Museum focuses on Sid Couchey's influences

WILLSBORO Sid Couchey is renowned locally for his creative cartooning. A Golden Age cartoonist, he worked on series like Richie Rich and Little Dot, and also created a popular series of "Champy" sketches about the lake monster of Lake Champlain. But there's more to his more to his work than that and this summer, people with have the chance to see other aspects of his talent. The Willsboro Heritage Society will host a special exhibit during its 2008 season, highlighting the art of Sid Couchey. There have been many one man shows of Coucheys work throughout the region, mainly featuring his comics, but this exhibits offers another look at Coucheys work. The 2008 exhibit at the Willsboro Heritage Society will display not only his cartons, but also some of his work in other facets of art in order to provide a pictorial sequence for his artistic development. The show features many of the art works that may have been long forgotten by Coucheys fans but will be fresh and new to many. Although he was born in Cleveland, Couchey has visited the region his entire life. He graduated from Essex High School in 1938, before spending four years in the Army during World War II. After he was discharged, he moved to New York City and studied at the Art Career School and the School of Visual Arts. My schooling was for regular art and portraits, but my real love is cartooning, said Couchey. Couchey used that training while drawing, mixing the more serious styles with cartoon characters to emphasize the humor of the situation, creating art-toons. For Couchey, who has been drawing cartoons such as Little Dot, Little Lotta and Richie Rich for more than 50 years, part of the pleasure is hearing from his fans. He said baby boomers have been sending letters letting him know what his work has meant to them. Couchey, who turns 89 on May 24, has resided in Whallons Bay for 46 years. Retirement is not in his vocabulary, he stated. Couchey explained he was working more than ever. Last fall, I got the biggest commission I've ever had in my life, said Couchey. I was given three years if I needed it - this is the fifth month (of work), and I have it just about finished, said Couchey. The work draws on his experience cartooning Richie Rich comics, using cover designs by Harvey Comics artist Warren Kremer to complete the piece. Couchey is also working on illustrating A Walk Around Whallons Bay, a light historical project with author Morris Glenn. He hoped the booklet would be ready by June. A Harvey Comic fan magazine, edited by Mark Arnold and guest editor David Holt, will also feature an interview with Couchey on his work. I've got so many things in the fire youd think I'd come apart. I don't need incentives, but I take no credit for my age and being able to function, because the lord has so blessed me I can't even begin to speak of it, said Couchey, citing his health and family. Cory Gillilland, currator of the Willsboro Heritage society museum, has designed the exhibit with help from her husband, Heritage Society Vice President Tommy Gillilland. Along with about 25 pieces of Couchey's art, the exhibit includes a videotaped interview with Couchey, an installation of his work area, and a case displaying sketches of an anti-smoking public service message campaign Couchey created for Vermont. The walls have been whimsically painted with outlines of Couchey's drawings from his comic book to serve as a backdrop for the exhibit. Cory's daughter, artist Ginger Slonaker of California, projected the drawings onto the wall before replicating Couchey's designs. Cory Gillilland said the exhibit was designed to show Couchey's background as an artist, and his progression as an artist through the years. We wanted to show his cartooning in relation to the art training and other art works, and show a variety of work he's done, said Cory Gillilland. It's safe to say although Sid is known as a cartoonist, he nevertheless is an accomplished artist, said Tommy Gillilland. Nine individuals lent pieces of Couchey's work for the display. The display includes some pieces which haven't been viewed by the public before. He's a local artist that does wonderful things for the community, and everyone loves him and delights in all the things he does, said Cory Gillilland. The Willsboro Heritage Museum opens on June 6 with a reception for the exhibit. The Couchey exhibit will be on display throughout the summer season. The museum will also host an exhibit on agricultural tools, designed by Ron Bruno, this summer. The display does not include any images of Champy. For 2009, the Willsboro Heritage Society will mount a Champy exhibition in celebration of the Lake Champlain quadricentennial year. Couchey explained that Champy will celebrate his 3,46st birthday in 2009 as well information he discovered by finding a fozzil and karbon dating it. The year 2009 also holds a special meaning for Couchey personally. He and his wife, Ruth, will celebrate their 50th anniversary that year.

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