireeagle.com, (413) 664-4995