Habonim honors local artist, founding member

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BARRINGTON – On a Sunday in March, Temple Habonim honored local artist Barnet ‘Bunny’ Fain by showcasing his art and naming its gallery in his honor. The gathering to make the naming official, over wine and cheese, featured several extraordinary pieces by Fain.

“He’s a great guy, and he’s been a pillar of our community for more than 50 years,” said Rabbi Andrew Klein, of Temple Habonim. “He’s a man with a lot of integrity and honesty. He’s someone I respect very much.”

At the age of 85, Fain has only referred to himself as an artist in the past decade. His wife, Jean, was an avid painter who concentrated on portraits. After working for more than 50 years as the CEO of Highland Distributors (Fain’s Fine Carpet and Rugs), Fain decided to retire and pursue a full-time career in the art world. He has concentrated on printmaking.

“I was able to step out of the business world and right into one that was very fulfilling.” Fain said.

A business major at Colby College, Fain met his wife and immediately took an interest in her art. “I never wanted to be a part of the arts, I was brought in primarily through my wife who was a painter. She encouraged me to do my first program,” he said.

Jean Fain passed away in 2010. But recently, he was able to have a gallery show, at the Bristol Art Museum, featuring some of her lifelong work.

Now, he teaches drawing and sketching to art students. What intrigues him the most about teaching, “…is the fact of observation, the ability to observe, the ability to look at, the ability to create something, the beauty of the art.”

His students encompass all ages and all skill levels. “Anyone has the ability to sketch,” he said. “It’s about how well you can observe.

“I think it’s very important that people learn to draw because it’s their sense of observation. When one sits and draws for a matter of hours, one loses time,” Fain said.

For Fain, having his work on display at Temple Habonim has been an honor because he was one of the founders of the temple. When he first moved to Barrington, there was no Jewish community. With a few others, he created what would become Temple Habonim, and he was elected the first president of the congregation. Both of his children were raised in the temple. Even his wife taught religious school classes and worked in the library.

“The art gallery has been around for a few years now and helped to bring a lot of people from the community into Temple Habonim,” Klein said, “It’s kind of appropriate with his love of art and with his love of having this be a part of the community that the art gallery be named after him.”

Two years ago, Fain was diagnosed with a cardiac problem. However, this hasn’t stopped him from continuing to work on his art.

“When I had this diagnosis of this cardiac problem… I said to myself that if I go, I want to stay here and look at the land. I don’t care, because I’ve had such a wonderful life. I get to live out my life in a very highly personal kind of way and I am grateful to be able to continue to make and teach art.” He said.

Fain continues to live in his Barrington house. He is surrounded by a large collection of gorgeous and intriguing works of art that he and his wife have collected over the years. He has donated work to many colleges and local organizations.

“If I go tomorrow, it wouldn’t make much of a difference to me. Not only from my art, but I’ve been able to teach art, and teach this learning program. My life has been so satisfactory and the most wonderful life I could’ve imagined.”

The Bunny Fain Gallery at Temple Habonim, 165 New Meadow Road, offers a rotating schedule of shows, featuring local artists. Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and by appointment.  The gallery is also open during services and programs at the temple.

SETH CHITWOOD has a degree in Film Studies and Theater Performance from R.I. College. He serves as the creative director of the production company Angelwood Pictures. www.angelwoodpictures.com.