“Portraits of African Americans, Past and Present”

FullSizeRender(5)Great Falls Discovery Center, 2 Avenue A
Artist Reception Sunday, February 7 from 1-3:30pm
Lecture: “A Web of Community: Slavery in a Rural New England Town” at 2:30pm.

The Great Falls Discovery Center will host an artists’ reception for the exhibition “Portraits of African Americans, Past and Present” and a lecture by Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association Director Tim Neumann. The art exhibition features near life size paintings by Louise Minks and fabric sculpture by Belinda Lyons Zucker.

Louise Minks has lived and painted in Leverett for twenty-five years. Her colorful expressionistic oils and acrylics often focus on local scenes in the Connecticut River Valley or along the Massachusetts seacoast. Louise is passionate about both history and art, so putting the two together is an ideal project for her.  She spent several years in the 1990s creating ten near life-size, full figure oil portraits of African American people.   Inspired by the lives and words of these ten persons that she chose, Minks began in her small barn studio, working from models or the real person to portray Frederick Douglass or Mary Pittman Wyatt from South Deerfield, but she finished the project as artist-in-residence at Memorial Hall Museum.

All the figures relate to the Connecticut River valley in some way, even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr who was a summer farm worker in Connecticut while he was in college.  Four of the figures are persons from her church, one serving as the model for Lucy Terry Prince of Deerfield in the 1740s.  The only portrait painted from photographs was Dr. King.  The exhibit toured to area schools, libraries, businesses and colleges for 15 years, along with wood carvings by John Lollar Jr. of Greenfield.  Minks and Lollar made presentations and worked with students on art projects in schools that hosted the exhibit. The portrait of Lucy Terry Prince is on loan to Memorial Hall Museum during its open season.  Minks has gone on to create touring art projects related to Native American people, Kenya , and the underground railroad.

Minks has a studio at Leverett Crafts & Arts, shows her work at Sawmill River Arts Gallery at The Montague Mill (BookMill) and does history and art presentations through Road Scholar (Elderhostel).

Multi-media artist Belinda Lyons Zucker creates detailed handmade dolls with expressive clay faces that represent historic African American figures, family members, and memories of people she has known through her life, frequently women. Belinda’s work is an expression of her connection with African ritual, mythology, and folklore. She has explored the ancient art of West African dollmaking by stretching the definition of dolls as playthings, to objects that serve as art, meditation and ritual. Belinda has created over 400 dolls and figures for galleries and by commission.

“Portraits of African Americans, Past and Present” will be on display in the Great Hall from February 5 to March 31.

Tim Neumann, Executive Director of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, will give a lecture “A Web of Community: Slavery in a Rural New England Town” at 2:30pm. Learn about the complicated social interactions and economic relationships between free and enslaved African Americans during the mid-eighteenth century when 38% of households in Deerfield included slaves.

Founded in Deerfield in 1870 as the first historical society in Western Massachusetts, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association is a vibrant regional organization, supporting the Memorial Hall Museum and Library, Deerfield Teachers’ Center, Indian House Children’s Museum, and Community Outreach projects. More information at www.deerfield-ma.org and www.AmericanCenturies.mass.edu


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