494 Stage Rd. Cummington MA, 413-634-5591
Leni Fried was born in Washington D.C. in 1954. As a child she loved nature, disliked going to school and carried around a notebook where she wrote poetry. When learning her letters she was introduced to words that rhymed and never got over the thrill of finding new rhymes. Walking to the bus stop in the morning, kicking stones, collecting feathers and jotting down ideas for poems was the most fertile time of the day.
After school was when she ‘went to the studio’, edited her poems, tried to remember the new ones and write them down in her notebook. As a teenager, Leni began to draw and retreating to her attic room was where she felt most at home. She came of age in a confusing and violent political climate. The draft was in place, the Vietnam war was raging. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated and President Robert F Kennedy was killed.
Leni marched in The Moratorium to end the war in November of 1969 with her older brother and sister. They each lit candles with millions of others. She was 15 years old.
Leni never liked cars and avoided driving as much as possible. She rode her bike to school 15 miles each way. It was one of the first ‘racing’ bikes, a Gitane with 10 gears! Riding a bike was exhilarating and (unlike driving a car) the chosen destination had to be one that was worth the physical effort.
In her attic room in Kensington, MD, Leni kept herself sane allowing her drawings and writing to provide an ‘unjudged safe place’ to retreat to in a confusing world. Bob Dylans song, ‘A hard rains a gonna fall’ was often playing in the background.
Leni helped found The P.I.E. (Project in Education) program which became part of Walter Johnson High school in 1970. This was an independent study program where high school students could develop their own area of study in a mentorship setting. The time was ripe for public school reform. A.S. Neil’s book ‘Summerhill’ and John Holt’s book ‘Why children fail’ were passed around among her friends and read hungrily. With still 4 more years of high school ahead of her Leni was very disillusioned after reading the ‘wrong books.’
It was fortunate that her parents found The Hawthorne School. The school founded by Sandy and Eleanor Orr, two brilliant pioneers in radical educational thinking. Leni flourished in this atmosphere of hands on learning.
After high school she travelled with a fair, worked in an orchard, spit polished apples, hitchhiked from Colorado to Maryland, went up in a hot air balloon and eventually landed in New York City at 24 St. Marks Place in the east village. She discovered printmaking at The Pratt Institute and has been doing it ever since.
She now resides with her partner in western Massachusetts in Cummington where she maintains her own studio in a 150 year old barn.