VALCOUR — The world through Shaun Heffernan's eyes was a magical and ever-wondrous place, where he followed his bliss until last July, when he walked on.
Saturday's "Scholarship Fundraiser and Celebration of Life for Shaun Heffernan" at the Valcour Boathouse is a chance for Heffernan collectors to get more of his award-winning photography as well as the art of his wife, Amanda Palmer, mentors and peers to raise money for a good cause.
“We're doing this to raise money for a scholarship fund for high-school students who want to study photography in higher education,” Amanda said.
“High-school students will apply as they are getting ready to go to college to pursue photography in college. The Crary Foundation will be managing it.”
PAYING IT FORWARD
Auctioneer Steve Martin will swing the gavel on 20 live-auction items featuring local artists, and attendees can bid on more than 80 silent auction items donated by friends, family and local businesses.
“I think he would be really, really pleased that we're doing something positive in his name that will help students the way he could have used help as a young man,” Amanda said.
“I have to think Bill McDowell and Tim Hartnett for thinking up the idea of starting a scholarship fund in Shaun's name. Shaun was a great influence on Bill in photography.”
Live auction items include a Pulitzer-nominated photograph of President Richard Nixon and Sammy Davis Jr. by Amanda's father, James Palmer, who was a Washington, D.C.-based Associated Press photographer at the time. He became the Asia photo editor for AP.
“It was at youth rally for Nixon in 1972,” Amanda said.
“It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize that year."
The winning image was "Napalm Girl," the iconic photo of 9-year-old Kim Phuc fleeing an attack on her village.
"The photographer, Nick Ut, was a friend of my dad's and worked for my dad," Amanda said. "That was such an intense photo during the Vietnam War.”
Shaun was born in Peru and grew up in Plattsburgh.
His interest in photography flamed in his late teens/early 20s.
“Margaret Engelhart gave him his first camera,” Amanda said.
“They were like surrogate parents for him for awhile."
He worked in local bars and photographed friends' weddings on the side.
Shaun attended SUNY Plattsburgh briefly and studied under visual artist/photographer Bill Crosby, a professor in the Art Department in the 1970s.
“Bill Crosby allowed Shaun kind of unheard of open access to the darkrooms,” Amanda said.
“He recognized something in Shaun, so he allowed Shaun a lot more access than he might usually have had. It was a very formative time for him for photography. So it was a huge benefit that Bill trusted him that much.”
When Crosby went on sabbatical, his replacement was Richard Linke.
“He was a real influence on Shaun,” Amanda said.
The soulmates met at San Francisco State University in a public speaking class in 1990.
Shaun was studying photography, and Amanda was earning her Bachelor of Arts in Printmaking.
They eloped five days after their first date.
In 1994, they relocated to his beloved North Country as part of their five-year plan after traveling out West, her native place, for a year.
“He started doing photography freelance work right away,” Amanda said.
“Both of us worked in restaurants the first few years, and then finally he got so he could just do photography. He did not have to have a side job.”
In 1996, they married and each followed his or her artist's way, individually and collaboratively.
He worked in photography, exhibit design and established “Follow Your Bliss” cards.
In 2000, they opened The Oasis, a gallery and espresso bar on City Hall Place in Plattsburgh.
Amanda became the director of the Alice T. Miner Colonial Collection in Chazy in 2008, and they closed down The Oasis the next year.
They saved money for five years to launch winter junkets, six- to eight-month-long trips, out West starting in 2014.
Amanda received various artist residencies, which took them to various national parks.
“(Shaun) focused on photography, and I would do woodblock printing at the parks,” she said.
“In fact, I was at an artist residency in the Adirondacks when he died. I had been there for three days, and it was a two-week residency.”
Shaun, then 66, always gave Amanda extensive input on her imagery.
“In this case, I was sending him photos and sometimes a video of where I was at with the image,” she said.
“He was giving me a lot of feedback, and then I didn't hear from him for about 12 hours.”
She knew there was something wrong.
“I couldn't get a hold of him,” Amanda said.
“He was home alone. He was actually making cards in his studio in the basement when he died.”
They lived on Point au Roche, and he died on July 13, 2018.
During the Celebration of Life, musical entertainment will be provided by Tim Hartnett; Roy Hurd; Nelson Bosworth; Julie Canepa; Joe Mattimore; Moore Boyz; Bob Newton; John Seiden; and Annie Stolte and Drew Sprague.
“The slideshow that I'm showing at the Celebration of Life is the one he did for the Peru Free Library show that one year ago, June 22,” Amanda said.
They had an art opening that day with the Merrell and Denise Leavitt and Linda Harwood, whose work are featured in the auctions.
“He produced a slideshow for that specific opening,” Amanda said.
“That was the last one. The show was still up when he passed away.”
Amanda now lives in Trinidad, Colo., which sits three hours south of Denver and three hours north of Santa Fe, N.M.
“(After Shaun's death), I just had a lot of things align, and ... I had this artist residency (there) all lined up already, and I decided that I was just going to do it even though he wasn't with me," she said. "We were planning to go to Trinidad together. We had never had been there before and had heard a lot about it.”
She fell in love with the town.
“It was the place for me,” Amanda said.
Her parents, James and Pamela, live in their native Nebraska, about a 12-hour drive from her new home.
“I love the desert,” Amanda said.
“It's in my blood. We traveled through there a lot as a kid. I always love the dry weather more than humidity. I just love mesas and almost barren country.
"It sparks my imagination a lot. It's cool.”
Amanda had moved eight times before she was 8, so she has always embraced change, even the biggest one in her life.
“He was 15 years older than me,” Amanda said of her husband. “Almost from day one, he was preparing me for the day I would be without him.”
Email Robin Caudell:
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Scholarship Fund and Celebration of Life for Shaun Heffernan.
WHEN: 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 22.
WHERE: Valcour Boathouse, 3712 State Route 9, Valcour.
EVENT: Live and silent auction with works and other items by Shaun Heffernan, Amanda Palmer, Jamie Palmer James Palmer, Jonathan Forrence, Cheri Cross, William Crosby, Hal Moore Howard Jennings, Bill McDowell, Mark Meschinelli, Patricia Reynolds, Mina Angelos, Roy Hurd, Stuart Laidman, Ellen O'Hara, Paul Frederick, Denise Leavitt, Merrell Leavitt, Chef Curtis Hemm, Linda Harwood, Marilyn Feather, Joanne Kennedy, Penelope Clute, Sandra Foley, Janet Booth, Andrea Knight, Elizabeth LaBarre, Kit Booth, Jackie Sabourin, Clea Hall, Sally Hall, Jodi Whalen, Kathy Betts, June Levenson, Les Cosgrove, Ron Nolland and Helen Kho.
ONLINE: See live auction items: https://tabularasa.gallery/fundraiser