Beginning the Journey — Stop, Listen and Then Proceed, a fine art piece by nationally recognized wildlife artist Kathleen Sheard is currently on exhibit at the Metropolis Public Library.
The piece was donated to Save The Massac (STM) to be used as a fundraiser for the organization. The donation was made possible by the theater's new owner.
Larry Ward, manager of Noel Neill, the actress known for her portrayal of Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane in the 1948 Superman serial and then from 1953-58 in The Adventures of Superman television series, purchased the building from the City of Metropolis in January.
Ward's purchase of the building was endorsed by STM to the city council. The purchase of the theater enables Ward to fulfill his childhood dream of owning a theater and provides an outlet for his adulthood hobby of buying and restoring old buildings.
Clean up work of the site began in late May. The new roof started going up Tuesday.
In the weeks prior to that work, Ward put into place the Beginning the Journey donation.
Ward met the piece's original owner, Pam Munter, in 2003 when she began writing a story for a film magazine about a 1940s film series featuring a group of five actors, called The Teen Agers, which included Neill. Ward convinced Munter to also write a book, When Teens Were Keen, on the series, and a "rewarding friendship with both Noel and Larry, has been a happy result," Munter said.
So when Munter learned Ward was moving to Metropolis and about his restoration of the Massac Theatre, "I wanted to do something to help," she said.
With the remodel of her California home, Munter decided to help by donating Beginning the Journey.
The piece commemorates the trip Munter and her partner, Dr. Cheryl Castles, took to Africa in 1995 following their retirement. While "quite harrowing at times," the week-long safari in Kenya provided the opportunity to see animals they'd only seen in books and film.
"The beauty of the animals was breathtaking, especially the giraffes," Munter said. "When we returned to Ore-gon, we wanted to find some way to commemorate our life-changing trip. We were fortunate to find Kathleen Sheard and gave her a favorite photograph we had taken on the savannah."
Sheard helped pioneer a unique style of creating art with glass frit — thousands of tiny shards of colored glass. She creates the piece upside down, framing it in multiple levels, baking each layer for several days in a huge oven. Beginning the Journey has seven layers with many colors of frit, which gives its depth and vividness.
Despite its size of nine individual panels weighing hundreds of pounds a piece, Beginning the Journey is "actually quite fragile, very fragile," Ward observed. "It would be very easy to break the glass. It's just wonderful."
Three months after being commissioned, the piece was installed on a two-story wall in Munter's home.
"She had reproduced our photograph perfectly — minus a few other giraffes! — and we happily lived with the art we loved on a daily basis for years," Munter said, noting the giraffes migrated with them in 2002 when they moved to California.
But in May, it came time for the giraffes to journey east.