Six Degrees of Friends

I began writing columns about Quaker artists in 1983. They have been published monthly in Friends newsletters and on social media and in the two editions of my Quaker Artists book. I have now written 375 pieces, in addition to the introductory material for the books.

I have always tried to write about artists who have some connection with Friends, that is, Quakerism has meant something in their lives. Over the years, however, I have found many artists who have only a loose tie to Friends. (They may have a closer involvement, but I have not found it so far).

I have titled this piece “Six Degrees of Friends” to reflect those indirect links. But it also reflects an artist I want to share: Kevin Bacon. He is, of course, the inspiration for the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game.

Some artists have Quaker ancestors. Kevin Bacon is one. Among other artists with Quaker ancestors are Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt, Owen Wister, Zoey Deschanel, Emily Deschanel, Caleb Deschanel and Thomas Eakins. There are also people who are not known as artists but who wrote, including Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Daniel Boone, Edward R. Murrow and Thomas Paine.

Some artists have attended Friends schools. There are many of them: Jim Broadbent, Jon Bernthal, Dan Hedaya, Adam Rauch, Fisher Stevens, Lena Dunham, Liev Schreiber, Kyra Sedgwick, Olivia Thirlby, Lee Marvin, Caleb Carr, John Dos Passos, Gore Vidal, Francine Prose, M. Scott Peck, Sonya Clark, Oteil Burbridge, Vera Wang, Ana Gasteyer and Lee Miller. There are also people who are not known as artists but who wrote, including Julian Bond and Bill Nye.

Some artists have family ties to Friends. They are David Byrne, Cheryl Tiegs, Robert Ryan, Paul Robeson and Amanda Peet.

It is fun to collect these artists in a column. And it clears the board for many artists only peripherally associated with Quakers whom I had listed in my files for many years!

Gary Sandman

September 2023

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