This afternoon Iain and I put the final piece in place at Gloucester City Hall’s I Am More exhibit: a hastily repaired Sophie. As we were congratulating ourselves on finishing the job, we heard a voice say, “Hellooo.” We turned around to see Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken, who gave me a hug, and said, “People keep coming into my office and saying, ‘Mayor! Mayor! That exhibit!'”
Let’s backtrack eight months.
In January, I Am More was a pile of 16 drawings and pastel paintings in my cupboard. There were no frames, no exhibits and no way of knowing how anyone would see them beyond my blog. That was when I moved from the drawing board to the laptop and started emailing anyone I could think of with display space who might see the value in the project. One of the places I emailed was City Hall.
The mayor’s assistants directed me to the Head Clerk of Facilities, Jeanine Harris, who is in charge of any use of the building. Luckily the city has embraced a wide variety of public art projects, so she wasn’t too put out by my request, especially when she realized there would be no events, no food, no alcohol, no parking issues, just a quiet exhibit that would sit for a month for anyone who happened to pass by, which happened to include a portrait of the mayor.
With permission granted by the mayor and Facilities the next step was to figure out how to display the portraits without making any holes in the walls. All fingers pointed to photographer Jason Grow, whose exhibit of WWII veterans was a local sensation. Jason kindly offered the use of his display panels–painted hollow-core doors hinged together.
The next step was finding them. He knew they were in the basement of the post office and he knew where we could find the key, beyond that we were on our own. Iain and I made our way with phone lights down a corridor full of mysterious doors and eventually we hit the jackpot.
Anxiety was kicking in, as my exhibit was now a pile of white doors and stacks of portraits and essays. I decided that winging it was not in option in that setting, so I turned to a trick I learned when we moved, and made a miniature display with tiny doors and tiny portraits.
On move-in day morning we drove the truck, along with Ocean Alliance’s Chris Zadra, back to the post office basement, loaded the panels and drove them to the City Hall entrance where we would need to carry them up to the second floor. When we opened the entrance door, to our surprise, there stood friends of the project, Laurence Hawkins and Bobbi Gibb, ready to help. Bobbi is best known for being the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, but she is also an accomplished artist, scientific researcher, attorney, author and so much more, so it shouldn’t have surprised me when she began carrying panels up by herself.
The plan for the afternoon was to deliver and hang the portraits and essays, which Iain and I thought we could manage on our own. That turned out to be a $600 mistake. As Iain pulled Sophie‘s 57 inch frame out of the car I waited at the entrance, ready to hold the door open. I heard him say, “It broke.” The final step of the display that took 8 months to plan took a heartbreaking turn as we stared at the large sheet of museum glass cracked in multiple places.
After an emergency trip to the framer, and a lesson in the proper carrying of large frames, the display is complete, and will be open to the public during business hours until August 30th.
To host an I Am More portrait display contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the blog for project and portrait updates, enter your email on the righthand side of the page.