Preserving a Legacy

Hubbard enthusiasts discuss ways
to save couple’s legacy

Group members had close ties
to Harlan and Anna Hubbard


(August 2019) – For someone who sought to live a life off the grid out in the woods on the banks of the Ohio River in a remote area of Trimble County, Ky. – without a telephone, electricity or other modern conveniences – Harlan and Anna Hubbard sure drew a crowd.
So much so that 31 years after their death – she in 1986 and he in 1988 – hundreds of their friends and former acquaintances still grieve for them and joyfully reminisce about about visiting Payne Hollow, where the couple spent the final 36 years of their lives.
But the number of people who share those fond memories of the Hubbard’s is dwindling as the years pass. They, too, are slowly dying with age and with them, the Hubbard legacy, many fear.
But one man whose family of four befriended the Hubbard’s many years ago decided to do something about saving that legacy for future generations – before it is too late. John Fettig, a native of Edgewood, Ky., who now lives in retirement in Omaha, Neb., met his wife, June, while the two were attending Hanover College in the 1960s. They became familiar with the Hubbard’s as students and later – around 1974 – began visiting Payne Hollow when their two children were very young. Fettig had a career in nonprofit fundraising at various small colleges in Illinois and later formed his own consultancy company after settling in Omaha.

Photo by Don Ward

Hanover College student Hannah Miller poses with some of the Hubbard paintings, which she is organizing into a public exhibit at the college’s Duggan Library.

About two years ago after fully retiring, Fettig began harkening back to those days with the Hubbard’s and wondering what happened to their legacy. He began researching online the current status of the Hubbard legacy in hopes of reviving it among those who share his devotion to, and past remembrances of, the Hubbard’s. He said he became pleasantly surprised that there is, in fact, many activities and exhibits and work currently being done to preserve and promote Hubbard artwork, writings and lifestyle in Louisville, Ky., northern Kentucky, Madison, Ind., and nearby Hanover College.
“I had been retired a few years, and I got my Hubbard books out and started wondering where the Hubbard legacy was today and who was tending to it,” said Fettig, 73.
So Fettig set to work contacting a core of Hubbard enthusiasts, educators and museum folks to plan a sort of strategy meeting at Hanover College to brainstorm ideas about how to move forward on preserving and promoting the Hubbard legacy. The meeting of 23 people, including Hanover College President Lake Lambert, took place June 25 at the college. Fettig led the meeting, which allowed participants a chance to speak about their relationship to the Hubbard’s and their legacy. The group included Bill and Flo Caddell, who own the bulk of Hubbard’s artwork and woodcuts; Jessica Whitehead, a Hanover College graduate who resides in Louisville and is partnering with the Caddells on publishing a book next year on Hubbard’s watercolors; Carrie Davis of the University of Louisville Archives, which holds many original Hubbard manuscripts; Laurie Risch of Behringer-Crawford Museum in Covington, Ky., where many of Hubbard’s donated paintings are held; and representatives from Hanover College, where Hubbard visited often to borrow books from the library. Hubbard donated 13 paintings to the college in 1986.
The last major Hubbard gathering took place in 2000 at Hanover College, where famed Kentucky author Wendell Berry, among many others, spoke to about 200 people. It was Berry’s 1990 book, “Harlan Hubbard: Life and Work,” that is credited for introducing thousands of people outside the Madison, Hanover and Trimble County areas to the Hubbard’s.

Photo by Don Ward

Harlan Hubbard paintings at Hanover College.

