ArtRokeby: A new festival of art

FOUR OF THE Robinsons were artists. Ann Stevens Robinson did landscapes and still-life paintings, and her husband, Rowland Evans Robinson, was a successful illustrator for agriculture and sporting periodicals. Their two daughters, Rachael Robinson Elmer and Mary Robinson Perkins, were also both artists; Rachael's work is pictured here.

FERRISBURGH — Did you come out to the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh for the annual Pie and Ice Cream social last Sunday? Not only were guests treated to fanciful, homemade sweets, but they also enjoyed perusing the history museum’s exhibits. Chances are, folks were surprised to see so much contemporary art.

After all, “Rokeby’s current board and staff are committed to connecting the history of Robinson family members to current scholarship and — in the case of the abolitionist Robinsons — to contemporary issues of social justice,” said Vergennes resident and museum director Catherine Brooks.

But that’s only part of it.

“Art is part of Rokeby’s story too,” added Brooks, who took over as director at Rokeby in January 2018, after serving as the director of education at Shelburne Museum for about 20 years.

Rokeby, of course, was the home of the Robinson Family and was a stop on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.

Did you know that four of the Robinsons were artists? Ann Stevens Robinson (1841-1920) did landscapes and still-life paintings, and her husband, Rowland Evans Robinson (1833-1900), was a successful illustrator for agriculture and sporting periodicals. Their two daughters, Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878-1919) and Mary Robinson Perkins (1884-1931), were also both artists; Rachael did book illustrations and painted, and Mary was a botanical illustrator.

Huh. Didn’t know that did ya?

In an effort to highlight the Rokeby’s art history, the museum is hosting the first-ever ArtRokeby Festival on Saturday, Aug. 24, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. This day-long event will feature a film photography walk-about, mail art-making for kids, artist demonstrations, a tour of the new “Structures” exhibition, a presentation of the paintings of Rachael Robinson Elmer, and an opportunity to view the current exhibition, “Amassed and Up-Ended: Decoding the Legacy of Stuff.”

“ArtRokeby is part of a two-year project connecting Rokeby’s art history to contemporary art,” Brooks explained. “Ric Kasini Kadour, project director and contemporary art curator, is staging a series of art exhibits and educational opportunities for artists that will lead to new works developed for a major exhibit at Rokeby in 2020, some of which are already underway.”

Here are a few more details about what you’ll find at ArtRokeby.

Art Market

At the ArtRokeby Art Market, a collection of vendors will have work available, including cards and prints.

Mail Art for Kids

Artist, educator, and bookmaker Bonnielee Hooper will lead a mail art-making activity for kids. Participants will learn gelli printmaking and make postcards that they can mail.

Rachael Robinson Elmer: 19th Century Rokeby Painter

Rokeby Museum Director Catherine Brooks will share a collection of work from the museum’s archives — actual sketches, paintings and notes — by Rachael Robinson Elmer. Rachael, who died of the Spanish flue in 1919 at age 40, was the most distinguished artist in the family. This is a rare opportunity to see some of her studies on paper, cardboard and canvas.

Film Photography

Taking pictures with film is a different experience than digital photography and encourages deeper looking and working at a slower pace. Pawlet artist Stephen Schaub will lead a walk-about during which he will give an introduction and some tips to those photographers interested in making the switch to film.

Bumper Stickers: Robert Hitzig

On a road trip in 2013, Montpelier artist Robert Hitzig was struck by the “shouting” taking place on the highway through bumper stickers. To calm the roadway, he has been issuing anti-bumper stickers: small, colorful  works of art that “intentionally say nothing, and thereby leave space for the viewer to think for themselves, perhaps even engaging in a dialog (if only mentally) with the image or even the other driver.”

He offers one free limited edition sticker to any U.S. resident who promises to put it on their vehicle. Hitzig will speak about his Bumper Sticker project and his installation on the Granary, which is part of the exhibition, “Structures.” His goal is to give away 300 million stickers; he’s given away 500 so far.

‘Structures’ Exhibition Tour

Curator Ric Kasini Kadour will lead a walking tour of the exhibition “Structures.” The exhibition temporarily repurposes the historic spaces at Rokeby as platforms for contemporary art and asks the viewer to contemplate the role that structures play in shaping our experience of the world and how structures can inform and shape the experience of others.

Visual Memoirs: Anne Cummings

Westford artist Anne Cummings’ current work creates visual memoirs from accumulated papers, photos, and mementos. She will show some of her artwork, demonstrate her process, and speak to how this work connects with themes raised in the exhibition “Amassed and Upended” on view at Rokeby.

“Rokeby is quite the treasure trove,” said Brooks, who describes herself as “thoroughly enamored by Rokeby.” “For visitors expecting only history, we’re excited to surprise them with contemporary art that helps us see the past in a new light. Likewise for art fans, we expect that they will be as moved by our history as by the vision of our exhibiting artists.”

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