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Adelaide Roberts Hall Schwabacher “Heidi”

Adelaide Roberts Hall Schwabacher “Heidi”

June 12, 1926 - February 5, 2018

Adelaide Roberts Hall Schwabacher, known as Heidi, passed away at age 91 on February 5, 2018, at home in the Waters of Highland Park, where she had lived since April 2017. A lifelong painter, sculptor, illustrator, and art educator, her work appeared in juried shows at the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the State Fair, and many other venues.


Heidi is predeceased by her father, Mark Marion Hall, mother, Elizabeth Christy Hall, brothers Benedict Hall and Stephen Hall, and husband William B. Schwabacher. She is survived by her six children, Sara, Stephen, Alan, John, Martin, and Paul, and ten grandchildren, Charlie, Abe, Isaac, Laura, Raymond, Sam, Iris, Mark, Grant, and Cole.


Heidi grew up in Oakland, California. Her father, Mark Hall, was a landscape painter who made his living through advertising. Heidi had fond memories of spending summers painting together in the mountains. She wrote, “We remember our happiest family times as those spent camping in the Sierras—snuggled in sleeping bags on a bed of pine needles, under dazzling brilliant stars. We glow with the remembrance…. Now the scent of campfire and pine needle bring those good times back.”


Her mother, Elizabeth Christy Hall, was a puppeteer who created and directed the Tom Thumb Players, for which she made all the puppets and wrote and performed all the parts. One of her puppet shows was recorded for Garrison Keillor’s radio program.


Heidi attended the California College of Arts and Crafts from 1940 to 1945, and the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated in 1947 with a major in Art and a minor in English. At Berkeley, she drew cartoons for the campus humor magazine, the Pelican, as her father had before her. She met her future husband, William Schwabacher, while involved in political advocacy on race relations and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.


Heidi and Bill married in 1948 and moved to Minnesota, where Bill earned a PhD at the University of Minnesota and then became a professor. Heidi earned a Master of Arts Education at the University of Minnesota and served as a graduate T.A. from 1948 to 1950 in art and ceramics, as well as teaching extension courses. She also taught part time in the Minneapolis Public Schools.


From 1951 to 1955, Heidi worked part time at the St. Paul Science Museum, the predecessor of the Minnesota Science Museum, where she designed graphics and exhibits. She also created a puppet show featuring the alter ego of the Museum’s director, “Doc” Powell, which he performed for visitors. After his tenure ended, there were fewer opportunities for working mothers to pursue part time employment.


From 1965 to 1977, Heidi served as coordinator and teacher in the Minneapolis Parks Program, teaching art and ceramics to children at Luxton Park, in addition to community education classes and workshops for adults. In 1972 she served as an Artist in Residence at Camp Thunderbird, a Girl Scout camp.


Heidi contributed illustrations to books including The Twin Cities Perceived: A Study in Words and Drawings (1976), A Solstice Tree for Jenny (2001), as well as a Unitarian World Religions text (1978). She also made a hand-painted book for each of her six children and ten grandchildren. One of these books, Up in the Morning, appeared in adapted form as part of Minnesota’s Minnemast science curriculum, as a lesson on time.


Addressing the broad range of her work, Heidi once explained, “I love the structure, the motion, the color of life around me, and my art efforts are a kind of comment upon my reactions. This may explain the diversity of approaches, subjects and media over the years; to me there is a consistency of attitude.”


Heidi was an active member the Prospect Park community where she lived from 1961 to 2017. She was a longtime member of a study club and poetry group, volunteered at several food coops, and drew portraits at Pratt School’s ice cream social. She also provided numerous illustrations for the Riverbank Rambler and other neighborhood newspapers. In the early 1980s, Heidi served as Art Editor for the literary journal the Great River Review, for which she drew several covers.


From 1977 to 1984, she was a contributing member of the Westlake Gallery, where she had several exhibitions. Other exhibition highlights included a career retrospective at the University of Minnesota and two dual shows with her son Stephen, including one in Unity Church-Unitarian, where she was a member.


She created several exhibits integrating art and science with her husband, including one on the science of color for the Works Museum, and designed graphics for an exhibit at San Francisco’s Exploratorium that her husband created while on a sabbatical there.


Art was always abundant in her home, and making art a constant activity for her children. They all grew up making handmade birthday, valentine, and holiday cards and ornaments, and printing wrapping paper from potato prints. Heidi’s handmade ceramic cups, bowls, trivets, and flowerpots were in daily use, along with puzzles, clothing, paper dolls, and a beloved fireplace made from custom-designed, handmade tiles.


Much of her art was created in her cedar wood studio, designed and built in her backyard by her next-door neighbor, architect Jerry Johnson, with the help of her sons and neighborhood teens.


A devoted mother of six children, she found the dual role of artist and mother did not conflict but fueled each other. She shared her passion for art and nature with her children every day, and her children became a constant subject in her own art. Many summers the entire family packed into a mammoth station wagon and drove to California to visit Heidi and Bill’s parents, camping in tents along the way. The journey sometimes took several weeks, allowing her to share with her children the love of nature that her own parents had instilled in her.


Common themes in her work were the exuberance of children and the joy of nature. Inspired in her early years by the abstract expressionists, she reveled in the spontaneous gestures and lines of children’s art, which she encouraged both in her own children and others as an educator. She strove to express the same dynamic energy in her paintings of dancers, children at play, and nature.


In her paintings, trees reach vigorously toward the sun, while flowers and leaves blaze with color like exploding fireworks. Her watercolor depictions of water and rocks on Lake Superior’s North Shore, where she vacationed with her family until age 91, always reveal a multitude of hues that might otherwise escape notice. Every space is infused with light, and everything is in motion--clouds, leaves, even the air itself.


After moving out of her home of 66 years in April 2017, Heidi continued to find new ways to admire beauty around her. She explained, “I’m lucky. I’m a person who likes to look at things, so I never get bored.”