Fettig challenged the group to present their ideas about future steps that would ideally involve the public: An annual Hubbard-related lecture? Another major gathering, complete with speakers and exhibits? An annual Hubbard workshop or event that could rotate among the various communities in Louisville, northern Kentucky and Hanover College?
Fettig asked Lambert if Hanover College could create a course on the Hubbard’s to introduce their legacy to a new generation of students. Lambert said it would require a faculty member to take on the task and lead it, “and in my four years here, I have not heard of any faculty interest to do something like that.” Lambert himself only became familiar with the Hubbard’s after taking the job as college president. He said he has recently read Berry’s book on the Hubbards.
Fettig said another reason for this recent gathering was to allow those attending to meet each other and begin to communicate with each other about upcoming Hubbard-related activities so they can work together as a group to promote those events to the public.
“Preserving the Hubbard legacy doesn’t depend on those who knew them. Like most legacies, it exists because it has already been written down by Harlan himself,” Fettig told the group. “So no one owns the Hubbard legacy. We have a full window into it (through his books and artwork).”

Photo courtesy of Dan Trabue

A bust of Harlan Hubbard is part of the Behringer-Crawford Museum collection in Covington, Ky. It was created in 1984 by Northern Kentucky University art professor Michael Skop.

Robert Rosenthal, a retired Hanover College philosophy professor, attended the meeting, as did Paul Hassfurder and Madison dentist Robert Canida. During his 47 years of teaching at Hanover College, Rosenthal led many trips of students to Payne Hollow to visit the Hubbard’s. Rosenthal was also among a group of about a dozen people who, with leadership from the late journalist Don Wallis, formed the "Friends of the Hubbard's" group. The group organized the last major Hubbard event in 2000. Rosenthal used to publish a newsletter for the “Friends” group. Rosenthal, 81, retired from the college in 2014 and stopped publishing the newsletter many years ago.
Rosenthal told the group, “I was always astounded at how they would take complete strangers into their home. Harlan felt he was a prophetic voice and told his stories through his books and journals. He read many books – about art, exploration and many other fields. He did it for inspiration from other people.”
As for preserving the Hubbard legacy, Rosenthal said, “We don’t have to worry about losing the Hubbard legacy. It’s part of a love story of two people who were free spirits and free thinkers who lived their lives courageously.”
Hassfurder spent much of his time assisting the Hubbard’s in their later years, and as a result, Hubbard left the 61-acre Payne Hollow to him. Canida and his family were close friends of the Hubbard’s, and Harlan spent his final days at the Canida’s home in Madison. Canida owns more than a dozen Hubbard paintings and willingly shows them to others.

Photo by Don Ward

Some of the Hubbard Legacy Group members are pictured during a day-long workshop held June 25 at Hanover College.

With that sort of a lineup of Hubbard folks in the room, the energy was palpable for getting something done to preserve the Hubbard legacy. Rather, the roundtable of presentations revealed that a lot already is happening in that endeavor.

Hubbard art exhibit at Hanover College

It may come as a surprise to some, but there are several Hubbard-related activities going on in the region. The one closest to Madison, Ind., is a student-led project to permanently exhibit to the public the 31 Hubbard paintings held by Hanover College.
Hanover College senior Hannah Miller of Madison has spent her entire summer working to research, archive and write up short descriptions of each painting. The descriptions will accompany each painting that will soon go up on the back wall of the Duggan Library’s Learning Center, located in the heart of the campus. Miller took on the project for class credit toward one of her three bachelor degrees, this one in Art History. Her other two degrees will be in Studio Art and biology.
“Right now, I am working on a budget, writing the descriptions and got a friend who is a photographer to photograph each painting,” said Miller, 22, a Madison Consolidated High School graduate. “I’m really excited about this project, and it means a lot to me, personally, because I’m also an artist.”
Miller said she has been fascinated with Harlan’s artwork and writings, and how the couple lived “off the grid and did all the things they wanted to do. I find their way of life very inspiring. And the way he has affected so many people is amazing, even after all these years later. To see that passion for his work and way of life speaks volumes about what he was like as a person.”
Miller’s dedication has not gone unnoticed by her Hanover College instructors and advisors.

Photo by Don Ward

Flo and Bill Caddell of Frankfort, Ind., speak at the Hubbard workshop. They own hundreds of Hubbard artwork.

