A Family Legacy and a Very Special Show at E. Drumm Designs

A Family Legacy and a Very Special Show at E. Drumm Designs

"Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up." - Pablo Picasso

The Drumm Family, it would seem, has solved the enduring problem of keeping child-like creativity alive in a world where creative pursuits are more often hobbies than professions.

A new show titled Family Tree at E. Drumm Designs Gallery in Acton, Massachusetts features the works of five generations of artists and craftspeople, all members of the extended Drumm Family. 

When asked about her bright, whimsical work, Elisa Drumm, my mother, recalls her "happy childhood." It was a childhood completely immersed in creativity, and one that fostered several generations of artists. Family Tree celebrates this legacy of nurtured creativity. 

Elisa and her two sisters spent balmy summers of the 70s mostly running wild at the Penland School of Craft in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Elisa's parents, Don and Lisa Drumm, were art instructors there (among other celebrated artists including Dale Chihuly). 

As a child, Elisa worked the front counter at Don Drumm Studios and Gallery in Akron, Ohio. Her mother would make her dolls and dresses for school dances. Her father plastered the walls of their home with murals. Her paternal grandfather was something of a mechanical genius, building his own amusement rides in his backyard. And her maternal grandfather was celebrated painter Joseph Plavcan. 

Creativity, art, inspiration was everywhere. 

Elisa Drumm of E. Drumm Designs with a piece from her "Loud Ladies" collection. 

Leandra Drumm, Elisa's youngest sister, joins the Family Tree show. For over twenty years, Leandra has combined visual storytelling and whimsical imagery with functional purpose. Her collection includes pewter switch plates and nightlights, glassware, and serveware. 

Pewter switch plate by Leandra Drumm.

Elisa's and Leandra's father, renowned artist and designer Don Drumm, contributes several original aluminum sculptures to the show.

Don Drumm is perhaps best known for pioneering the use of cast aluminum as an artistic medium. Today, much of his art still employs contemporary building materials and techniques.

Leandra and Don Drumm

Don began his career in industrial design, later employing similar techniques to forge sculptural and functional pieces. He purchased his studio and foundry in 1960, committing to sculpture and design full-time.  

In 1971, Don and his wife, Lisa Drumm, opened a one-room gallery, Don Drumm Studios and Gallery in Akron, Ohio. The gallery would grow to encompass eight buildings and over 500 artists. 

Don Drumm working in his foundry in the 1970s. 

Don Drumm has worked on a wide range of public, commercial and private commissions in the USA and abroad. Perhaps most notably, his aluminum Peace Angel was gifted to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 

At the age of 89, Don continues to create everyday in his Akron studio, still donning his signature grease-smeared denim button-up and suspenders. 

Aluminum Sculpture by Don Drumm

Elisa's mother, Lisa Drumm was born in Erie, Pennsylvania to Catharine Plavcan, artist and art critic for the Erie Times New, and Joseph Plavcan, renowned painter and art teacher.

After receiving her BFA from Ohio Wesleyan University, Lisa moved to Akron to teach art (she would meet her husband, Don, in one of these classes). 

Don and Lisa Drumm in front of their gallery, Don Drumm Studios and Gallery. 

As an educator and mother, Lisa found that children’s dolls were not nearly interesting nor whimsical enough. So, she created a line of soft sculpture dolls. Her dolls are still produced today and will be featured in the Family Tree show.

The story, and the exhibit, really begins with my great-grandfather Joseph Plavcan, father of Lisa Drumm. The son of Czechoslovakian immigrants Joseph remains one of Erie, Pennsylvania's most celebrated artists and art educators. With a career spanning more than a half-century, Joseph painted mostly from life, capturing the people and places of his community.

 Joseph Plavcan landscape painting with vivid colors

Joseph Plavcan was a career-long student and master of color, experimenting with vibrant colors and geometric landscapes.

Joseph has held exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, National Academy of Design in New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among others. An exclusive screen print of his will be featured in the show at E. Drumm Designs gallery.

Elisa and Leandra's respective daughters will also show selected pieces. Andra Benninghoff, Leandra's daughter, is currently studying English and Fine Arts at Akron University and will show two paintings. 

Painting by Andra Benninghoff

And finally, the fifth generation. My son (Elisa's grandson and Joseph Plavcan's great-great-grandson) and burgeoning artist, Ozzy Waters. At two years old, he is the youngest artist of the bunch. His energy is boundless and so, too, is his creativity.

Now, to keep this creativity blossoming into adulthood? That's my challenge as his mother, a challenge of which I accept sincerely. 

Elisa Drumm creating with her grandson, Ozzy. 

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