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Hopkinton art exhibit highlights ICE detainees

  • One of the panels of the 45,000 Quilt Project. —Alyssa McKeon

  • Interior of the display for the quilt project. —Alyssa McKeon

  • Close-up of a few squares in one of the quilt panels. Photos courtesy of Alyssa McKeon

  • Art is displayed throughout the Two Villages Art Gallery.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/18/2021 5:10:51 PM

The Two Villages Art Society in Hopkinton is beginning its first season of exhibiting art, and president Alyssa McKeon could not be more excited.

“In this first full season we were looking to raise up local but unheard voices,” she said, adding that it is the mission of the art society to be “focused on the artists and art communities and art lovers.”

One of their first projects this season is organizing and showing the 45,000 Quilt Project, started by resident Glen Ring, at the Hopkinton Town Hall through March 24.

The project started when Ring read a statistic that an average of 45,000 people were in ICE detention centers every day of 2019. She also met a man who had been in detention, which put the issue into perspective for her.

“And then I started thinking about how statistics, you know, you just read them and they don’t really have any impact on you,” Ring said.

So she decided that to help conceptualize that number, she would create “an artwork that showed the hugeness of 45,000, that would be something people could take with them.”

Ring had previously worked on immigrant justice issues and had what she called “an affinity for art projects,” but she could not take on such a project all on her own. In July of 2020, she asked on Facebook if people would be willing to contribute and ended up enlisting the help of 60 artists.

Ring said that participants came from 12 states, some of them children, and one person from Oaxaca, Mexico.

“It just kind of grew,” Ring said. The project now consists of six 9-by-9-foot panels comprising 45 squares, each square with 1,000 marks on it. Besides this, the design parameters were “pretty loose,” Ring said, adding that the panels “didn’t have to look like anything,” but just had to have the marks. This created a “diverse, colorful, and personal” result, according to Ring, with the panels decorated with a variety of artistic methods and symbols.

When artists finished with their panels, Ring received them by mail. The final one arrived just last week.

Ring previously showed the project in August, back when just one panel was complete, but this is the first show with all six completed. “It’s exciting, it’s new for me,” Ring said.

Ring didn’t complete the project on her own or even just with the help of the 60 collaborators. Fellow local artists helped her out, including Kathy Spielman, who sewed together and backed many of the panels and Maja Hawck-Smith who worked on the sleeves and frames for the panels, as well as Nancy Brennan who helped make squares to “tie the whole thing together,” Ring said.

“What’s been very gratifying,” Ring said, “is now as time goes on, finding out that we’re sort of part of a tradition of putting together social justice art.” Art, Ring said, is “a really excellent teaching tool.”

“Art kind of draws people in and then they have conversations about things,” Ring said. And the conversations she hopes to spark revolve around examining immigration policy and its impacts.

“It’s about humanity and people treating people humanely,” Ring said. “We can start by looking at detaining people, and is that really a way to treat people who are vulnerable?”

Ring hopes that the project will get people “thinking and communicating in a way that’s not directly confrontational, but sort of gets you thinking and gets you feeling.”

The connection between the 45,000 Quilt Project and the Two Villages Art Society also happened over Facebook, when Ring saw posts mentioning the art society and got curious.

McKeon called it “an amazing happenstance” that Two Villages got the opportunity to show the 45,000 Quilt Project. The show is part of a secondary goal of the art society’s to program and display art at the town hall, as opposed to the exhibitions in their regular home, the Bates Building.

“The shows at the town hall are about exposing people to the work,” McKeon said, while exhibitions at the gallery serve the dual purpose of getting artists recognition and selling their work. “It’s another aspect of our mission which isn’t just about buying or selling work,” McKeon said, “and we want to be exposing the community to diverse ideas and work.”

“I think whether or not you agree with the work,” McKeon added, “it opens up a door to conversation, and it’s beautiful in its own right.”

Following the quilt project, the first exhibition at the Two Villages gallery will be titled “No Straight Lines: The nature of Hope,” featuring photographs and drawings from nature with a focus on resilience and hope. Photographers Sher Kamman and John Hoglund, along with painter Ann Saunderson and musician Rick Lugg, collaborated on the exhibit. It will open April 9.

Other exhibitions throughout the season include one entitled “Abenaki People Emerging from the Ashes,” the result of a collaboration between the Abenaki Trails Association and Vermont Abenaki Artists Association to display what McKeon called “a vibrant, living culture that isn’t recognized much in New Hampshire.”

This will be followed by a show called “Release,” themed around the idea of escape from being confined. Then will come “Into the Woods,” a display of large-scale work from local and regional woodworkers. “The gallery itself will be transformed,” McKeon said

Finally, the gallery will show an exhibition called “Truth be told; An Artful Gathering of Women,” which will display work from 14 women artists from diverse geographical and racial backgrounds, exploring what it means to be a woman in today’s world.

McKeon said that all of these exhibitions coming together for the first season is “incredibly exciting.” The art society formed in September of 2020, from a grassroots movement to have an arts organization serving the local community, McKeon said. The interest became apparent after the Bates Building, originally the home of a house of art, was going to be sold by the town. Following wide-spread community response, McKeon said, the idea sprung out to transform it into a nonprofit with “a bigger scope.”

Now, McKeon said, they are a collaborative, member-driven organization. “We look to our membership to help us come up with shows, ideas, meet-ups, events,” she said. “Anyone is welcome to join.”

It is also an entirely volunteer organization, McKeon said. “So we are in it for the artists, art lovers and community, which is why we’re listening, why we’re doing it – because we love it and we’re passionate about it.”

The 45,000 Quilt Project will be on display in Hopkinton town hall until March 24, and the Two Villages Art Society’s first exhibition will begin April 9.

For more information about Two Villages Art Society, go to twovillagesart.org or email info@twovillagesart.org.

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