“She’s phenomenal; she really knows what she wants. I wish I could keep her here for five more years,” said Rick Lostutter, associate professor and chair of the Art and Design program at Hanover College. “She’s going to knock it out of the park. And I think it’s great we have a student from the region to do this project. It’s sort of come full circle.”
Miller said she knew nothing about the Hubbard’s prior to taking on the project in early June. She learned of the Hubbard’s through Lostutter. When he found out that the college’s archivist wanted to move the paintings over to the library, he met with Miller to discuss her overseeing the project for class credit.
They were put in touch with 2011 Hanover grad Jessica Whitehead, now a Louisville, Ky., resident who works at the Kentucky Derby Museum. Whitehead is currently working on a book on Hubbard’s watercolors with Bill and Flo Caddell, both Hanover College graduates now living in Franklin, Ind. The book, to be published by the University of Kentucky Press, is due to be out sometime next year.
Whitehead agreed to serve as an advisor to Miller. Meanwhile, Miller began researching the Hubbard’s to help her better understand their history and works. “I was able to read Jessica’s manuscript for the book, and that was a big help because there’s a lot of history on his life in that.”
Lostutter said, “Hannah really got busy reading up on everything she could about the Hubbard’s, and before it’s over, she’ll be a real expert.”
Miller said the paintings will be locked to the wall and protected by security cameras and library staff. She said she hopes the exhibit will help introduce the Hubbard legacy to her fellow students, most of whom “know nothing about them.”
Of the 31 paintings in the collection, two of them are watercolors, so she plans to have those covered with a protective glass. The college also has several of Harlan’s woodcuts in its collection, but those won’t be part of this exhibit, she said.

Photo by Don Ward

The photo taken in 1986 by Hanover College Associate Professor of Art John Thomas for the Hanoverian alumni magazine cover shows    Harlan Hubbard (center) with James Shaffstall, Hanover College associate professor of art (left) and Henry Hixson, the college’s vice president of development when Hubbard donated 13 paintings to the school. Hubbard is holding a painting of the Hattie Brown steamboat. In her research, student Hannah Miller discovered that the painting has turned up missing.

Hubbard initially donated 13 paintings to the college during a ceremony held Feb. 2, 1986. Since then, several more paintings have been donated to the college. And just in July another Hubbard painting was donated to its collection.
Lambert, the college president, said Miller’s project “is an opportunity to introduce the Hubbard’s to students and show that it’s not just a bunch of paintings on the wall. Her descriptions will help bring these paintings alive and tell the story of how the Hubbard’s were connected to the college and generate discussions among students and faculty. That’s an important step for us.”
Lambert said he would like to organize a trip to Payne Hollow for faculty and staff to educate them about the Hubbard’s and to celebrate the opening of the new art exhibit.
During her research, Miller discovered that one painting is missing from the collection. It is the painting of the Hattie Brown steamboat that Hubbard is holding on the front of the college’s Hanoverian alumni magazine during the 1986 donation.
“We think it is still here on campus somewhere – maybe in someone’s office,” Miller said. “We hope it will turn up.”
Miller said she must complete her project by the end of the summer term, which means by Labor Day. She said she hopes to hold an official opening for the exhibit, probably in September, where she will invite students, faculty and staff to attend.
After graduation, Miller said she may continue her education to pursue a master’s degree in scientific illustration. “My all time goal is to become a college art professor.”
But for now, she is focused on shedding some light on the Hubbard legacy so that her fellow students can learn about them. “Many of my friends are super interested in them now. I’d love to see an annual lecture or event about them here on campus because of the close ties he’s had over the years with Hanover College.”
Ironically, after Miller became involved in the Hubbard project, she learned that her parents, Mark and Mary-Caroline Miller, once visited Payne Hollow by boat, driven by her grandfather, Dave Peddie.
In October, Miller must give an oral presentation to faculty members about her summer-long project to conclude her academic credits. Miller said she would also like to someday visit Hubbard’s original art studio in Fort Thomas, Ky., adding, “And it would be a dream to actually go to Payne Hollow.”

