A Tribute from The Mexican Society of Philadelphia

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We were excited to receive this wonderful letter from Ted and Nancie Burkett of The Mexican Society of Philadelphia, founded in 1970 to foster cultural ties between Mexico and Philadelphia.  The Society features speakers and unique travel experiences in Mexico.

Dear Julia,

Congratulations! What an achievement to celebrate fifty years of running the Eye’s Gallery. It may take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but you always manage to do it with a grin. We are trying to remember – what was our first purchase from you? It must have been soon after you opened that you introduced us to the delights of Mexican Folk Art and sparked our lifelong interest. Maybe that frist piece was one of the colorful tin ornaments displayed up the stairway wall in the back. Or it could have been the wonderful paper mache head our first poodle chewed the bottom off – she was partial to paper and found the head more delicious than the telephone books she regularly shredded while we were at work.

At that time we lived at 19th and Lombard and loved dining on South Street at Lickety Split, Knave of Hearts, or Copa’s upstairs Tangerine Beach Club. It was a treat after dinner to visit the Eye’s Gallery and the Works late in the evening. In the back of the gallery we bought big paper flowrs and carved wooden animals painted with bright aniline dyes. When we felt especially prosperous we ventured downstairs amid flying devils where we ogled elaborate creches, animal masks, and beautiful Mexican ceramics. You enhanced every visit with tales of Mexican villages and their artisans.

In 1972 we moved to 5th Street for even closer shopping opportunities. We left behind the friendly hippies on Rittenhouse Square to find a new set of hippies. The bearded fellow wandering our neighborhood turned out to be Bill Pindar, minister at Old Pine Street Church. Then there was that guy in the knitted Peruvian ht sitting flat on the South Street sidewalk, sometimes barefoot. Was he playing an instrument? Society Hill suddenly became a lot more interesting.

As we became friends over the years you did us a lot of favors – such as entertaining our Mexican Society members at the Eye’s. You invited us to Jeremiah’s Bar Mitzvah which was endlessly fascinating though several people earnestly told us afterward that it was not a typical ceremony! Isaiah’s studio was a memorable venue.

You did us even bigger favors when you led our Mexican Society travelers for very special shopping experiences at your best resources in Mexico. It must have seemed like herding cats but you cheerfully did it multiple times. In 1993 you took us to Josefina Aguilar’s home where we tried to buy out her storeroom, then to Dona Rosa’s workshop for black pottery, and very memorably to San Martin Tilcajete where the whole village of carvers greeted us with a band and tables of wonderful wooden animals, then provided lunch in their patio. How did you pull that off in the days before cell phones?! In 1996 we all loaded up with blue and white pottery in Puebla, and in 2000 it was textiles in Ajijic … and there was more.

Do you remember when Juan Orta came to do portrait masks and gingerly measured our dog’s head in the midst of the gallery? We still have some of the huge papeles picados Isaiah designed and you had cut for the Mexican Society’s Philadelphia Orchestra 1994 sendoff party in the Academy Ballroom. Ther have been so many special things that have created favorite memories for us. This could easily become an even longer tribute.

Thank you, thank you, Julia … and Happy 50th Anniversary to the Eye’s.

Nancie and Ted Burkett