You may have noticed the rabbit sculpture welcoming you near the library entrance.
The sculpture was erected in honor of children’s author and illustrator Teri Weidner Dahlen who passed away in December 2019. The memorial sculpture fundraising effort was organized by local artists and illustrators, led by Tess Feltes and Lin Albertson Thorpe, who collaborated with Teri’s husband, Chris Dahlen. They commissioned Thomas Berger to sculpt a piece based on one of Teri’s illustrations. He chose to work with white granite from Bethel, VT - considered the finest kind of granite for sculpting.
Teri’s books have delighted children and adults alike, and her enthusiastic support of literacy, other artists, and the Portsmouth Community made her a cherished member of the seacoast.
In many ways Teri embodied library spirit. She fostered community, she constantly connected people to what they needed, and she shared knowledge and resources without hesitation. She saw the world through a lens of kindness and inclusivity.
Tess Feltes wrote in her tribute:
I met Teri many years ago in a critique group when I was transitioning from natural science illustrating to taking a big leap into illustrating for children. Teri gently gave me what she called “a kick in the pants” to send samples to art directors, resulting in my first assignments for Cricket Magazine.
That was Teri - always generous, always quietly encouraging and always helping others improve their work. She was incredibly talented and her illustrations always shone with her warmth and gentle compassion.
Teri became a dear friend, a fellow animal lover, loving wife and parent and an incredible inspiration …she is greatly missed.
I like to think she would approve of Thomas Berger’s sculpture, which he created from one of her own illustrations.
The stone rabbit in its new home on the Library grounds reflects the spirit of Teri’s love of books, of art, of all creatures great and small and her love of her Portsmouth community.
And in the words of Lin Albertson Thorpe:
I first met Teri working together in a local picture frame shop. To my delight I discovered that this friendly conscientious young woman also had an accomplished career illustrating children’s picture books - the one thing I had dreamed of doing all my life!
Teri became my friend, teacher, and mentor - also my biggest supporter and critic. She really knew how to inspire someone (aka “kick butt”!). Because she had so much confidence in me I couldn’t possibly disappoint her by giving up. So I still have her photo facing me where I create, encouraging me, and (silently) nagging me to “get to work!” And I do....
Teri has shared her knowledge, talents, and enthusiasm with many other artists. Several I know of attribute their own success to her guidance and willingness to direct them to the best publisher or outlet for their work. She was never self-protective or jealous of the success of someone else - rather she celebrated it with all her heart. Her drawings are filled with gentle, loving animals - bunnies, ducks, bears - all with warm, almost human eyes and emotions that children can relate to. She was so proud of the first book she both wrote and illustrated - “Always Twins” - a story based on her twin nieces and the fact that, while they may look identical, each of them is truly unique. And so was Teri - unique in her ability to connect with and understand others, to accept people as they are, and to go out of her way to inspire each person to do their very best as they strive to realize their own dreams.
Teri once said ‘I love to draw bunnies the most.’ And so this beautiful bunny sculpture by Thomas Berger seems an appropriate tribute to Teri and all she has given to us and the world of children’s books in her much too short life. We miss you.
Here is a statement from the sculptor, Thomas Berger:
The focus of my work is to portray the beauty and magic of life.
Life has many forms and faces, and as such I like to honor both noble and sweet creatures and those that are considered less attractive: scaly fish, crusty arthropods and archaic creatures of the sea.
My preferred materials are granite, basalt, marble and bronze. I am frequently inspired by the coincidental shape of a rock boulder, which might reveal a rare form of life that is waiting to be exposed. I often use a stone’s weathered and eroded surfaces to create a contrast with polished ones, representative of the tension between decline and renewal - the cycle of life.
In my art for children I try to promote an emotional attachment to the creature that is represented and hope to contribute to a bond between people and all other living beings.
May this bunny capture Teri’s spirit, and make you feel welcomed and seen as you are, to find delight in nature and animals, and inspire you to follow your dreams and to support others to follow theirs.