Saturday, February 19, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: Portraits in Writing at Chandler Gallery in Randolph

Randolph's Chandler Gallery Welcomes the Hale Street Gang

The Hale Street Gang: Portraits in Writing comes home to Randolph on February 26, when the Chandler Gallery pairs the touring exhibit with a retrospective by Bethel artist D'Ann Calhoun Fago. Portraits in Writing features the work of Braintree photographer Jack Rowell and twelve members of the Greater Randolph Senior Center who have been writing down their life stories with the help of project leader Sara Tucker.

Rowell's larger-than-life black-and-white portraits of the memoirists are the focal point of Portraits in Writing, which incorporates audio of the writers reading from their works-in-progress. The project began when Rowell attended a public reading at the Greater Randolph Senior Center in the fall of 2009. Impressed with the energy and experiences of the writers, who are all in their eighties and nineties, he later set up a four-day photo shoot and approached Gregory Sharrow of the Vermont Folklife Center, who recorded the writers' voices. The multimedia exhibit debuted last fall at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury and moved to the Statehouse in January.

"The community has really rallied around this project," says Tucker, noting that much of the funding came from individual supporters with connections to the Randolph area. An initial grant from the Lamson Howell Foundation was followed by an online fund-raising campaign that enabled friends and family members around the country to make contributions of $10 or more via The Corner Frame Shop in Randolph donated its services, and a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation enabled the publishing of an anthology, The Hale Street Gang: In Cahoots, as well as the series of free workshops and readings that will take place in Chandler's upper gallery on three different weekends in March.

The twelve five-minute memoirs reflect the experiences of an eclectic group. Margaret Egerton, who finished writing down her life story shortly before she died at the age of 99, remembered the fear she felt as a child in wartime England; Loraine Chase's reading recalls how her hardworking parents weathered the Depression; Mary Hutchinson tells about growing up in a household that included two very different grandmothers. D'Ann Calhoun Fago was a twenty-year-old graduate of the University of Kentucky when she was hired to teach art in Jackson, a hardscrabble Kentucky mining town known for its outstanding homicide rate; her memoir "Feudin' Country" recalls that formative experience in her development as an artist.

The retrospective of Fago's work that shares the Chandler exhibit space was curated by Paul Gruhler for the Governor's Office last fall. Fago has figured prominently in the cultural life of Vermont for over 40 years. Though best known as the longtime director of Vermont's Arts and Crafts Service during the 1960s and '70s, her life in the arts began in her native state of Kentucky and moved on to North Carolina, Georgia, New York City and eventually Vermont. In traversing the arc of her artistic journey, Fago has employed a broad range of media in a wide range of styles. Watercolors, charcoal and pencil drawings, and works in other media explore the natural and human worlds. Fago's interest in people is particularly striking. She grew up identifying with society's marginalized people, and for over 75 years her prolific output has returned to that inspiration. Marilyn Neagley, a friend who worked with Fago in the 1970s to preserve Shelburne Farms, notes that she "quietly supported the work of the younger generation, not only through her own commitment to the arts, but also through her deep sense of social justice. With elegance and a marvelous sense of humor, she humbly helped to provide a container in which their work and ideas could grow."

The dual exhibit opens February 26 and runs until March 27. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, February 26, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The following gallery events are all free and open to the public. To register for the memoir-writing workshop, email or call 802-236-9609.

March 12: Reading/authors’ talk: Members of the Hale Street Gang read from and talk about their work. At 2 p.m.

March 19: The 10-Minute Memoir: A writing workshop with project leader Sara Tucker. From 10 a.m. to noon.

March 26: Reading and book-signing: Our House in Arusha, by Sara Tucker. A behind-the-scenes look at the writing of a family memoir. At 2 p.m.

Exhibit hours: Thursday 4–6 pm; Friday through Sunday, 12–5 pm; and by appointment

Image: Margaret, photograph by Jack Rowell