In just two weeks, a Retrospective event – centered on the three Phish music festivals that took place in Aroostook County in 1997, 1998, and 2003 – will be held at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and as a precursor to that event, the University will host a unique unveiling ceremony during Homecoming 2009 Weekend.
On Friday, Sept. 18 at 3:30 p.m. on the west lawn of Pullen Hall, a special ceremony will be held to unveil the IT Men – giant, 20-foot-tall, lime green traffic control figures constructed out of plywood that once stood at the concert gates of a Phish music festival. These figures have been installed on the west end of Pullen Hall in honor of the Phish Retrospective, being hosted by the Reed Art Gallery from Sept. 28 to Nov. 21.
The Retrospective – which is being co-organized by Art Professor Anderson Giles, Cultural Affairs Director Carol Ayoob, and Reed Art Gallery Director Sandra Huck – will include a forum, a documentary film viewing, guest lectures, and an art gallery exhibition.
It was more than a decade ago that the first Phish music festival – The Great Went – was held at the former Loring Air Force Base, drawing thousands of people and, for a few days, turning Limestone into the ‘largest city’ in the State of Maine. Phish returned in 1998 for the band’s Lemonwheel concert and in 2003 for the IT festival. Together, the three concerts brought more than 200,000 concertgoers to northern Maine and pumped more than $25 million into the economy.
The Retrospective will focus on the economic, sociological, and creative aspects of these concerts, but before it commences, the IT Men will be unveiled to stand sentinel over the Retrospective activities. President Don Zillman will be on hand to “cut the cord” to reveal the IT men, reborn. The art installation has been carefully restored to resemble the way it appeared back in 2003.
Professor Anderson Giles has been tenderly protecting the IT Men figures for six years, caring for them through long Aroostook winters and rainy, damp springs, awaiting the perfect opportunity to instill them with new life. Giles worked closely with then Loring Development Authority Director Brian Hamel to salvage the IT Men after the 2003 music festival and move them to the UMPI campus with the intent of utilizing them somehow, at some point in the future, as reminders of the phenomenally creative Phish concerts.
A helpful crew of UMPI facilities employees have reconstructed and refurbished these giants under the guidance of Professor Giles. Tim Doak and Tim Roix of B.R. Smith Associates, Inc., generously donated numerous hours to assess the restoration needed and engineer the secure installation of “Don and Charlie” (the IT Men) on the western facade of Pullen Hall. Lee Merchant of Lee Merchant Signs volunteered his talents and his crane to lift the giants to their current location.
“The intent of their installation is the broader aspect of what they represent, beyond the rock spectacle – the illumination of higher education, for example, and the role aviation has played in the history of Presque Isle, Limestone, and Aroostook County,” Giles said. “They also bring recognition to our University’s Fine Art program on campus. With their arms in the air, pointing, and hands holding guiding flames of light, they are the perfect symbol of educational enlightenment and icons of creative thinking.”
Just a week and a half after the IT Men are unveiled, the Phish Retrospective will kick off on Tuesday, Sept. 29 with a “Phish Philm.” A documentary on the IT Festival by Gudren Finchwillow will be shown in Wieden Auditorium at 7 p.m.
On Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center, a Phish Phorum will be held, featuring a discussion group and a Q&A session.
On Thursday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center, Brian Hamel will present a guest lecture on The Who, What and Why of Phish coming to Limestone, Maine. Hamel, the former director of the Loring Development Authority, will speak about the work he did to bring Phish to the area.
On Sunday, Oct. 4 at 2:30 p.m. in the Campus Center, the Retrospective will feature a talk by Mr. Kevin Shapiro, the band’s official archivist, on the inner workings of the Phish Archives and the historical context of the band’s festivals in Maine.
Later on Oct. 4, at 4 p.m. in the Reed Art Gallery, an opening reception will be held for the Phish Retrospective Exhibition. With a careful sense of documentation, Professor Giles has been able to supply the Reed Art Gallery with a broad spectrum of artifacts and photographs that he has been actively collecting since 1997. The Phish Retrospective Exhibition will include an extensive collection of relics, memorabilia, posters, and art works from the three shows which will be featured in the gallery, located in the University’s Campus Center, from Oct. 4 through Nov. 21.
During the weeklong Retrospective, WUPI radio will also host guest Phish commentators and broadcast a rock jam or two. Organizers also have set up an interactive web site for Phish Phans to record some of their memories and post images of The Great Went, Lemonwheel and IT Festivals.
For more information about the Retrospective, visit the website at www.umpi.edu/phish or contact Sandra Huck at 768-9611.