HUNT ARTWALL EXHIBITION ARCHIVES

SMALL TOWN BIG TALK
MARCH 12 through JULY 26, 2021
A PORTRAIT OF FALLS VILLAGE, CONNECTICUT
IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND CONVERSATION

With the advent of ever-present social media, actual real world civic engagement among neighbors has been diminished and made worse by the pandemic of Covid-19, shutting down social life since March of 2020. Falls Village residents Rebecca Bloomfield, Adam Sher, and Meg Sher were looking to re-engage their fellow townsfolk and forge new friendships and understanding across social, racial, & class divides.

To move beyond small talk, a series of “big talk” questions was developed to engage subjects’ world views and personal philosophies, exploring the sense of belonging, concerns for the future, and feelings of misunderstanding. A public call for subjects was made and respondents were scheduled for socially distanced outdoor photo and interview sessions.

Rebecca Bloomfield, the project’s photographer, found that she was thinking a lot about vulnerability while the interviews were being conducted. “It’s so rare that we get past small talk with our neighbors, and I think it’s rare because it’s vulnerable to ask the questions in the first place, let alone open up and answer them. I hope that as more people share their stories and perspectives, we build trust, empathy, and connection.”

Interviewer Adam Sher, an educator and community organizer, hopes that Small Town, Big Talk, “encourages depth in our conversations, with the understanding that our society changes and evolves on the local scale leading to larger national conversations. There is a lot of talk about unity these days, but even in small towns unity is elusive, and perhaps impossible without experiencing our diversity of thought and feeling. I hope when people view the exhibition, they are inspired to have big talks in their own lives.”

ONLINE ARTISTS TALK ON YOUTUBE WITH
REBECCA BLOOMFIELD
ADAM SHER
MEG SHER
in conversation with
Garth Kobal, Hunt ArtWall chair

PRINTS OF WORKS BELOW CAN BE ORDERED BY CLICKING ON EACH SUBJECT’S NAME

A PORTION OF EACH SALE BENEFITS DAVID M. HUNT LIBRARY

 


SMALL TOWN BIG TALK

We’re all misunderstood and we don’t even know it. We all go through this life thinking that we’re normal and everybody thinks like this — whether it be physical, mental, emotional — that that’s the common experience; but there is no common experience.

We’re exposed to so much information nowadays. I think that makes people cling to their beliefs even harder. There’s only a certain amount of information that the brain can process, and when you’re bombarded with more and more and more of it, at a certain point the brain just shuts down and filters everything out. I’m sure that’s why everything and everybody is so much more polarized nowadays. I think more dialogue is needed, and better education; I firmly believe that education is a crucial part of changing the direction of society.

How does my intake of media impact me as a citizen or member of this community? Because language creates reality.

We build our own myths and identities, and much of that is based on what we read, what we view, what we listen to. So, the myth of myself that I’ve created has as much to do with John Lennon as it does with the constitution and Thomas Jefferson.

I’m hoping that Falls Village doesn’t lose its identity. We’ve always been kind of unique in that every type of person intermingles here because we’re so small and our neighbors are right there with us. I’d hate to lose that. I want to stay Falls Village. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see growth, I just want to see it where it’s bringing everybody together.

There’s always a resistance to change, but there’s always change, whether it’s good or bad. You have to have control of it. I do hope we have a change that continues where we can all be included in it.

The belief that I was raised to hold is that you will not be loved unless you are attractive and beautiful and handsome. When it’s ingrained into you as a kid, it’s very hard to get it gone. It’s stuck with me my whole life, but I’ve watched it erode … I realized that attractiveness and love are not interlinked at all. The most important thing is loving, not being loved, but loving. It just doesn’t matter. If you put your love out there, that’s when you’ll feel fulfilled, whether people respond to it or not.

I do often feel misunderstood. Linguistically, as an immigrant, I bump into this all the time. Having to explain myself, looking for my words. But I don’t really mind it. I don’t always want people to understand me. It’s everyday things. I’ll use expressions that they don’t have here … we have a lot of French sayings that don’t translate, but I’ll try to say them … Culturally there are lots of things that are different, and I’m fine with it. I hope I’ll never completely assimilate.

When I was a kid, there was no question that I was going to pursue some kind of career in the arts. I thought that if you do the right things, keep aiming in the right direction, that you just end up with a career in the arts. But the world doesn’t take care of you because you’re pursuing this thing. Unless you’re really fortunate, you’re always going to have to do the day job. But when I was a kid I had these grandiose ideas, that I would just hang out in the studio all day and make cool things, and people would look at it and want to buy me dinner. I always thought that altruism would win, and it does sometimes for some people … and in many ways for me. I don’t want to sound ungrateful at all. This is an inspiring place. I have wonderful friends who are like family to me.

