Bethany (Private home)
I don’t often explain my page titles. Most of the time they are just so good and brilliant that they speak for themselves. Other times, they are just so great and beyond brilliant that only an elite few will appreciate them. (Those are the readers that know the secret handshake and nod. Reminder to them: keep an eye out for the next dinner club invite via the usual methodology wink wink.)
But today, I feel like setting the stage with the title above. Sure, on the face of it the straightforward reference to a museum of art that focuses solely on Impressionist works simply enough. Clear and easy.
But there’s more. You knew there was more. A lot more, and it’s all courtesy of a man named Rick Kaletsky.
Kaletsky is not known for Impressionism or any sort of art. Kaletsky is almost certainly not known to you for anything.
But he should be. And the Bethany Museum of Impressionism was my introduction to Rick. My “First Impressions,” if you will.
Actually, the below picture was my first impression. My man has jokes. (This is his driveway.)
This museum is nothing and everything at the same time. It’s “nothing” because no one would ever call it a museum at all. But it’s everything to me and CTMQ because Rick has determined it’s a museum. There’s a sign and everything. It exists because he’s proud of his daughter and his daughter painted a wonderful replica of Édouard Manet’s The Plum with her friend Grace in sixth grade.
He liked it, framed it, and hung it up. Then he surrounded it with a few prints of other famous Impressionist art and voila: The Bethany Museum of Impressionism was born. But why was I even here? This museum takes up about 20 square feet of wall space in a mudroom. There’s certainly no way I drove out to Bethany, Connecticut on a random winter Wednesday evening to partake in something that can only be considered a bit of a joke.
Right. (I know you were scared that I did do just that. And let’s be honest… I totally would.)
Rick Kaletsky curates and owns the Muhammad Ali Museum of Bethany. Rick became friends with the boxing legend at age 15 when he cold collect called him simply because he was a big fan. Ali (Cassius Clay at the time, obviously) spoke with young Rick and the two spent Ali’s lifetime as friends.
And Rick has spent his own lifetime collecting Ali memorabilia. Tons of it. If fills his basement. And it’s great! But here, between the garage and the basement, Rick created the “art museum.” It was the very first thing I noticed upon entering his house and a huge smile crept across my face. It’s very rare that a museum exists in Connecticut that I don’t know about.
To actually stumble into one and not knowing of its existence until I’m actually inside it? I’m not sure that’s ever happened. And I’ve been at this for over 16 years.
Rick began his Ali Museum spiel but I had to interrupt him – and if you know Rick, you know that interrupting one of his spiels is very difficult to do – and just laugh. Confused, he asked me what was up.
It was then that I actually came clean and told Rick all about my weird hobby (I feel comfortable telling people with weird hobbies about my weird hobby) and how I’d been to nearly 500 museums in Connecticut and how much I love that I was getting a two-for-one in his house. And how I didn’t care that it was clearly a bit of a joke.
But Rick didn’t present the Impressionist Museum as a joke at all. He was tickled I even noticed it, let alone wanted to learn about it. I learned that his daughter Amanda was a talented artist. That her Manet was a pretty darn good Manet. He joked about the “arthritic hands” of the woman in Manet’s painting. He noted the post taped to the wall and challenged me; “do you know what that is? That’s ‘post-impressionism’.” I love this guy.
(If curious, no one knows who the woman in the original painting was. The work is a study in loneliness, depicting a quiet, almost melancholy, scene of a young working girl seated in a café. She may be a prostitute waiting for a client, or possibly a shop worker hoping for some conversation. On the table is a plum soaked in brandy, a specialty of Parisian cafés at the time, which gives the painting its title.)
But back to Amanda. (Sorry, I don’t have any information on her co-painter.) Amanda is also a talented singer and songwriter, and has sung the National Anthem and God Bless America at Citi Field for Mets games. (Oh, Rick is a Mets fan too. He’s got Mets stories that are better than your Mets stories, trust me.) She’s also sung at Lincoln Financial Field, Madison Square Garden, Shea Stadium, and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum among others.
And that’s great. But those experiences are not in any Connecticut Museum. Her painting is, and I’m glad I’ve seen it. Rick gets it. He totally understood my silly excitement over this little joke of his, and he went with it. He never questioned my sanity – I’m still on the fence about his – and we had an all-too-short 75 minutes together in his Muhammad Ali Museum.
Rick and his museums are everything I love about this website. And it’s people like Rick and places like this that will keep me going for another 500 museums.