New book on Hubbard art is coming in 2020

Jessica Whitehead

Whitehead, 30, who works at the Kentucky Derby Museum, said she is entering the editing stage of the book manuscript she is working on with the Caddells. The book includes personal essays written by 30 people whose lives were impacted by the Hubbard’s, she said. Canida, Rosenthal and Judy Moffett, a 1964 Hanover College grad and author who all attended the June 25 meeting, each wrote an essay for the book. It also includes images of about 250 Hubbard watercolors that the Caddells own.
This past February to May, many of the Caddells’ Hubbard woodcuts were part of an exhibit at the Frazier Museum in Louisville. Peter Morin, former curator of the Speed Museum, helped organize the exhibit. The Caddells invited Morin to write the foreward of the book.
“Hubbard’s watercolors haven’t really been written about, but they really represent the feeling of his lifestyle and the beauty, color and life of the Ohio River valley. They capture the vastness and vitality of the landscape,” Whitehead said
Whitehead is a native of Wheeling, W.V. who said she was a senior at Hanover College working toward an art history degree before she ever heard of the Hubbard’s. “I kept seeing Harlan Hubbard artwork around campus, but most of the paintings were locked away. So I did my comprehensive final exhibit on Harlan Hubbard to bring all these pieces together. I met with the Caddells to help me.”
Flo Caddell had spent a great deal of her college years documenting and photographing more than 500 of Harlan’s paintings as a class project. Another Hanover College student, Lee Ann Gosman, continued the mission to document Harlan’s 150 or so paintings after 1980 – in the years after Flo had graduated.
In 2013, Whitehead was asked to revive the exhibit at the Kentucky Museum of Art & Crafts in Louisville. She included some Hubbard artifacts from Payne Hollow lent to her by Hassfurder and some of the Caddells’ woodcuts. “We had to extend the dates of the exhibit, it was so popular.”
Earlier this year, Whitehead was asked to give a lecture about the upcoming book at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville. “Hopefully, by doing all these things will elevate the Hubbard legacy out beyond just a local notoriety,” she said.

Behringer-Crawford Museum contributes

John Fettig

Harlan Hubbard had his roots in northern Kentucky and spent 34 years there. He was born in Bellevue, Ky., and spent his early life in Fort Thomas. As such, Hubbard donated a large collection of paintings, watercolors and woodcuts to Behringer-Crawford Museum, whose mission is to preserve and interpret Northern Kentucky cultural history, in nearby Covington, Ky. He also gave the museum a model of his shanty boat that he made. There is also a large bust of Harlan at the museum created in 1984 by Michael Skop, an art professor at Northern Kentucky University.
“The Hubbard art is on display and rotated frequently at the museum,” said the museum’s Executive Director Laurie Risch. “It is the largest publicly owned collection of Harlan Hubbard art.”
Each year, the museum offers programs on Harlan Hubbard to schoolchildren and the public. And the museum hosted one of the first premiers of the 2012 film, “Wonder,” a documentary on the lives of the Hubbard’s by Louisville filmmaker Morgan Atkinson.
Risch said the museum recently obtained the research papers and manuscript of Mia Cunningham’s 2001 book, “Anna Hubbard: Out of the Shadows.” Cunningham, an editor, biographer and teacher of technical writing, died of cancer in 2010 in Williamsburg, Va. Her husband Jim also donated their collection of over 30 pieces of Hubbard’s art, many of which have not been seen before in public.
Jason French, the museum’s curator of collections, attended the June meeting and said he was working “to continue to get more Hubbard-related items and art out where the public can view them. And certainly it is important with this newly obtained manuscript, so we are going to be doing some new things at the museum.”

