New London woman fulfills dream with art exhibit at Groton Public Library
Groton — When Suzanne Elliot worked at the Groton Public Library years ago managing exhibits, among other responsibilities, she always envisioned one day holding her own exhibit there.
She now has realized that dream with an exhibit, “Oil Paintings by Suzanne Elliot,” on display in the library's Community Room. The exhibit melds her love of libraries with her love of art.
“I hope viewing this exhibit will put a smile on peoples’ faces and inspire them to pursue their own dreams,” said Elliot, a retired librarian who worked at the Groton Public Library for more than two decades.
Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Elliot loved books, a passion fostered by her mother and father, who always read to Elliot and her siblings. She also enjoyed drawing ever since nursery school.
When she got a little older, she would walk from the school to the neighborhood library and one of her favorite topics was how to draw, as well as ballet, dancing and music. Then after she came home and did homework, she would sit down and draw. She also liked to play librarian with her friends, taping checkout slips to the back of her books and her friends would go through her collection and check out books from her.
She started giving her father art before he left for his job as an orthodontist and couldn’t wait to find out what his patients thought of her work.
She was headed toward a career in fine arts, but when she was 10 years old, her father died of kidney disease at age 40. Her mother supported the family with a teaching career at the Ohio State University.
Elliot ultimately decided that the best career for her to support a family, if called upon, would be library science.
She earned a bachelor's degree in Spanish literature from the University of Wisconsin, and went on to earn master's degrees in Spanish literature and library science from the University of Michigan, where she was also a teaching fellow in the Department of Romance Languages. She then earned an advanced certificate in library administration from the University of Wisconsin.
Elliot moved to southeastern Connecticut in 1974 and has lived in Groton, Gales Ferry and Ledyard. She currently resides in New London and has a son, daughter and four grandchildren.
She began working at the Groton Public Library as a part-time reference librarian in 1974 and, over the years, rose through the ranks and worked as head of special services, head of information services and head of adult services.
She said she also was in charge of a major library building expansion referendum in the 1990s, which passed by one of the largest margins in the town’s history. She’s really proud of that accomplishment, but said it wasn’t just her: it was the grassroots team of residents she had recruited to help garner support for the project. She loved the challenge and believed so fervently in the library and what it had to offer.
Her late brother, James Elliot, a famous astronomer who had a crater on Pluto named after him, loved the library and even helped her update its math, physics, astronomy and astrophysics collections.
She left the Groton Public Library in 1998 to become the director of Wethersfield Public Library. In her more than four-decade career in public libraries in Connecticut, she also worked at the Otis Library in Norwich, the Public Library of New London and the Russell Library in Middletown.
She said she’s so proud of the Groton Public Library and the other libraries where she worked.
“My heart and soul is there in all my work at the Groton Public Library,” Elliot said.
While pursuing her career in libraries, she also took classes at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum and the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts. Elliot, who retired in 2015, started taking impressionist painting classes from Lois Constantine in Mystic. Elliot said Constantine is an amazing teacher and encouraged and supported her.
Elliot's oil paintings include depictions of New London Harbor Lighthouse, Winthrop Mill in New London, Alewife Cove, Lake Tahoe, and Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
One of her favorites is called "Nic’s Flowers" and is a painting of a gorgeous floral arrangement from her late nephew’s memorial in 2019. She said her nephew Nicolas James Bureau, who died suddenly of a stroke and heart attack, was “the kindest soul and a beautiful man inside and out.”
Elliot had brought some of her paintings to the library one day to show them to some of her friends. Two women asked her where she got the paintings, and she thought, "Oh, they liked them, maybe I've reached the point where I can exhibit."
She reached out to her friend Barbara Candler, who is in charge of the exhibits at the library and gave Elliot the go-ahead after taking a look at her work. The exhibit was canceled twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elliot celebrated the exhibit by hosting a family reunion at her home, and relatives came from all over the country and attended her exhibit.
She encourages other aspiring artists to ask the library about exhibiting their work. She urges people not to hesitate or be afraid to take the first step toward realizing their dreams, because once they get started, it will happen. She also exhibited her art at the Waterford Public Library in October.
"I think it's so important for people to feel fulfilled and every person has talents inside of them," she said. "I just say 'go for it' and think of different ways that you can do that. There's not only one way. Talk to people, see how they got started. I'm so glad that I had roots in my childhood but I think we all do."
The exhibit at the Groton Public Library, 52 Newtown Road, is free and open to the public through Tuesday, June 27, during library hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Paintings are for sale. People who have questions or want to know more about Elliot’s artwork can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.