By Amalia P. Spagnolo
March can be a harsh month. Yet, it is one edged with great hope and tinged with subtle beauty. This month’s First Friday Art Walk exhibits at the MacRostie Art Gallery (MAC) in Grand Rapids reflect the poignant contrast.
The MAC announces its March exhibitions: The MacRostie Gallery will feature “Homeless Is My Address, Not My Name,” an installation of photography and first-person spoken histories which documents the experiences of people as they face homelessness in Minnesota. The Minnesota Gallery hosts “Local Color: Watermedia Invitational.”
The public is invited to attend the MAC’s First Friday opening reception from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, March 7 at the MacRostie Art Center. Artist talks will begin at 6 p.m. Live music will be performed by the Raging Grannies. Food and wine will be available. The March exhibitions at MacRostie Art Center are sponsored by Anderson Family Dental, Northland Counseling Center and the Grand Rapids Human Rights Commission.
Describing how “Homeless is My Address, Not My Name” came to the MAC, MacRostie Art Center Executive Director Katie Marshall said, “Someone from the community had seen it in another town, saying it was a really powerful exhibit that would be great to bring to the Grand Rapids area.”
She then reached out to the show’s organizer, St. Stephen’s Human Services in Minneapolis. “It was something that they’d put together (starting in 2008), collecting portrait photography and the oral histories of different people from Minnesota communities—large and small, urban and rural—who had experienced homelessness,” Marshall noted.
Inspired by the American Life Histories collected during the Great Depression, “Homeless is My Address, Not My Name” presents an exhibit of the “Oral History of Homelessness in Minnesota.” There are 50 portrait photographs in the MacRostie Gallery installation. Twenty-five of the portraiture on display have an individual telephone number, which visitors may dial. Answering the call is a voice mailbox, which plays a recording of the photo subject - narrating their own story.
“It’s more personal and real (for the viewer) than reading it off a piece of paper,” said Marshall of the interactive experience. “It’s going to be really powerful, and I’m really looking forward to that.”
Though designed primarily with cellphone users in mind, the MAC will equip the exhibit with phones for visitors who don’t have a mobile with them. “People can call later too,” Marshall added.
In partnering with Grace House and the Grand Rapids Human Rights Commission, Marshall stated that the exhibition’s goal is “to raise awareness and to educate the community that people are homeless right here in our own community—even in a winter like this.” She continued, “For the March 7 opening, we’ve invited someone from Itasca County who’d previously been homeless and a former guest of Grace House to come and to speak briefly about her experience of homelessness in our area.”
Grace House will host a Homelessness Awareness Open House from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 13 at its location, 501 SW 1st Street in Grand Rapids. Members of the community are invited to share in a meal of soup and bread. They are welcome to tour Grace House and to learn about the services it offers.
Additionally, beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, the MacRostie Art Center will host a Community Conversation on Homelessness. The special guest is Cathy ten Broeke, director of the State of Minnesota’s Office to End Homelessness. This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be available.
In the MAC’s other presentation space, the Minnesota Gallery hosts “Local Color: Watermedia Invitational.”
Marshall noted, “Watercolor has always been a popular medium for people interested in art. It’s been one of our most popular classes. The classes fill, and people are always asking for more watercolor (painting).”
In 1960, the MacRostie Art Center was born of a group of painters who’d formed the Itasca Arts Association. “Watercolor artists are a big part of our history and our current programming,” Marshall said. “We wanted to have an exhibit that recognizes the people that are here in our community who are painting and teaching it.”
The Local Color exhibition celebrates the many talented watercolor artists who teach, learn and paint at the MAC. In addition to the art of four other area watercolorists, the show will feature works by Donna LaBeau, Jane Latimer, Jan Stenson and Sandra Thompson who paint together as “the Crows.” Having met in a class at MacRostie Art Center, they began to meet regularly to paint during the weekly Members’ Open Studio at the MAC. The artists have maintained their connection over the years—providing each other with support, encouragement, critique and friendship as Northern Minnesota painters.
For more information about the MAC, log onto www.macrostiecenter.org.