Staff members of the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery recently unpacked an extraordinary gift of art glass, antique paperweights and Steuben glass, from the estate of Marion D. Stevenson.
Marion, a long-time resident of Vero Beach, Fla., never visited our library. But she had learned that the Sabatini Gallery has long held a collection of more than 500 antique and contemporary paperweights. After making a firm decision that she wanted to keep her valuable collection intact, she directed her son, Robert Stevenson, to contact the library to inquire about making a deferred gift.
Sherry Best, Sabatini Gallery director, and Kathy Groesbeck, gift planning officer for The Library Foundation, consulted with Marion as she planned her gift to the library. They visited Marion and her family in Florida early in 2010 to thank her personally for her gift of 79 antique paperweights and 54 pieces of Steuben art glass.
In retrospect, it was a timely visit, since Marion’s life ended a few weeks after their visit. Sherry and Kathy were deeply saddened by Marion’s passing, especially since in such a short while they formed such an enjoyable relationship with her.
“Marion was an amazing woman – full of vitality and interest. She said it takes two things to be a paperweight collector – passion and the means to build the collection,” Kathy said.
Marion had strong doses of these two elements.
Marion’s antique paperweights represent two and a half decades of collecting. She began to study them seriously and bought them at auctions held at Sotheby’s in England. She became an authority on paperweights and collecting to the point where she gave lectures to various civic and community groups.
Marion’s collection includes dazzling paperweights from the great French glass houses, Baccarat, St. Louis, and Clichy. Always an organized person, Marion developed an index card system to keep a record of when, where, and the price she paid for a paperweight.
“I am extremely impressed by the high quality of the paperweights and Steuben glass in Marion’s collection,” Sherry said. “I am also eager to share Marion’s story with the public. For me, as a curator, that’s what makes the art come alive for people. It becomes more than beautiful art in a case – it becomes inspirational.”
Marion had recently added a codicil to her will to bequeath the vast majority of her valuable collection to the library, a service offered through The Library Foundation and taken advantage of by many more than just Marion.
“It is Marion’s wish that her cherished collection be shared and enjoyed by others after her lifetime,” Kathy said. “We are honored to accept this charge with deep gratitude and appreciation for Marion’s thoughtful generosity.”
The Library Foundation and Sabatini Gallery staff expresses its sincere appreciation to the Stevenson family, and especially to Marion’s son for his time, assistance, and enthusiasm in arranging the details and planning of this distinctive gift.
Inventory is still taking place. Keep an eye on www.tscpl.org for info on when the gift of glass art will be available for public viewing.