I definitely have a sense of belonging at my school. Because it’s so small, I know everybody, and it’s kind of like a community. Also, the Falls Village Children’s Theater — it’s most of the same people every single year, so I feel a sense of belonging and community there. Also, the Isabella Freedman & Adamah community — obviously before COVID because now there isn’t anybody around. In a community you know everybody, so you can talk to anybody without feeling uncomfortable or nervous, which is nice. You feel comfortable. You can have fun with them.

We really love Falls Village. Moving here, we felt more at home. I feel like I can relate to a lot of people here. It’s not really out in the open, you kind of have to search for it here, but I was happy to move here and not feel like we’re the outsiders. I’d like to stay here, I want to see Falls Village thrive, and I think it has potential to.

My mother is Jewish European, my father was black and American Indian. I see the world through several lenses. What I think about is that we judge each other based on how we look oftentimes. But how I look doesn’t represent how I feel. I feel like I may be misunderstood if you don’t allow me to feel and think the way I do based on my life experience. Lots of people feel that way for different reasons — your gender identity, your sexual orientation, your religious affiliation. You can’t know from the outside how people feel, so I too have to work at being sensitive to what I see doesn’t tell me a whole lot about how someone thinks and feels.

Of course, being an artist you’re never quite understood. You almost hope not to be too understood. Then it’s not fun anymore. There are obvious stories about artists being misunderstood; they’re a dime a dozen. Understanding something differently is maybe different than being misunderstood.

The overwhelming stress of things like global warming … is going to be more and more intense. There will be more and more fears, more and more disbelief, back and forth of contrasting opinions, and some of it won’t be able to be solved. How do you live with that?

I do have a lot of optimism about action on climate change … the technology is all ready for us to lean into a carbon neutral future that is even more abundant and livable than the fossil fuel present. The dread about how little time we have left to make the change to renewables is definitely there, but I have a real faith that we’re ready, we just need to jump in all the way, right away.

My belief in myself has changed over time. When I was younger I had a lot of strong beliefs about the world and how I wanted it to be different. The older I get, the more I believe in my own self and my own capacity to be a part of what I want to see be true.

It wasn’t so much a belief that changed, it’s that I learned that we take our rights for granted, and we don’t realize what rights we may not have. I was without a right for most of my adult life — marriage. I’ve dealt with homophobia a lot in my life. Pretty much encountered it anywhere I was. That is a form of being misunderstood. We project so much on people. I do. Everyone does. People look at you and make assumptions.

If we see each other as people, then we see each other in grace.

I used to believe I could have a conversation and it would be a back and forth. A conversation where people were trying to hear each other and to understand where the other was standing. My belief has changed now. I’m not positive that understanding is the motivation, my motivation or that of the people across the table from me. The actual motivation is to validate our own positions. Everything you learned has to be right, so what the other person is saying couldn’t possibly be. So the conversation ends up being “this is what I’ve heard, you’re saying what you heard, you’re wrong, and that’s it.” I see it in myself, I am getting disheartened by those conversations. They’re not input-output, they’re just two types of output clashing with each other. I’m a part of it; I don’t know when that started but I have to own my piece of it.

I think we need to participate in more dialogue between those with differing views and opinions. In my experience, I haven’t been conversing with many people that have opposing viewpoints from my own, but when we do, the dialogue is stilted and guarded. I think this is because one of us is not willing to speak freely, perhaps out of politeness. I hope we can get to a point of civil discourse … a reliance on science, facts and empathy would be a good place to start.

I’d like to see a day that we have just one version of the truth and not alternative facts.

I grew up watching the Lone Ranger and Superman and you watch those things and you come to believe that right does win out over wrong. Good beats evil. Honesty and integrity are key and important. I held those beliefs when I was young and my core beliefs haven’t changed.

I’d gladly give up some of the wealth I have — I have privilege, I have wealth — I’m not rich, but I’m not poor. I’m not talking about communism, I’m just saying, if our community could be more welcoming, and as a result I didn’t have everything I have now, I think that would be worth it.

A belief that has changed over time is that I can connect better with people that I don’t have things in common with. Here, political differences you try to respect more than other places — because you often depend on people who are different than you. You have to respect them just as human beings.

Whenever you have somebody come and do some kind of repair on your house, they never ask for a credit card first; they rarely demand payment at that time. I’ve had lots of people come here when I’m not home, and I leave a key. That level of trust with people, I don’t think you can have that many other places. It does give you faith in other people and a sense of interconnectedness.

