We are deeply saddened by the news of the passing of our founder, Ann Lehman, who passed away December 27, 2022. We celebrate her life, her contributions to all those she touched, and we celebrate the gift of imagination and generosity that resulted in the founding of Creative Arts Workshop.
Ann’s Story – by Peter Lehman
Ann Podoloff Lehman was born in New Haven in 1928 to Nathan Podoloff and Hilda Myers Podoloff. They lived on Fountain Street, but Nathan wanted more room for the horses. So in 1939 they built a barn and then the house on 40 acres in Bethany.
Nathan was a resourceful engineer who taught Ann the technical aspects of welding. Together Nathan and Hilda supported her early pursuit of art. She went to Smith College, (she brought her horse), and shortly after the war spent a year abroad in Florence. Not surprisingly, the artworks she studied were the great equestrian bronze statues.
After Smith she attended Cranbrook Academy of Art, (she played tennis with the architect Saarinen, the younger one) and soon she devoted herself to metal sculpture. It was at Yale that she worked with Joseph Albers – who taught at the Bauhaus. And José de Rivera who inspired her to think about intersecting planes, one of her favorite themes.
Also in the late forties Ann met a tall, thin guy from Madison – Albert Lehman. By 1950 they were married and lived for a year in Brooklyn, NY. Eric was born there, but they moved back to New Haven where Peter and Eve were born. The children didn’t stop Ann from making art. In fact Peter was in utero when she was at Yale. (I later went back by myself).
Despite all the formal, academic training Ann and a number of local artists recognized that everyone should have access to art education. Ann Lehman, Kiki Rabinowitz, and others wanted a place to teach that would be available to anyone, to everyone, young and old. A community art school. So they founded the Creative Arts Worksop, the CAW which opened in 1961. Ann was the first president, helped raise the money for their own building, stayed on the board since its founding, and taught her sculpture class for over 60 years.
Children, horses, artwork, Albert and Ann returned to Bethany in 1965 and built a beautiful house designed by their friend Vinny Amore. She taught every week at CAW and later at Yale, and always had commissions for private and public work. Among them, the eternal light at Mishkan Israel, large installations at Connecticut Banks, or at Yale New Haven Hospital. There is even the landmark arrows sculpture on Whitney Ave… always something going in her cluttered, basement studio.
Slowly, sometimes tragically young, everyone in her family except Peter (me) passed away leaving her without her anchors. Her charmed life leaning toward sorrow not joy. But she had a tremendous strength to tip the balance back toward the good. To carry on and take comfort from everyone around her. Not to dwell on the negative. She picked herself up and went back to her artwork, or to the CAW, even when she required a wheelchair to get there.
Through the last years of her life Ann lost a lot of her vision, couldn’t hear very well, couldn’t walk, was in pain… but never lost her desire to see her friends and students. Never lost her fascination with creative ideas in art or science, or politics… She wouldn’t let her loss of control stop her from being who she was – Ann P. Lehman to the end.
Ann Lehman Memorial Fund
A fund at Creative Arts Workshop has been set up in her name. Gifts made to this fund will be used to support our workshops and classes, our exhibitions and public programs, and all the things that CAW does to support artists and creativity in New Haven.
To make a donation in Ann’s memory, please click here.