By Rebecca Ransom
Waterbury, Connecticut

Paintings crafted with historic passion

Barkhamsted artist 'preserves' American scenes

Artist Carol Wallace's scenes of Americana are not done with merely a paintbrush or pen. They are crafted out of history, folklore, and a passion for preserving American history and culture.

In 1997 Wallace, a Barkhamsted resident, launched "Preserve America," an artistic endeavor that spans the nation, preserving and documenting historic sites through art and writing. From Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Beverly Hills, California, communities coast-to-coast have commissioned Wallace to created original artwork depicting historic sites.

Her Preserve America artwork first was depicted on custom three-fold collectible note cards and now also is featured on tote-bags, prints, calendars, etc. and used for preservation and fund-raising projects. "Preserve America" is hired by private clients, businesses, preservation organizations, and heritage tourism communities for fund-raising but Wallace said she hopes it also "inspires people all across America to relate their stories of history, preservation, conservation, and culture."

Wallace has worked at sites including The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the '21' Club in New York City, historic Route 66 in Arizona, and has created artwork for the National World War II Memorial, Ellis Island Foundation's American Family Immigration History Center, and the United States Coast Guard. Although Wallace has depicted some of the most famous sites in America, the nation's "hidden treasures" are equally important to her. In fact, she hopes, through her work, to bring awareness to the country's less-visible sites of historic significance. "I hear about these treasures and like to be able to help in some way," she said.

Woman travels the nation

She has traveled to about 1,000 towns in the past six years - many of her travels were with her husband, Rick Wallace. "I want to become a part of that culture when I visit," she said. "I have to understand before I can paint accurately."

Wallace, who described herself as a shy child, discovered love of art and history at a young age. "I was born and raised in Bucks County, and there you have no choice but to embrace history and culture with the rolling landscape, stone barns and farmhouses," she said. "My whole life I spent painting antiquity: landscapes, coastal scenes, antiques."

The idea for "Preserve America" came to Wallace after collaborating on Connecticut's "Better Yet Connecticut" tourism television campaign in the 1980s. "It really piqued my interest," Wallace said. I wondered if (what I had done for Connecticut and heritage tourism) could be done on a national level."

Over two decades later, "Preserve America" evolved into a flourishing enterprise. One of the more recent additions to "Preserve America" is the inception of "Gatekeepers of History" a public service aspect of the "Preserve America" Web site. Each year, 12 people who have devoted much of their lives to some aspect of preservation are chosen by Carol to share their inspirational stories with the public through this venue. (Among those featured are James Biddle, past president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, William Vanderbilt Cecil, owner of Biltmore Estate, Skitch and Ruth Henderson, Angel Delgadillo, the "angel" of Route 66 in Arizona, Richard Couture, past Director of Donor Services for the National World War II Memorial, Tom Day, founder of "Bugles Across America," and others. "People like to tell their stories of history and preservation and I give them a way to do it. It (Preserve America) is not about me, I'm just the vehicle," Wallace said.