CSA: Community Supporting Arts at Maine Farmland Trust in Belfast

(the following adapted from a press release as published at Maine Arts Scene Magazine www.maineartscene.com)

(Belfast, ME) A unique farming-inspired art project undertaken by the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell will be traveling to Belfast this winter. The original show, entitled CSA: Community Supporting Arts opened to great acclaim last fall. A satellite show featuring seven of the original fourteen artists will be on display at the Maine Farmland Trust Gallery from January 4 through February 27, 2013. Some of the other artists will have their work exhibited across town at the Hutchinson Center at the same time.

CSA: Community Supporting Arts is a project of the Kennebec Local Foods Initiative and the Kennebec Valley Art Association, which owns and operates the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell. The premise of the project was a simple one: connect fourteen Maine artists with thirteen central Maine farmers who operate CSAs (or “Community Supported Agriculture,” as explained below). The artists and farmers were asked to “get to know each other” over the course of the 2012 growing season. Needless to say, “getting to know each other” is a euphemism when matching the fertile ground of farms with the creative spark of artists. The result was as rich as a Jersey cow’s milk.

Take Maina Handmaker’s black paper cutouts for instance, inspired by her time at Milkweed Farm in Brunswick. Delicate and bold at the same time, they narrate the processes and patterns of the farm. Says the artist: “I hope that the physical delicacy of my paper cutouts illuminates the strength of the farmers depicted in them, and that my careful contours show the respect I feel for farm work and the life built around it.” Milkweed Farm is a diversified operation growing vegetables, medicinal and culinary herbs, flowers and fruits. The farmers also tend pigs, chickens (for eggs and meat), turkeys, and a milk cow. Their CSA had 50 shares in 2012.

(Image: “Tractor Triptych” by Maina Handmaker)

Partner artists Kim Christensen of Albion and Jamie Ribisi-Braley of Manchester were matched with Wholesome Holmstead in Winthrop, primarily a meat/dairy operation. One of the results, “Cover Crop,” is a collaborative woven piece integrating photography and fiber arts and inspired by the wealth of textures the artists discovered on the farm. “It sort of speaks to how everything on the farm grows out of or feeds off of the fields,” says Ribisi-Braley.

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(Image: “Cover Crop” by Jamie Ribisi-Braley and Kim Christensen)

The other four artist/farm pairs which make up the show at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery are: Kate Barnes (oil paintings) of Oakland, partnered with Grassland Organic Farm in Skowhegan; Aleana Chaplin of Gardiner, partnered with Winterberry Farm in Belgrade; Tyler Gulden (ceramics/pottery) of Walpole, partnered with Morning Dew Farm in Newcastle; and Scott Minzy (lino cuts) of Pittston, partnered with Long Meadow Farm in West Gardiner.

(Image: “Coolidge Effect” by Scott Minzy)

The ultimate goal of the project stretched well beyond artists and farmers “getting to know each other.” Maine’s artist and farming communities are vibrant, idealistic groups, both key to our state’s unique sense of place. The Kennebec Valley Art Association (KVAA) believes that artists can use the power of their artistic voices to effect social change.

The partnering farmers all operate CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) in and around central Maine. In joining a CSA, people make a financial commitment to the farm by investing in a share of the produce at the beginning of the growing season. In return, farmers are committed to producing the freshest, most flavorful, high quality food possible for their members. Typically each CSA member gets a weekly delivery of produce from early summer through the end of harvest. CSAs are a grassroots response to the growing social and environmental problems of our modern industrial food system, and this local foods movement is transforming relationships between people, food and farms. Maine now boasts over 160 CSAs involving more than 6,500 families.

CSA: Community Supporting Arts has been made possible by grant funding from the Maine Community Foundation, the Maine Arts Commission and from the Davis Family Foundation.

Maine Farmland Trust Gallery is delighted to host this exhibit which so perfectly fits within the Trust’s mission of celebrating art in agriculture. For the past five years, Maine Farmland Trust Gallery has been using art as a vehicle to educate and impassion the public about farming in Maine. The Gallery is located at 97 Main Street in Belfast, and open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. For more information, please visitwww.mainefarmlandtrustgallery.org and www.mainefarmlandtrust.org.

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