ELIZABETH RUSK GREENHALL (1915-2002)


Actor and Human Rights Activist, Ossie Davis while at the Kennedy Center 's 2005 Lifetime Achievement Awards said “Art is a serious tool .Indispensable for arriving at our humanity. As important as religion is, ultimately art is a step above. Religion tells us what should be .Art tells us what we can be.

Art is one of the foundations independence is a based on. Artists are pioneers, visionaries, if you will, and their creativity is often kept alive long after their death by those who share and support the achievement of a few. Indeed, art is at the foundation of a nation where it is sustained and maintained. It is considered a measure of a culture's evolution. In 1962 Elizabeth performed such distinctive visionary role for the Trinidad Art Society and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago .

She was born in New Work City , the only child of Art Illustrator, Wilfred J. and Alice Rusk Jones. The Jones lineage dates to the 1700's when they migrated from Wales to the United States . Her Father is recognized as The Father of American Art Illustrators, Because of the quality and depth of his illustration during the early 1900's her great grandfather, Jeremiah McLain Rusk was the Governor of Wisconsin (1882-1889) and appointed the first Secretary of Agriculture (1889-1893) by President Benjamin Harrison.

Elizabeth 's mother recognized she was an exceptionally brilliant and artistic child, Immediately enrolling her in the foremost school for the gifted and talented, City residence (C&C). Coincidently it was just around the corner from their New York City residence! She was three years old at the time.

Elizabeth learned quickly to be proactive, that nothing worth doing was impossible and anything in life could be accomplished through effort. She studied art, math and literature graduating from C&C in 1928. She attended Lincoln High School , want on to college and university in 1933 majoring in Art and English Grammar earning her Bachelors of fine Arts from Barnard College and her Master in Fine Art and from Teachers College, Columbia University . She taught in the New Jersey Public School System one of the most difficult during that time.

In spite of her beauty and intelligence, Elizabeth was insecure and shy. She loved Theatre, museums and dancing. She traveled to pairs with her parents to see some of the finest work of art first hand .In the late 1930's and unknown to her, she had attracted the admiration and attention of Arthur M. Greenhall, a pioneer and animal collector ,whose Central American and Caribbean exploits are documented in Ditmairs and Bridges (1935) book, Snake Hunters Holiday . Eventually Arthur and Elizabeth met and dated. He proposed to her in 1942 while riding on the New York City Subway, saying “I'm moving to Oregon where I'm going to become the curator of the Portland Zoo, so now we can get married!”

Oregon is where both their children, Alice (1943) and Paul (1946) were born.

Portland was a great place to raise a family, and Elizabeth 's passion for art continued.

She wrote and illustrated children stories (unpublished) with the central character being a wise Myna Bird narrating the experiences of two children. She helped Arthur design the Portland Zoo, as the former one was in exceptionally poor condition. Arthur felt he should accomplish more so he took the Nationwide Civil Service Zoo curator Exam placing first and earning a position with the prestigious Detroit zoo in Michigan .

Nevertheless, local politics, Michigan 's severe winters and his yearning for The Tropics with its heat, humidity and faunal treasure trove kept calling for his return. Ludolph Wehekind, Trinidad Naturalist and friend contacted Arthur in the early 1950's urging him to apply for a position with the Ministry of Agriculture, which he did .And in 1953 The family moved to Trinidad , where Arthur assumed several positions simultaneously; Zoologist, Director Emperor Valley Zoo, Royal Victoria Institute (R.V.I) Curator, as Well as a staff position with the Trinidad Virus Laboratory .And for the next decade as his reputation with bates, vampires and rabies grew spreading throughout the British Colony their Cascade, port –of – Spain residence become known as “ Bat Cave ”.

Trinidad clays are abundant ,diverse in texture, colour act differently when either dried or bisque fired ,which intrigued Elizabeth as her first love was sculpture .In 0954- she met Amy Leong-pangat the Trinidad Art Society ,whose husband “Bully” Bullbrook Was the R.V.I.'s Archeologist. He had been perplexed over the mysterious rounded flat stones which were so abundant in the Arawak kitchen middens he was studying.

Elizabeth immediately recognized them as tools for working with clay ‘and so he invited her to design and create an exhibit displaying the stones. The Trinidad clays Exhibit became a prominent display at the R.V.I for the next thirty years .She worked for Daavid& Chislett Advertising, Ltd .for a while then transferred to Radio Trinidad. Television was introduced to Trinidad in the 1960's, and Elizabeth designed Trinidad 's First TV guide show,” pick –ah-Box”.

The Trinidad Art Society was where Elizabeth met most her life long friends, such as Marguerite Wyke, Sybil Atteck, Hugh Stollmeyer, M.P. Alladin, Jean Cazabon, Carlisle Chang, Selby Wooding, Glean Chase, Nina Laming, Nan Dalzil, Boscoe Holder, Jone & shera Lewis, Sonnylal Rambissoon, Edwin Hingwan, Ralph &Vera Baney and Brother Fergus Griffin. She was a very active member, often urging shy and Straggling artists to exhibits their painting and sculpture; she organized and designed exhibits and was unbiased and fair in jurying artwork, as well as priced them .Her enthusiasm for art was infections, and she could spot new and aspiring artists. For example, she knew that the five young artists: Pat Bishop, Arthur Webb, Jackie Hinkson, Peter Minshall and her daughter, Alice would raise the creative bar once again.

The press Club was a favorite lunch time hangout for Elizabeth . A virtual who's who and talk of the town place centrally located in Port-of-Spain offering good food, drink and stimulating conversation. I recall one conversation where kittie Hannayas, Trinidad Guardia correspondent had asked what a colony had to do to gain its independence from Great Britain , Art was mentioned over and over again as being pivotal to establishing independence ‘And in 1962 Elizabeth received an invitation from the prime Minister, Dr .Eric Williams, to chair his Art and Independence committee. This she considered a great honour and accepted. (In 1963 Arthur and Elizabeth resigned from their jobs, relinquishing their positions to qualified citizen and returned with their son to the United States)

I am positive that mom never dreamed that her pioneering sprit and love for Trinidad and Tobago with its vibrate culture and heritage would have such a profound affect upon a Nation not her own.

She was a Daughter of the American Revolution, Check this PDF
Snake_Hunters_Holiday_Chapters 1-4
Snake_Hunters_Holiday_Chapters 5-19

Paul R. Greenhall, on behalf of The Greenhall Family (Alice R. & Michael A., Grandson)

 

www.cityandcountry.org City and Country School
www.artsocietytt.com
The Art Society of Trinidad and Tobago
http://101artgallery.com
The 101 Art Gallery

 

 
© Copyright 2006 The Greenhalls Trust