Pearsons donate Jean Lake original to Pioneer Museum

Published 7:43 pm Friday, April 23, 2021

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Some things are too valuable to price.

On Friday morning, the Pioneer Museum of Alabama received such a priceless gift.

Sam and Barbara Pearson of Ashburn, Virginia presented an original Jean Lake painting to the museum in honor of Lake, a highly-acclaimed Troy folk artist.

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The Pearsons chose the Pioneer Museum of Alabama over other museums including the Smithsonian because of Lake’s connection to the museum and because it was the “perfect place” for the painting.”

Barbara Tatom, museum director, and members of the museum’s board of directors, accepted the painting but with words “inadequate” for such a generous and thoughtful gift.

“There is no way to express our gratitude, just no way,” Tatom said. “To have an original painting by Jean Lake means so much to the museum and to our entire community.”

Tatom said Jean Lake’s artwork embodies the lifestyle the Pioneer Museum of Alabama also embodies and seeks to preserve for generations to come.

Sam and Barbara Pearson were as appreciative of the new home for the painting as the museum board was to receive it.

“The Pioneer Museum of Alabama is where the painting should be,” Barbara said. “We could not be more pleased.”

The Jean Lake painting has been a part of the Pearsons’ home for about 50 years.

The couple purchased the painting not long after they were married and, at a time when they, laughingly, said they had other uses for the $350.

“But, the painting spoke to us,” Sam said. “With its vibrant colors and so many expressions of joy – the little girl dancing in the yard, the little boy on the tire swing, so much happiness, even the little dog was smiling. Barbara and I couldn’t help but smile looking at it.”

Bob, a Texan, and Barbara, a New Englander, met in Turkey and got married in Montgomery where he was serving Uncle Sam in the Air Force. So, their backgrounds were not in the rural South.

However, they were almost mesmerized by the artwork of Jean Lake that makes a heart happy.

And, not one time have they ever regretted spending their “grocery” money for the painting

“The Jean Lake painting has been hanging in our hallway for all these years,” Barbara said. “It has been a very enjoyable part of our lives but, now that we have downsized, we want others to enjoy the painting as much as we have. The Pioneer Museum of Alabama is exactly where it needs to be.”

Tatom shared articles about Jean Lake with the Pearsons along with the history of the museum.

“They were excited to know that the museum also has Jean Lake’s last artwork,” she said. “It’s a drawing of a mule. The museum is enhanced by a lot of original artwork and we are extremely honored to add to that collection through the generosity of Sam and Barbara Pearson.”

Jeff Kervin, museum board chair, also expressed his appreciation to the Pearsons.

“We are very pleased and excited to have an original painting by Jean Lake who was so closely associated with the history of our museum,” Kervin said. “The annual TroyFest here in Troy originated as the Jean Lake Art Show at the museum. The Troy Arts Council awards a Jean Lake scholarship each year to a high school senior.

The legacy of Jean Lake continues and the Pioneer Museum is honored to share in that legacy, thanks to the generosity of Sam and Barbara Pearson, Kervin said.