Because of a happy confluence of enthusiasm, finely honed social skills, and serendipity, a Toledo artist will be honored today in Saudi Arabia.
The Polish embassy will host a dinner for 120 people, including eight current and former Toledoans in Riyadh, marking the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by Germany. There will be speeches.
In addition, Adam Kulach, the Polish ambassador, will dedicate a large reception hall to Polish-born Adam Grochowski Grant, who lived and painted in Toledo until his death in 1992.
"I really have a miraculous feeling of touching Polish history through Adam Grochowski Grant's fascinating biography!" Mr. Kulach wrote in an e-mail to the The Blade.
Here's how it came about.
Ann and Alan Goodridge of Ottawa Hills moved to Riyadh in early 2007 when Mr. Goodridge became provost and vice president of academic affairs and acting president charged with getting the new, western-style Alfaisal University up and running.
He had been provost at the University of Toledo until 2006, when he was nudged out by the merger with the Medical College of Ohio.
Mrs. Goodridge was game for the adventure. She loves art and is an avid collector of the large canvases Adam Grant painted beginning in the 1950s and promoted tirelessly by his widow, Peggy Grant, manager of 20 North Gallery and an independent curator.
Preparing for their two-year stint in Riyadh, Mrs. Goodridge decided against taking original paintings and instead had giclees - expensive, high-quality ink-jet copies - made of several of the Grant pieces she owned, and she shipped them to her two-bedroom apartment in the center of the Saudi capitol.
After settling in to the new place, she found that lunching with other top-echelon wives was one of the most acceptable activities she could take part in.
"I began meeting all these people and met the wife of the ambassador from Poland. I told her about Adam," said Mrs. Goodridge during a recent visit to Toledo. "I think I came along at the right time."
A year later, she ran into Olga Kulach again, and offered to donate a Grant giclee to the Polish embassy. She invited Mrs. Kulach to lunch and gave her a catalog and information about Grant.
"Her husband was excited about the background of Adam Grant," Mrs. Goodridge said.
Grant's story is interesting. A Roman Catholic growing up in Poland, he was a tall, fair-haired 18-year-old waiting for a train when he was arrested in a Nazi roundup in January, 1943. He was sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp, surviving largely because of his artistic talent, which Nazi officers made use of. Adam's father, a Warsaw physician in the Polish army, was killed by the Russians. His mother died.
"He came from a well-to-do family. He lost his family. He lost everything," Mrs. Goodridge said.
After the war, the artist lived in a displaced persons' camp in Germany for five years before being allowed to immigrate to the Polish enclave of Hamtramck, Mich. A year later, he was employed at Palmer Paint Co., the country's biggest maker of popular paint-by-number kits.
That's where he met Peggy Brennan. They married and moved to Toledo after a local family purchased the firm, and raised two sons.
In his own work, he took a classical approach to interpreting the human form; he liked well-proportioned women and dipped into an oil palette of subdued colors.
Mrs. Goodridge said she'd bring the large giclee to the Polish embassy, which elicited an invitation to the Kulach home, attached to the embassy. It happened to be her birthday and the Kulaches threw her a small party.
She was invited back for a concert by Polish accordionists.
"I thought, 'How can this be?'•"•
In their apartment she had a print of a 1964 Grant painting depicting a street minstrel playing an accordion. "I said, 'I will give this to you provided you hang it during the concert.'•" The Kulaches did.
"I think the Polish accordion players were thrilled to see it."
Connections continued. Mr. Goodridge toured the Kulaches around the fledgling Alfaisal University.
Wrote Mr. Kulach: "Consequently, I decided to hold a special event dedicated to Adam Grochowski-Grant in February 2009, (weather conditions in Riyadh are usually pleasant at that time of the year) when we will not only be remembering 70 years since the beginning of the World War II, but also celebrating 20 years since Poland started a new and much brighter chapter of its political history.
"My intention is to be able to share with our Saudi and international friends as well as the Diplomatic community here in Riyadh some pieces of knowledge about Adam Grochowski-Grant and - through that - the Polish history."
Eleven paintings will be exhibited as well as Grant's personal papers, such as a letter he wrote to his mother from prison. The large room serves as a venue for all major diplomatic, social, and cultural activities organized by the Polish embassy.
At Mrs. Goodridge's suggestion, the embassy invited British-born historian Norman Davies, a Polish specialist, to speak at tomorrow's event. She met Mr. Davies when seated next to him at a dinner for a Grant exhibit at a Krakow university in 2006.
She lent the embassy additional Grant prints for the event, and Mrs. Grant, who will also speak, shipped additional prints. Many of the prints and Grant's personal papers will later be forwarded to a museum in Warsaw for permanent display.
The Goodridges will return to Toledo in a few weeks. Mr. Goodridge had expected to spend another year at the helm of Alfaisal University, but financial problems ruled that out, he said.
He'll return to the University of Toledo in a faculty position in the biochemistry and cancer biology department in the college of medicine at the former Medical College of Ohio.
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