‘Today’ show to feature Indiana, Farnsworth

Posted Dec. 18, 2009, at 10:25 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The word “hope” is always a key concept around the holidays, and this year, the “Today” television show has chosen to focus on that word through the lens of two Maine institutions.

The NBC early morning show will feature American painter Robert Indiana, who lives on Vinalhaven, and Rockland’s Farnsworth Art Museum, which is displaying Indiana’s works, including some versions of his play on “Hope.”

The piece will air about 7:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 1.

Farnsworth spokesman David Troup said producers and a film crew from the New York-based broadcast recently visited the museum and filmed some of the pieces in the exhibition, which is called “Robert Indiana and the Star of Hope.” The crew also traveled to Vinalhaven to film Indiana at his home, called the Star of Hope, the town’s former Oddfellows Hall.

Indiana became an international sensation in 1963 when he did the same for the word “Love.” His iconic image of stacked letters with a tilted “O” appeared on a Christmas card and took off from there.

“Certainly they were intrigued by the word ‘Hope’ and the concept of ‘Hope,’” Troup said, “especially in regards to it having been such a difficult year economically and with our involvement as a nation in various foreign lands. Here we are with the word ‘Hope,’ with the new year [coming]. When you think of ‘Love,’ people were inspired a generation ago and here we are years later and the word ‘Hope’ has emerged from the same artist.”

The feature also includes an interview with Michael Komanecky, the Farnsworth’s chief curator and interim director, as well as footage of some of the pieces in the Farnsworth Indiana show.

Indiana’s spokeswoman, Kathleen Rogers, said that in 2008 Indiana was already at work on a “Hope” sculpture when then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama began using the word frequently in his campaign for the presidency. Obama wrote a book called “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream,” published in 2006.

The Farnsworth’s Indiana exhibition opened in June and was supposed to be closed by Oct. 25 but has been extended to Jan. 10 due to its popularity, Troup said. Museum attendance was up 40 percent from last year for the May-November season, and up 30 percent for 2009 so far. The Indiana exhibit, along with a show of work by painter Jamie Wyeth, has contributed to the rise, Troup added.

Indiana was the recipient earlier this year of the Farnsworth’s Maine in America award for his contribution to Maine’s role in American art.

Indiana was born Robert Clark in New Castle, Ind., and has lived on Vinalhaven since 1978.

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