Digital library at University of Louisville Archives

Carrie Daniels

Carrie Daniels is the director at the University of Louisville Archives & Special Collections, where the vast majority of Harlan Hubbard’s book manuscripts are held. The collection contains correspondence, journals, literary productions and artwork created by Harlan Hubbard, and correspondence, journals, notes, literary writings and ephemera created by Anna Eikenhout Hubbard. Included in the literary works are drafts of almost all of Harlan’s published works, along with unpublished material as well. The artwork includes sketches, studies for sketches, many small paintings and related materials about exhibits dating from 1938 to 1988.
Daniels, a Michigan native who attended the June meeting, said she was introduced to the Hubbard’s by her predecessor, Bill Morison, who had a close relationship with the couple. In 1987, Morison arranged to travel to Payne Hollow by boat to pick up the manuscripts from Harlan.
“I am interested in this legacy because it is a real treasure of a collection,” Daniels said. “We don’t have permanent exhibits but we have a Harlan Hubbard-related exhibit pretty much every five years, because people are always drawn to their story.” 
The archives also contain Joanne Weeter’s 11 hours of oral history interviews with Harlan Hubbard that were conducted in 1987. The interviews hold special gravity, considering that Harlan died the following year. U of L student Emma Davis created a Digital Exhibit that pulls together oral history clips, photographic portraits of the Hubbards, and samples of Harlan’s art. The exhibit can be accessed at www.library.louisville.edu/archives/hubbard.

Fort Thomas, Ky., art studio to be restored

Alex McIntosh

The Fort Thomas Conservancy was created in 2009 to preserve and restore Harlan Hubbard’s original studio, which he built in 1938 with reclaimed materials on the back lot behind his mother’s house in Fort Thomas, Ky. Harlan and Anna actually lived in the small, brick, one-room, 14x20-foot structure for three years after they were married and while they built their shanty boat. The Conservancy was formed by the late Bill Thomas, who lived with his wife, Sidney, in the home at 129 Highland Ave., where Harlan’s mother lived. In August 2016, the structure was listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.
Sidney donated what is now called the “Harlan Hubbard Studio and Preserve,” located at 129 Highland Ave., to the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy soon after Bill’s death in 2014.
The conservancy, led by Conservancy board member Chuck Keller, set out on a capital campaign to raise $100,000 to restore the studio, including repairing the slate roof, chimney and windows. The studio renovation alone is expected to cost $30,000, and the group has already raised more than $25,000.
A local high school science class is managing a native garden next to the studio. The Conservancy also established a beehive on the property from a nest of bees found inside the art studio. They obtained a grant from the University of Kentucky to help start a venture to market “Hubbard Honey.” It is managed by a local beekeeper, according to Alex McIntosh, who attended the June meeting and gave a presentation on the project.
“People are amazed that the Hubbard’s both lived there – off the grid and right in the middle of town,” McIntosh said.
The Conservancy holds several events throughout the year, McIntosh said. A board member is on hand to greet visitors on the third Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “We intend to turn it into an environmental learning center. We plan to bring in authors and artists and provide hands-on activities for children. We are hoping to create a place where we can have people come in and create more art – much in the spirit of Harlan Hubbard.

     •••

Bob Rosenthal

Near the end of the June meeting, the group members agreed to meet again in early 2020, and Risch offered to host the group at Behringer-Crawford Mu-seum sometime next spring.
Fettig said he selected those people to participate in the June meeting based “because I knew they had an active investment and involvement in the Hubbard legacy.
“I had some generalized hopes going into the meeting,” Fettig said. “I felt very good about the event. People did enjoy meeting each other. I had no personal agenda for the meeting. But I’m offering to be of help if I can. And I hope something good comes of it. I think an anniversary event or annual lecture could be possible. I think it’s a no-brainer. I’d like to see the college do something. It would take a bit of funding, but it could be done. There’s enough interest in the Hubbard’s throughout the region for that to happen.”

Are you a Hubbard enthusiast? Do you have stories or memories to share about the Hubbard’s? Do you have suggestions or ideas about how to move forward with events or activities designed to promote the Hubbard legacy? Then send us your memories and ideas via email for consideration of being published in a future edition of RoundAbout. Email us at: info@RoundAbout.bz.

Return to Hubbard articles.

RoundAbout