Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 4, 2014 and The Weekly Packet, September 4, 2014
Art and farming mingle at Reversing Falls Sanctuary
Artists portray local farm life
by Tevlin Schuetz
A season-long experiment matching local artists with farmers culminated in a gallery opening on Sunday, August 24.
Through a program organized by members of the Reversing Falls Sanctuary community, artists and writers were given the opportunity to pair up with local farmers to learn about their lives and work and to create art based on their shared experiences.
Artist and organizer Pat Wheeler explained that the goal of the project was to investigate how people connect to the land and how this is critical to the survival of humanity.
The art show was also the inaugural event for the “Gallery Within,” as the gallery space is called, which was finished just in time to host the show, Wheeler said.
The opening was attended by about 100 people, according to Wheeler, and was augmented by the same type of spontaneity that yielded positive experiences for the artists and farmers during the season. In addition to artists and writers speaking about their work, there was an impromptu performance by a pianist.
Two Brooksville Elementary students also showed up to represent their fellow classmates, who had participated by creating sections for a quilt inspired by David’s Folly Farm. The students had been taught to stitch by their grandmothers, Wheeler said.
Artists and farmers
When asked about how artists engaged with the farmers and their families and how they created work, writer and photographer Chris Farrow-Noble stated that the experience was different for each artist. As for her, she “entered into it without much knowledge of farming,” but ended up learning a lot about it. She also helped deliver baskets of food to the Tree of Life food pantry in Blue Hill, she said.
Some of the farmers got involved in the creative process, too. As Farrow-Noble explained, Pam Rackliffe at Goodnight Farm had the idea of creating a labyrinth with crops. It was not long before Rackliffe approached her with a design sketched in colored pencil. The two women ultimately created a vegetable, herb and flower labyrinth on Rackliffe’s farm.
Artist Leslie Moore used pen and ink to reveal the events in the life of a rooster at Horsepower Farm in Penobscot.
Ron King, of King Hill Farm in Penobscot, is both a farmer and an artist. Some of his pieces—created from dried gourds that are decorated—are currently displayed in the show and had served as a stimulus for Beatrix Gates’ writing.
Wheeler said that she enjoyed her involvement with the family at Tinderhearth bakery. She chose to focus on the people and their activities, she said.
The venture was successful, as contributor Anne Ferrara observed, because “the artist and the farmer are equally creative.”
Wheeler had worked on a similar idea during her time in Oregon in which she focused her artistic lens on a family who farmed apple rootstock. She felt it was important “to honor them,” and she wanted to create community through supporting local food, she said.
After Wheeler pitched the idea to the Sanctuary, people were quick to come up with farmers and artists whom they thought might be interested. In many cases the artists and farmers already knew each other, Wheeler said.
The project was a year in the making, Wheeler said, and required a concerted effort by the departments of finance, programming and building maintenance at the Sanctuary.
Volunteers from the Reversing Falls Sanctuary—which Wheeler described as a “post-denominational” community of people who are “exploring spirituality”—worked to restore the 114-year-old building. It had been a Methodist church before being “decommissioned” around 2000, Wheeler said. The Sanctuary applied for and received grant money for the restoration and new LED track lighting and art hanging systems, which were installed in the nick of time before the gallery opening.
When asked if another Farm/Art Exchange is in the works, Wheeler smiled. “We better get an art team together if we’re going to do it again,” she said. She added that she wants to continue working with farmers, and the respect she has for them has only continued to grow.
Wheeler said she is awestruck by the hardworking nature of people on the Peninsula, where there is a “tradition of passing on what you know.”