Over more than 50 years, Elisa and Dick Poole amassed a collection of more than 500 paintings by a wide spectrum of artists representative of many genres.
Inside the family’s gallery off the lobby of Wilmington’s Park Plaza, oil and watercolor landscape and seascape pieces, portraits and other works hang salon style, displaying the richness and subtlety created by artists from the mid-19th Century to the present.
And each has a story to tell.
It begins in 1963 – two weeks before the Pooles were married – when the couple bought their first painting.
The couple still owns the cherished work by Delaware artist Carolyn Blish, a watercolor of a woods path. Over the years, the painting has commemorated their marriage. Recently they added to their collection an oil painting of a breezy beach scene by Blish depicting rolling dunes rising behind a rickety sand fence.
In the summer of the following year, the Pooles visited Amsterdam and added a second painting — and more—to their collection.
“We kid around with each other because we think (the painting) was purchased either on the day or the day before our first child was conceived,” said Poole. “And that makes our daughter, who is now 48 years old, blush every time we tell the story in her presence.”
Decades of study and search would result in a first class collection that includes coveted works valued at thousands of dollars. But that’s not where the Pooles’ passion as collectors resides.
“We have some treasures … that may not have a lot of monetary value,” said the retired Delaware attorney. “But having them on our walls and thinking about when and where we got them and under what circumstances bring back happy memories every time we pass by where they’re hung.”
Now, the family wants others to have the chance to make similar memories through collecting their art, donating a large portion to Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County to be auctioned at an event with all the proceeds to benefit the organization.
On March 14, 2014, the Habitat for Humanity Art Auction: The Elisa and Dick Poole Collection will be held at Arsht Hall in Wilmington and will feature about 100 of their pieces.
“It’s such a shame to see homeless persons on the streets, particularly in big cities,” said Poole. “Habitat for Humanity is helping to alleviate homelessness, one family at a time.”
In 2012, Poole learned cancer had developed in his small intestine. It was a diagnosis serious enough for him to begin immediately the process of getting his affairs in order.
Longtime friend Annabelle Kressman, a Habitat board member, and a stellar committee of artists and art aficionados inspired him to donate his collection to benefit Habitat.
“I didn’t know too much about Habitat for Humanity but I did understand its importance and supported its mission,” said Poole. “So when I had this opportunity I really thought it was something…to share the passion my wife and I have had with others and perhaps they would carry the torch forward in collecting or appreciating art for their own enjoyment.”
Poole has since undergone two successful surgeries and with the exception of sore feet – a side effect from the medication he’s taking—he says he feels “pretty good.”
He also beams with excitement when he talks about the auction’s special guest, world-class auctioneer Alasdair Nichol. Nichol, who’s also vice chairman of Freeman’s Auction House in Philadelphia and a fixture on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, has agreed to donate his services to the event.
“For those who haven’t come to auctions before, they will be very entertained by Alasdair Nichol and very impressed by his expertise,” said Poole. “I hope it will be an experience for many who have no intention whatsoever (of purchasing) once they get there to see the excitement of an auction and see that many of the paintings will go for very reasonable prices.”
In planning the auction, Kressman’s committee believed it was important the event be held with no reserve values attached to the lots. This means there will be no minimum bids.
“A painting that may be worth $1,000 could well go for $100 or $200,” said Poole, who predicts there will be bargains to be had. “And that is good because if someone gets a good buy and enjoys the painting in his or her home, over the years, that will be gratifying to me because it will increase someone’s appreciation for art (and) it will be good for Habitat for Humanity.”
March 14, 2014
Preview of selection begins at 5:30 p.m.
Auction begins at 7 p.m.
2800 Pennsylvania Avenue
Wilmington, DE 19806
Leon Tucker, Director of Communications
Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County
O: 302.652.0365 x108
Habitat for Humanity of New Castle County has been building affordable housing with low-income families since 1986. Since our inception, we have built more than 200 homes in areas throughout New Castle County including the City of Wilmington, Middletown, Newark, New Castle, and St. Georges. As a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, we are among the top three largest affiliates in the Northeast (of over 210 affiliates from Delaware to Maine) in terms of home construction. Through our unique approach, we help low-income families break the cycle of poverty through the stability and empowerment gained through homeownership.