Treasured Places, Protected Spaces will showcase conservation lands of the Monadnock Region through the eyes of over forty regional artists. At the opening of this exhibit, Electric Earth musicians will provide nature-inspired works for flute, viola, and harp, performed by Laura Gilbert, Jonathan Bagg, and Jacqui Kerrod. The program includes Timo Andres “I found it in the Woods”; Robert Paterson “Embracing the Wind”; Toru Takemitsu “And Then I Knew T’was Wind”; and Claude Debussy “Sonate”.
Alicia Drakiotes, an artist from Marlborough, New Hampshire, is helping the Historical Society produce the Treasured Places exhibit. Drakiotes can often be seen around the Monadnock region painting en plein air, her Ford SUV nearby with its “Art Supports Me” bumpersticker. “Treasured Places gives an artist a chance to create a work specifically for the exhibit and for the public to see it,” says Drakiotes. “I enjoy creating opportunities for the community to embrace the art, and I am glad the Historical Society has a nice space to give the artists the exposure. And the artists will have an opportunity to sell artworks that have been accepted into the exhibition.”
Alicia Drakiotes feels that art gives a distinctive flavor to Keene. “The downtown is much more colorful and vibrant because of the art on view,” says Drakiotes. “Restaurants and cafes such as Prime Roast, Brewbakers, Kristin’s, and The Works benefit from displaying the work of local artists, and the artists benefit from showing their work. Syd’s has started to showcase artwork from the Monadnock Area Artists Association, and now people who are shopping for furniture can also look at original artwork for their walls. Businesses such as Creative Encounters, Indian King Framery, and Inkberry benefit from the art community and support the local artists in turn. Art is paying its way in the community.”
The Monadnock Conservancy is one of several conservation organizations in partnership with the Historical Society for Treasured Places, including the Harris Center, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, and the New Hampshire Audubon Society. Ryan Owens, Executive Director of the Monadnock Conservancy says, “Years ago I helped conserve part of an old family dairy farm near my home in Walpole. Great Brook Farm is soil, grass, rocks and cows. But it is also nine generations of a family, a business, annual community gatherings, too many tractors to count, old buildings and innumerable stories. It is land, but it is also who and what we are as a town. Every town has places like this. I believe that, when we save land, we are saving, in effect, culture.”
Owens muses on the intersection of land, culture, and art. “It is unsurprising that artists have flocked to the Monadnock region for generations – it is beautiful. And just as land is more than soil, rock, and water, art is more than pictures. Art captures a scene, but it also captures a feeling, encompassing all the senses of the artist’s experience of the moment. The artist’s gift to us is a connection to both her experience and to the place – through the painting we can go there again and again. Depictions of our landscape are a reminder of the preciousness of this place, a call to steward it with care.”
Gina Goff, Senior Director of Community Involvement at C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., observes that conservation is good for business as well. “The Monadnock Conservancy’s work to protect natural resources and special places – – whether forests, waterways, or farms – – is a key factor in what makes this corner of New Hampshire so desirable,” says Goff. “In addition to attracting tourists and their spending, having places for families to hike, swim, ski and paddle is a draw for companies seeking to attract and retain employees.”
The Treasured Places exhibit represents a new emphasis for the Historical Society of Cheshire County, a redefinition of the organization that is drawing a wider and more diverse audience. The Historical Society, as have other successful historical societies across America, has realized that people won’t return again and again to museums that are simply repositories of “old stuff”. Today people support organizations that are vital, alive, happening, and provide continuing benefits that suit members’ and consumers’ present needs.
The Executive Director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County, Alan Rumrill, says his organization is meeting the challenge head on. The Historical Society’s strategic plan is focused on a vision of a “cultural heritage center” which provides relevance and a sense of place. “Cheshire County has certainly been shaped by its history,” says Rumrill, “but it should be more broadly understood by wider audiences in terms of its art, its music, its literature, its crafts, its industries, and its social fabric.”
The Historical Society’s Director of Education, Jenna Carroll is excited about how Treasured Places represents the direction the organization is going. “Individuals, organizations, and business within Cheshire County can engage with the past and participate in making history,” says Carroll. “The participating artists have created beautiful works of art for the show; but they have also assisted us in documenting conserved lands, in a particular time and place, to be enjoyed for generations to come. They have, in fact, created history.”