Art museum has known its share of great leaders

June 14, 2011

This past weekend the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts celebrated the start of a new era.

The tangible reason for the speechifying ribbon cutting, comestibles and adult beverages was the completion of the courtyard cover — what some have come to call the "dome."

The glass roof over what was an open-air terrace has, in one full swoop added 3,000 square feet to exhibit space. The area can be used for concerts, lectures, displaying art, including the extensive and underviewed sculpture collection, community gatherings can take place here, as well as wedding receptions and other social events. In time there are plans for a small cafe.

The "dome" was first discussed about 15 years ago, and four years ago, Howard and Anne Kaylor took the project as their own and provided the drive and initial financing to make the marvel happen. The Kaylors' vision and courage are doubly impressive as they were taking on a second major project having completed the museum's lake front garden only a few years before.

The Kaylors are quiet, thoughtful, unassuming people who seek to do whatever they undertake in a firm but open-minded way. They belong to the servant-leader tradition where maximum participation with colleagues supposedly brings about a more satisfying and useful result.

This approach has been much in endurance at the museum in recent years, and indeed goes way back. There have been other important figures in museum life who have followed the servant-leader style.

Dr. W. Lehman Guyton is not a name that would raise bright memories for many in Washington County. For decades, he was the head of surgery at Waynesboro (Pa.) Hospital and helped to build that institution into a fine example of a community hospital. He was respected for his knowledge and skill and loved for his caring and warm manner with his patients.

Dr. Guyton's tie to Hagerstown was his service on the board of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts — a total of 44 years (until his death at 96 last month) as an active and emeritus trustee. Dr. Guyton was an astute judge of management and finance and, as a nationally noted collector of 18th and 19th century American decorative art, an excellent judge of proposed museum acquisitions.

In early May, I accompanied Washington County Museum Director Rebecca Massie Lane on a visit to Broadmeade, the extensive and beautiful retirement community where the Guytons had lived for 26 years following his retirement from medicine. Mrs. Guyton died some years ago, but Dr. Guyton stayed on in their elegantly appointed apartment, with much of what remained of his remarkable collection. (He had given frequently and generously to the WCMFA as well as the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.)

Dr. Guyton was in the care unit that morning, recovering from two heart attacks. He was alert, ironic and glad of visitors.

We talked a bit about his early life as a physician and his early days as a trustee.

"In those days getting on the board was very informal," he said. "I was invited to the board president's house on Prospect Street for tea. I went, was shown into the formal parlor and took a seat.

"Shortly the president entered, she welcomed me and then asked, 'Before we begin Dr. Guyton, would you like a drink?' I asked if she were having one. She replied, "Of course, that's why I asked.'

"Shortly, two drinks arrived. Fortunately, no one lit a cigarette, the fumes and the resulting fire might have taken out the house."

After about an hour, we said our farewells. Dr. Guyton waved us out with the observation that while he appreciated our positive comments on his looks, he knew they were deceiving.

A few days later, a short obituary in the papers noted his death.

The museum has known a lot of servant leaders. Howard and Anne Kaylor, Dr. Lehman Guyton and many others, including its founders, William and Anna Singer.

It has had the happy fate to have supporters who could give and then let go, who found pleasure and reward in the survival and growth of the institution, whatever form that might take, wherever the journey might lead. Perhaps it could well be said that the museum has repeatedly experienced this most generous and most mature form of philanthropy.

Spence Perry is a former Hagerstown resident who remains active in Washington County community affairs. He resides in Fulton County, Pa., and is a former president of the WCMFA and a present trustee.

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