Tea & Talk – Forgotten Trailblazing Women of Lenox’s Gilded Age: Jennie Van DerZee Welcome, Painter, Filmmaker, & Entrepreneur

July 26, 2022 @ 4:00 pm
$35, $30 for members or with advance reservation, $22 for students 22 and under

Local screenwriter and film historian Nannina Gilder will speak at Ventfort Hall on Tuesday, July 26 at 4 pm about Jennie Van DerZee, a forgotten trailblazing woman of Lenox’s Gilded Age. A tea will follow her presentation

Did you know one of the first African American women filmmakers was from Lenox? Went to Lenox High and Trinity Church? Jennie Van DerZee Welcome grew up on Hubbard Street with her four siblings, including Harlem Renaissance Photographer James Van DerZee, but while James was rediscovered in the 1960s and has been celebrated since, Jennie has been mostly forgotten.

Gilder will tell Jennie’s story, from a childhood in Lenox full of art and music, to her pursuit of higher education in painting, and her family’s journey down to Harlem in 1910, where she and her husband, Ernest Touissant Welcome, made “Doing Their Bit,” a multi-part documentary about African American soldiers in WWI. Under the name Madame Touissant Welcome, Jennie had vibrant career as a painter, photographer, and headmistress of an art and music conservatory. At the same time she and her husband were pioneers in New York real estate, helping African Americans own homes, and making inroads into neighborhoods that had been predominantly white. Jennie was a true trailblazer in every sense and deserves to take her place in art and film history.

Gilder is a screenwriter and film historian. In 2020 she gave a four part seminar, Invisible: Female Filmmakers before 1960, and Silhouette Animation: The Genius of Lotte Reiniger, a lecture on the pioneering animator, both at Ventfort Hall. The short film she wrote, Sproutland, premiered at the Florida Film Festival in 2021 and has won over a dozen awards. Her play The Curious Abduction of Mona Lisa was performed at Ventfort Hall in 2013.

Tickets are $30 for members and with advance reservation; $35 day of; $22 for students 22 and under. Reservations are required as seats are limited. Walk-ins accommodated as space allows. For reservations call us at (413) 637-3206. Please note that all tickets are nonrefundable and non-exchangeable. Proof of vaccination and ID are required. The historical mansion is located at 104 Walker Street in Lenox.

The summer series of Tea & Talks is sponsored in part by board member Lucille Landa and William Landa.