I do feel that in times like this — pandemic-wise and political-wise — there’s a new understanding of community. Social dynamics have been awkward this past year, more awkward than ever because of COVID: wearing masks, everybody has different feelings about what’s safe and what’s not, maybe a little bit of difference on the political spectrum. But at the same time, in things like motherhood or professional farming, I also feel like some community ties have strengthened for us. I do think there’s something hopeful to recognize. Our ties with our tiny little group here in the valley has felt more intimate and close. Family has become more tight and important than ever. I find it hopeful and beautiful.

I gain my philosophy of community from reading Wendell Berry. When I think of community, I usually think of it as the area I’m specifically on — not just the people, but the soil, the microbes, our biological community, our ecological community, the ecosystems that we’re farming in. This Wingham valley that we live in has been such an incredible community because the farm that we’re farming has all the past iterations right here in the valley.

I hope that in the future we will have a better understanding of the impact of bullying. I think we’ve made it a national pastime in the last four years. I think it is corrosive. I don’t think it solves anything. I think it has grown out of other fears; when you’re feeling insecure, you bully. So maybe some of the bullying comes from feelings of inadequacy. It doesn’t solve anything, and it causes a lot of trouble. In the last four years it’s become okay. It’s become almost a sport. I think it has taken a terrible toll on people’s faith in each other, and in what’s important. I think that for the American experiment to work, we need to be more free to trust each other. We need to believe that it’s important to be truthful and to trust our truths with other people.

What concerns me is my grandchildren growing up in a world that is diminished by our loss of environmental diversity. We need to have the diversity of plants and animals around us. I hope that the world for them is peaceful, that it can thrive ecologically, that our seas don’t become polluted, and that they live with a government that is free and allows them to be contributing people in the community and the society. That’s what I hope for them.

It really says a lot about the child within. The first thing I thought when I saw that question was, “My mother! She never understood me!” I was the black sheep of my family, and yeah, I do feel misunderstood sometimes. My reaction is often to talk too much to try to clear it up, to make it better, to make it more comfortable. But I’ve learned over the years that it’s better for me, when I feel misunderstood — when I go away from something with that niggling feeling like there was something wrong — it usually means I need to apologize to the person. The best way to do it is to say, ‘I’m uncomfortable with what happened the other day … how do you feel?” I can’t imagine anybody not feeling misunderstood. I feel that so often; I think it’s part of being human.

ADD YOUR STORY HERE

YOU! (WHEREVER YOU ARE )
Where do you feel a sense of belonging?⁣
What are some of your hopes for our town and our country?⁣
What is a belief you hold that has changed over time?⁣
What are some of your concerns about the future?⁣
Have you ever felt misunderstood?⁣

You too can answer these questions at the Library and online while the exhibition is open.
Your quote, if selected for inclusion, will appear in the carousel below. Updated weekly.

Since 2011, the Hunt Library ArtWall has showcased local professional and emerging artists living in the Northwest Connecticut community and throughout the Tri-state area, from Boston to New York City.

The ArtWall provides important income for both the Hunt Library and the exhibiting artists. A purchase of art is a gift to both.

Due to these extraordinary times, the ArtWall will not hold formal exhibition receptions until further notice. We will, however, continue to exhibit new art that can be seen during operating hours and on this page.

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ART IN THE STACKS

In addition to our featured exhibitions, the Hunt ArtWall Gallery includes works by local artists on the walls behind our bookshelves.  Be sure to look for them the next time you visit, or see them all here.

If you are interested in purchasing, click on a title and an email will pop up for you to make your inquiry.  Most sales are made out directly to the artist, who then makes a donation to the library.  A portion of all sales benefits the Hunt Library.

MARSHA ALTEMUS – EARLY MORN ON BEEBE HILL
2020, pastel, 13.5 X 17.5 framed, SOLD

JOHN ATCHLEY – LAKE MICHIGAN #14
2012 (2/3), photography, 42 x 42 framed, $3000

AMELIA DE NEERGAARD – DENDRON
2010, witch hazel and copper wire, 32 x 36 x 9, $700

EMILY RUTGERS FULLER – BLUE SPILLWAY
1978, acrylic on sewn and marked paper, 79 x 37, price on request

JOHN HODGSON – BLUE JAY
2018, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 30, $850

JASON LOSH – SCULPTURAL COMPOSITION B/Y/R/O
2018, acrylic and wax on canvas, 36 x 24, $800

SARAH MARTINEZ – EARTH AND SKY
2020, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24, $650