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Cray curates show on book arts at USM-Gorham

University of Maine at Presque Isle Senior Art Major Angel Cray has earned a lot of statewide experience in the arts over the past few years. The Presque Isle native completed the first two years of her Bachelor of Fine Art degree at UMPI, and for her junior year, she went to the University of Southern Maine to focus on advanced photography techniques. Before returning to UMPI this fall, however, she was able to add art exhibit curator to her list of accomplishments.

Her show, Techniques from Book Arts, was on display at the Robie Andrews Hall/Galleria in USM’s Gorham campus from July 30 to Sept. 16. The exhibit featured eight artists – including faculty member Lin Lisberger, and students Jenna Larochelle, Marina Douglas, Jennifer Wolfe, Solange Kellermann, Louise Nisbet, Joanne Curtis, and Cray – and featured several different book arts techniques.

Cray happened upon the idea for the show while taking part in the one-week intensive USM course Book Arts at the Stone House, taught by USM faculty member Rebecca Goodale. She decided a show on the arts covered in the course would make a great exhibit subject and subsequently approached USM Art’s Debe Loughlin about the idea. Cray had met Loughlin, who runs the Kidder Student Galleries on the Gorham campus, in a visiting artist photography class they both took at USM.

“When Angel approached me about having a group exhibit this past summer here, I was excited!” Loughlin said. “We often have groups walk through this gorgeous building in the summer – tours for alumni and prospective students and parents, and when there aren’t many students around and it’s quiet – it’s especially great to have student work up. And it was fun to work with Angel again.”

When the answer was ‘yes,’ Cray found she only had days to pull the show together before returning home to Presque Isle for the summer. A frenzy of work followed: collecting people’s art pieces for the show, installing about 40 pieces of art, and making a sign and a guestbook using the book art techniques that she learned from Erin Sweeney, one of the course presenters.

“I was lucky to have a bunch of friends in the same class that were excited about the idea, which made the preparations for the show much easier,” Cray said.

She hopes the show left viewers with a strong sense of the USM book arts class in which she and other artists participated.

“Before I moved to Portland, I had honestly never heard of book arts,” Cray said. “So I wanted to show everyone what a great experience being in the USM Book Arts program could be. It also seemed like a great way to show the many techniques that could be learned in a single week. Each day was a new technique that could be applied to creating an art book.”