A sparkling spirit has taken her place in the starry skies above
by CC and Polly Stark
Alice McCanna Stark passed away on December 1, 2011 in San Miguel de Allende at the age of 84 after a prolonged respiratory illness.
Born in Oak Park, Illinois, she was later raised in New York, by her artist mother, Clare Foy McCanna. In the1940’s, at the young age of 16 she was one of a group of select pioneer students at North Carolina’s Black Mountain College, studying under such illustrious and controversial instructors as Josef and Anni Albers.
Throughout her youth as a fashion photographer’s stylist in NYC, she showed a great flair for costuming and decorative styling that would continue to enhance every aspect of her long life.
She married her husband William Stark, a painter and textile designer, in 1952. At her husband’s side, on extended visits to Europe, they were influential in conceiving new looks and styles for the international bed and bath world, working with design houses such as Marimekko, Yves St. Laurent, Pierre Cardin and Bjorn Winblad among others.
In 1973, seeking an alternative to suburban life in Westchester, New York, Alice and Bill and their two young daughters moved to San Miguel de Allende. Instantly, they were immersed in the creative ferment of this town. Alice worked her decorative magic, voluntarily helping to decorate galas and benefits for numerous local organizations and charities, as well as sewing and festooning endless costumes for the fledgling, now well-renowned Players’ Workshop.
For over 20 years her most elaborate and celebrated efforts were the costumes created annually for eciallyellas Artes’ Christmas pastorelas, under the direction of Mascha Beyo.
Many Mexican and foreign actors, dancers and artists contributed to these community performances at Bellas Artes with untrammeled volunteer enthusiasm.
Alice was a true proponent of using San Miguel’s prevailing artistic community as a formative “classroom” for children, esp. her own.
Throughout the 70’s Alice and Bill oversaw the education of their teenage daughters through the creation of a home/tutorial school, providing a unique alternative for English-language schooling during a time when there were very few local educational options.
She also lent her tremendously creative and forward-thinking force by sharing in the formation of one of San Miguel’s first bilingual primary schools, now better known as the Escuela Bilingüe José Vasoncelos. Ever generous with her time, energy and creative skills, if a banner for this “new” Montessori kindergarten was needed, Alice magically crafted it; as books and English-language textbooks were needed, Alice searched out donations. If a kitchen table chat was in order to soothe a cultural frustration or a fitful faculty member, she provided an accessible sounding board.
For many years, she tended shop and dazzled us all with her display skills at Cappy Rice’s unique boutique, “By Appointment Only”, and later at “De Diéz a Dos”, both stores being beacons of design and accessories during a simpler San Miguel era.
Whimsy was her constant companion, yet with a twinkle in her eye and a fiery wit, her superb command of language, and her unwavering voice on “the right thing to do”, she has left behind a tone of excellence in everything that she participated in.
Alice is survived by her daughters Polly Stark Ortega and CC Stark de Osornio, their husbands Victorino Ortega and Mario Osornio, her grandchildren Alejandro, Luna, Sonia, Lucy and Lily, and great-granddaughter Emma.
We will miss her fanciful, engaging spirit, her creative wizardry and her firm wisdom.
So-as the galaxy gains some extra glitter let’s all raise a glass of champagne in her memory…but in a “pretty” glass, please!