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"Dee Dann: Folk Artist" | Reviewed by Bill Schwab

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

The New Haven Preservation Society has just released a compendium of artwork created by highly regarded folk artist Dorris L. “Dee” Dann. The publication presents her work and the ways she captured the unique qualities of the culture of Franklin and St. Charles County, Missouri as well as some areas of Tennessee.

This handsome coffee table book, written and edited by local author David Menke, begins with a brief biography of Dann, including a history of her lineage. In 1971, she moved with her family from Ferguson, Missouri to Bates Street in New Haven.

In total Dann had six children—one passed at a young age and another daughter had graduated high school when the rest of the family made the move. She felt drawn to painting scenes of downtown New Haven and depicted many of the town’s historic buildings. The Citizens Bank of New Haven commissioned her to compose a painting of the scene, including the old schoolhouse, historic churches, significant shops, and homes.

As her fame spread, so did the geographic scope of her paintings. Augusta Wine Country inspired her to paint its rolling hills, quaint villages, and vineyards. Some of these wineries commissioned her to make paintings of their sites and many of those are now on display at the wineries.

Dann became well known for her postcard-size depiction of the 1980s skyline and riverfront of St. Louis. The Gateway Arch, the Robert E. Lee steamboat, the Admiral excursion boat, the Old Courthouse, and many other downtown St. Louis sites are included in this painting.

Dann's years of capturing Americana in folk art were cut short, however, when she was stabbed 43 times on June 10, 2001, by Deborah J. Steinkoetter. Dann was rushed to a St. Louis hospital and died the next day. But before she died, she identified Steinkoetter as the one who inflicted the stab wounds. Steinkoetter, who admitted to being intoxicated at the time of the crime, was later charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action and was ordered to serve 25 years in prison by Judge Gael Wood.

The book is a beautifully narrated and stunningly full-colored 135-page volume. The color of the prints is outstanding and the story is spellbinding. This collection, now preserved in a lasting format, is a fitting memorial to one of Franklin County's fine artists.

About the Author: David Menke is a retired teacher and school administrator who spent 31 years in education. He graduated from New Haven High School and holds degrees from Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Missouri. Menke taught in the Washington School District and was a principal in New Haven. He has written numerous articles and books on local history.

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