The University of Maine at Presque Isle's Reed Fine Art Gallery will present Vera, a series of events in celebration of Women's History Month in March that includes an exhibition at the Reed, a literary journal, two receptions, a performance, a historical tour, and a panel discussion. The large slate of events has been co-organized with the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library and the Presque Isle Historical Society.
Through many mediums, Vera examines a history about the County that hasn't been told. Named in honor of the eclectic and independent local historical figure Vera Estey, the series features the work of several women artists and writers who took the County woman as their muse and either honored her directly or expanded beyond her story to explore their own and other historic women's legacies.
"All of the Vera events examine the identity of The County Woman," Heather Sincavage, Reed Gallery Director and coordinator for the Vera series, explained. "We are privileged to live in a community where women are self-starters, taking initiatives as leaders for change. As we dive into local history archives, though, we find that much of the women's story is not represented. We hope to help honor those women through this effort."
The women involved in the Vera series, all of whom are associated with The County, created visual and written work that serves as the basis for a Reed Gallery art exhibition and a literary publication, both simply named Vera. The literary journal was made possible by a University of Maine System Diversity Steering Committee Grant and was designed by UMPI Fine Arts student Rowena Forbes. Artists and writers were provided with access to the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library County Archives as well as a comprehensive tour of the Vera Estey House with Historical Society member Kim Smith, event co-coordinator. A wonderful complement to this project is the Presque Isle Historical Society's 50th Anniversary Celebration, which was organized to coincide with the exhibition and publication.
"It is truly exciting to be able to say that Presque Isle Historical Society has served this community with quality historical information and programming for 50 years," Smith said. "As such, it is very appropriate for the Society to be sharing our celebration by partnering with the Reed Fine Art Gallery at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library, both of whom also have a rich history of serving the community."
The event series features local talent. The concept is simply "County Women BY County Women." The artists featured in the exhibition are: Heather Harvell, Heather Nunez, Cortney Rector, Carol Ayoob, Andrea Peterson, Melissa Crowe, and Whitney Graham. Each of these artists have ties to the area, either as born natives or transplants to the area. It is a diverse group of women working in a plethora of mediums from acrylic paint, to assemblage, to human hair.
The writers of the Vera Literary Journal are just as diverse. They include: Kimberly Pratt, Melissa Crowe, Melissa Jenks, Kathryn Olmstead, Alice Bolstridge, Cathie Pelletier, Pamela Snow Sweester, and Glenna Smith. The journal consists of short story, poetry, historical narrative, and even an excerpt from a novel in progress.
Dianna Leighton of the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library and event co-coordinator provided invaluable assistance to the talent involved in the Women's History Month event.
"Although it's fair to say that the women participating in Vera serve as a remarkably diverse group, the magic of the project has been found in the common themes that have emerged, both among ourselves and with our 'muses' from a century ago," Leighton said. "When working with the library's historical photographs, scrapbooks, and letters, I would so often be struck by the humor, openness, and bold spirit of the women that helped to shape our area into what it is today. As exhibit-goers will soon see, that spirit is still very much alive today with our current generation of creators and community builders."
The series kicks off on Friday, March 1, with the opening reception for the Reed Gallery's Vera art exhibition. The show runs through Saturday, April 13, 2013. The public is invited to join the featured artists for the reception, to be held from 5 to 7 p.m. in conjunction with the First Friday Art Walk.
On Tuesday, March 12, there will be a panel discussion with a selection of artists and writers who took part in Vera sharing their research and experience about The County Woman identity and their artistic interpretation of the theme. This presentation will take place in the UMPI Campus Center Multi-Purpose Room at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, March 23, the Reed Gallery will be open late to take part in the Presque Isle Historical Society's 50th anniversary celebration. Please contact Kim Smith at the historical society regarding its Champagne & Candlelight Tour of the Vera Estey House that evening. Reservations are required as space is limited. Tours will be given at 4 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person. Reservations can be made by calling the Reservation Line at 762-6300. For more information, please visit the Society's website at www.pihistory.org.
Finally, the closing reception of the Vera exhibition will take place in the Reed Gallery on Friday, April 5, from 5-7 p.m. and include a reading of selections from the Vera Journal by the authors. The Mawita'jig E'pijig (Gathering of Women) drumming group will open the April reception by sharing Micmac songs that highlight the connections between storytelling, tradition, community, and identity.
"Since relocating to Aroostook County, I have met an impressive group of women who collectively have a drive and initiative unparalleled by any other community I have been a part of," Sincavage said. "I have been impressed by their fearless attitude to test themselves, whether artistically or otherwise, and how the sisterhood of the community is there to support each other. THIS is the spirit of Women's History Month and we invite everyone to come and be a part of it."
Each event is free and open to the public (except the Champagne & Candlelight Tour which is $10 per person, reservations required). Light refreshments will be served.