Writer, art historian, essayist, curator, bee-keeper, grandmother.
Faith Andrews Bedford was born in Salem, Massachusetts at the close of World War II and was raised in a little village in Illinois. But, each August the Andrews family returned to New England to spend the month at her grandparents’ summer home on Cape Cod Bay. These two worlds–a small village in Illinois close to her father’s mother and a summer by the sea at the home of her other grandparents–form the background for many of Faith’s stories.
Her grandparents were a strong presence in her life. Her father’s mother taught her to sew, to garden and to love books. Her mother’s parents shared with her their love of birds and shells and sailing and weather. And they bought her books as well.
Together with her two sisters, Ellen and Beth, Faith enjoyed a simple life, close to the harmonies of nature full of the sorts of games and adventures, experiences and discoveries that make up the life of children.
A reader once wrote, “Faith Andrews Bedford’s stories are about the ordinary little things in life, but through her words they become special.”
She has always been a storyteller. “I used to love to make up stories to amuse my little sisters and cousins,” she remembers. A confessed bookworm, she admits to hiding behind her father’s red leather reading chair so that her mother would not make her go outside to play in the sunshine. The most severe punishment was to have the book she was currently reading taken away. The local library was her home away from home and the endless hours spent reading there created in Faith a love of the written word and its ability to foster change and inspire imagination. In her travels with her family, “people watching” became a lifelong pastime. This interest has created a sensitivity to human nature and relationships that infuses her stories and essays.
Faith went to school in New England and wrote for the school literary magazine. Not surprisingly, her favorite subjects were English and History. In an issue of the alumni magazine, one devoted to the school’s authors, Faith said in an interview that one of the major things that she carried away from the school was not so much the contents of the courses or even a particular teacher but an attitude. For her, the school fostered creativity and supported excellence. From her parents and grandparents she gleaned a sense that all things are possible if you work hard enough. She graduated with the conviction that people need to look at the realm of possibility, not merely at what has been assigned them.
Faith married her high-school sweetheart, Bob, and spent the next four years putting him through grad school and raising their son, Drew. After their daughters, Eleanor and Sarah, were born the family settled in a tiny town in upstate New York. Three long winters later, they headed for warmer weather and settled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Woven into the satisfying moments and joyous chaos of raising three children were mornings spent as a breastfeeding consultant at the local hospital. Life in their little village, where Faith tended a small herb and honey farm, was simple and satisfying. Then one day, Bob, a professor at the nearby university. told her he’d been offered a job in New York City. With their two oldest children in college and their youngest, Sarah, eager for a new adventure, they set off for life in the big city. Inspired to explore new directions for herself as well, Faith returned to school and began researching the American Impressionist painter, Frank W. Benson. In the midst of all this, as a peaceful interlude between classes and intensive research sessions, Faith began writing short stories and essays about life in the country where traditions run deep and memories bind the generations together.
She found herself reflecting on quiet pursuits and simple pleasures, remembering ordinary, everyday things–things that often escape our notice. Some stories spoke of the modest triumphs of children, others were about the security in customs that were once taken for granted. Some essays were about her children; others about her own childhood years. When her family left New York and returned to the farm, Faith continued writing these essays for the wellspring of ideas and subjects seemed endless.
As a lark, Faith submitted an essay about buying her first pickup truck to Ms. Magazine. They accepted it immediately. Emboldened by this success, she sent a piece to Country Living about the lemonade stands she and her sisters had every Fourth of July. It was perfect, the editor said, and she asked for more. Faith’s column “Kids in the Country” became a regular feature of the magazine. Many of those columns were gathered together in Faith’s latest book, Barefoot Summers: Reflections on Home, Family and Simple Pleasures (Sterling, 2005).
Faith now balances her love of writing about the satisfaction of rural life with her work as an art historian. Her initial research on Frank Benson became the biographical essay for a Benson retrospective at Manhattan’s Berry-Hill Gallery. Her first book on Benson, Frank W. Benson: American Impressionist (Rizzoli, 1994) was followed by The Sporting Art of Frank W. Benson (David R. Godine, 2000). She co-curated an exhibition on Benson at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts and is advisor to the Vose Gallery’s catalogue raisonne on the artist.
When readers tell me that something I have written has touched them deeply, inspired a new tradition, caused them to pause and take time to remember, I am delighted.
In addition to being an essayist and short story writer, Faith Andrews Bedford is also an art historian and noted authority on Frank W. Benson. She has written and lectured extensively on the artist and has contributed the lead essays for a number of catalogues including: the Benson retrospective at the Berry-Hill Gallery in New York City in l989, the exhibition of Benson’s sporting art at the Ward Museum in Salisbury, MD in 1996 and the Peabody Essex Museum’s show “Frank W. Benson: American Impressionist” in 2000 for which she was the guest curator.
Her books on Benson include the biography, Frank W. Benson: American Impressionist (Rizzoli, 1994) and The Sporting Art of Frank W. Benson (David R. Godine, 2000). She supplies appraisals and authentications to both auction houses and private galleries. She is also the advisor to the Vose Gallery Benson catalogue raisonné project. Her articles on the artist have appeared in numerous magazines.
Faith has created FrankWBenson.com as a resource for those interested in the work and life of Frank W. Benson. She welcomes inquiries about the artist and is always interested in learning of works attributed to him. All correspondence is held in strictest confidence.
For more information, visit Frank W. Benson.com
These days, Faith finds she is asked to read from Barefoot Summers and speak on writing as often as she speaks on art. Since her essays are really mini-memoirs, she urges her listeners to create their own. Everyone longs to know more about those they love. And through writing we can capture the memories of the little things that define us and tell others who we are. She especially enjoys working with hospice patients, senior citizens and nursing home residents. It is rewarding, she feels, to help them express their wonderful wealth of stories and memories. She teaches a course at the local university’s school of lifelong learning entitled “From Memories to Memoirs.” To invite Faith to give a reading or a talk just contact her through this website.
Faith finds that loving what you do for a living and having an office with peaceful views of meadows and woods makes it difficult to have a quitting time. “My work does not feel like work,” she admits. “Thank heavens for my husband. He helps me remember that that is more to life than writing.” And that includes time with children, now grown, and four grandchildren.
An interviewer once asked Faith if it was difficult to come up with inspiration and new ideas for stories. “Absolutely not,” she replied. “Actually, it is one of my greatest frustrations to know I will never live long enough to write all the stories I have ideas for. I have dozens of files stuffed full of outlines and clippings, quotes and snippets of dialogue, titles and all sorts of other things that have inspired stories. Everywhere I turn essays present themselves. A word, the sight of geese against an autumn sky, a snatch of song, a glimpse of children playing a game–these and a host of other things beg to be written down. And when readers tell me that something I have written has touched them deeply, inspired a new tradition, caused them to pause and take time to remember, I am delighted.”