June 24, 2018
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Honoring their art

By Robin Clifford Wood, Special to the BDN

Three local artists, women with national-level talents and regional connections, have died within the past year. In addition to being great artists, Helen Marie Allen, Margaret Manter, and Mette Arup Watt were active community volunteers, teachers, mentors, wives and mothers. They were also friends of Boyd Place, an independent living facility for the elderly in downtown Bangor. So it is with especially warm feelings that the Boyd Place Art Committee, in collaboration with the three artists’ families, is presenting a retrospective at Boyd Place from October to the end of January titled “Honoring Their Art: Allen, Manter, Watt.”

I attended last week’s meeting of the Boyd Place Art Committee, which was formed about 10 years ago. The fact that such a committee exists at all is as inspiring to me as the artwork that the committee procures for public enjoyment. Since it was founded, the art committee has hung a couple of dozen art exhibits at Boyd Place with a variety of themes and media – juried photography and quilting shows, wood and fibre, cartoon art, one show called “relative art” which featured artist members from the same family, shows about winter, flowers and many more.

“Since we’re not a professional gallery, we’re not dependent on sales,” said Sarah Clark, a founding member of the art committee who still sits on the board. “So we’re free to experiment.”

Sarah was a board member for the Phillips-Strickland House when Boyd Place was new, and she remembers what inspired the formation of the art committee.

“Blank walls,” she said.

What could they do about all that empty space in the new building? Borrowing an idea that she had seen in action at Eastern Maine Medical Center, Sarah suggested that Boyd Place seek artwork from local artists to grace the walls for a few months at a time.

It wasn’t long before Jane Burger and Fran Clukey, who still sit on the art committee, joined Sarah in assembling regular art shows to appear at Boyd Place. Several others have contributed to the art shows over the years, including two more current committee members, LeeAnne Mallonee and Nina Jerome, who showed their work as artists before joining the committee as volunteers.

The committee’s efforts provide a unique opportunity, a little-known gem for art lovers right in the heart of downtown Bangor. Three times a year, a new collection of original artwork goes on display and stays up for about four months. The shows are free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

There is usually a grand opening reception, and sometimes if there’s enough interest among the residents, artists give talks or workshops. The art shows generate discussion, stimulate interest among residents, provide cultural and aesthetic appeal for guests, visitors, and staff, and offer a unique venue for local artists to exhibit their work. Everybody wins.

This fall’s show holds particular resonance for the women on the art committee. All of them knew the three featured artists whose work now adorns the walls, and their collaboration with the artists’ families has been a labor of love. There are paintings in oil, acrylic, and watercolor. There is mixed media, carved wood, silkscreen, woodblock prints and found art creations, all with the Bangor region and coastal Maine as inspiration.

One of the best parts about the Boyd Place Gallery art shows is the packet that visitors can pick up at the front desk for a self-guided tour. The packet, carefully prepared by the committee, includes background on the artists, their lives and their art, giving even more life to the artwork on the walls. I will leave you with a few of my favorite highlights in the current tour; perhaps these tidbits of personal insight into these three wonderful women will inspire you to drive over to Boyd Street and see their work for yourselves.

Helen Marie Allen used to tell her daughter to “drink it in” when they went on family road trips. That sentiment of drinking in the beauty all around us shows in her work.

Margaret Manter, wrote Carl Little, “speaks softly and carries a lively imagination.” Her whimsical, experimental art is filled with charm.

Finally, in a brief autobiographical piece, Mette Watt paints this evocative picture in prose:

“There is nothing as peaceful as sitting in a field on a perfect day and contemplating a scene. There is nothing as exciting as trying to paint from a rowboat on a choppy day, trying to get the effect of water crashing on the rocks. The result of the latter is not always decipherable but often memorable.”

Robin Clifford Wood welcomes feedback at robin.everyday@gmail.com.


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