Susan Loy & Ron Ayers at the White House
Susan Loy, accompanied by her husband Ron Ayers, presented her commemorative poster to President and Mrs. Clinton as Artist on the Lawn at the White House Easter Egg Roll in 1999. She was technically the Artist on the Lawn at the 1998 event, and presented the results of her artistry the following year. This tradition of an artist recording an event dates back to pre-photography days.
The visit, described below, was actually her third trip to the White House. Susan was the Egg artist for Virginia in 1997, was chosen from that group of 50 state egg artists to be Artist on the Lawn in 1998, and finally presented the poster in 1999.
White House Reception, April 5, 1999 Susan Loy and Ron Ayers:
We arrived at the White House at 8:24 a. m. after a circuitous taxi ride in the brief rain, five or so blocks from the Mayflower Hotel. Our names were on the list at the East Gate, and we passed through the metal detectors and into the East Wing. We viewed the Easter Egg Collection on display, and then checked our coats. On the way we filled out the pink identity cards that are later matched up with photographs. We briefly examined the White House Guest Library and across the hall, looked at portraits of First Ladies, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, Rosalind Carter, Nancy Reagan, the first Mrs. Wilson, and Lady Bird Johnson.
We proceeded upstairs past service people from various military branches to the East Room and arrived almost simultaneously with Jamie Lee Curtis. The food was spread on one huge table that had several centerpieces created by the U.S. team from the World Cup of Pastry. We first ate cold oatmeal parfait with fruit. We had coffee with Pat Palermino, poster artist for 1999 and fellow Sugarloaf Craft Festivals exhibitor. Cecilia Glembocki, our liaison and doyen of the event at her eighteenth Easter Egg Roll, arrived, wearing her Easter bonnet. Ceil explained that the President and First Lady would go outside, address the crowd; then, we would all return inside, form a receiving line, and Susan would be at the end of the line to present the poster to the President and First Lady.
Soon Melinda Bates, Special Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Easter Egg Roll, came to tell us that Susan would make the presentation before the receiving line, and we discussed whether to present the commemorative egg or poster first. They decided egg first. Susan asked if they could view the poster, and Melinda said yes, that it was on view across the hall. We all began to make our way across the room, stopping frequently for introductions to Ceil's many acquaintances.
Finally, we viewed the framed poster on display, sitting alone on an easel, in the Blue Room of the White House. We discussed the piece with others viewing the poster. We returned to the East Room and continued our breakfast, Susan having a slice of rich coffee cake and an exquisite fruit cup containing one red raspberry, one blackberry, one white berry, one strawberry, three blueberries, and a sprig of some unknown red berries. Ron had a cold salmon canapé, French toast made with fruit & nut bread. Also available were poached eggs with sauce, a link sausage dish, 1/2 bagels, and all kinds of bite-sized pastry. Beverages included good coffee, orange juice, tea, ice water, and milk.
Melinda Bates came to say that Mary Englebriet would like to meet Susan. She said that Mary was next year's poster artist. Melinda introduced us to Mary, Midwest-friendly and self-professed in awe of the event. She said that the poster was beautiful, and we complimented her work as well.
Ceil returned us to the Blue Room for photographs, and shortly thereafter the President spoke outside. Here we were moved several times before being told to stand on the White House steps, so as to be first in line for the presentation. From our vantage point, we were able to look down upon Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania. The First Lady introduced the President who mentioned Kosovo and blew the whistle to start the event.
We were hustled inside and stood beside the poster. Fred Plotkin, sponsor from the Schnurmacher Foundations, took his place on the other side of the poster. He commented on the beauty of the work and its detailed mat design. As we waited, there was a general buzz of anticipation, with military and civilian personnel milling about constantly. Finally, a young staffer appeared, disappeared, and appeared again suddenly. Someone said, "The President." The video and still photographers, who had been to our right, crossed in front and photographed the president as he entered the room from our immediate left. He walked alone up to us and the framed poster. During the exchange, flashes were almost continuous. Susan said, "Good morning, Mr. President, I'm Susan Loy; it's a pleasure to meet you." He said, "It's nice to meet you," in his most welcome of voices. When Susan introduced her husband Ron, President Clinton said, "My wife's delayed; she's changing her clothes; I mean, she's changing her shoes."
We moved to the poster and Susan introduced him to Fred Plotkin. Susan explained about the different texts and illustrations, especially about the tulips that have bloomed at the White House Easter Egg Roll in 1998 and 1878. The President then said, examining the poster, "I believe it's my favorite of them all."
He was whisked away, and we were shooed into the next room, the way out. We hesitated and Susan asked a young woman if we were to meet the First Lady. She told us to wait, and a few minutes later Melinda Bates hurried in and invited us to, "Meet the First Lady." We returned to the poster, and almost immediately Mrs. Clinton walked in. We spoke, and she moved over to the poster. Susan explained that she focused on the beauty and history of the event, and quoted four First Ladies, including Edith Kermit Roosevelt, Edith Bolling Wilson, Eleanor Roosevelt who Susan said to Mrs. Clinton, "A favorite of yours as well as mine," She nodded and looked even closer as Susan mentioned that she, Mrs. Clinton, was the author of the last text, from The White House Easter Egg Roll. Mrs. Clinton looked closer, saying, "I forgot my..." But she quickly asked about the flowers, "What's that one?" "A daisy, the children's flower," answered Susan. And she began to run through the flowers in the painting for the First Lady. The Cardinal Coulere, and several others. Mrs. Clinton pointed out the egg.
Just then the President entered this vignette amidst a hail of flashes. He spoke directly to the First Lady, "I think this is my favorite one." She nodded, "It is beautiful." Then someone came in and posed us for the official portrait. Then it was over. The Clintons moved across the room as we were again whisked to the left into the Red Room. We walked into the marble hallway and waited for the Glembocki's. As we stood we saw the poster and easel awkwardly carried off by member of the White House staff. Shortly after, the President entered the foyer and disappeared into the interior of the mansion. The Glembocki's and the others from the Blue Room joined us, and we all proceeded to the cloak room. Before joining the festivities outside, each guest was given a gift bag, containing a 1999 Easter Egg from the President and Mrs. Clinton; a book, Holiday Eggs, by Georgeanne Brennan; a White House Easter Egg Roll apron and program with Pat Palermino's art work; and a commemorative poster, signed by the artist, Susan Loy.