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March 07. 2013 1:13PM

Artists awash in ideas about project to highlight Ashuelot River


 


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In Washington, she rises out of Butterfield Pond. With a great big stretch, she wends her way through forests and backyards. She lolls through Marlow, wilds through Gilsum, then plays a quick game of hide and seek beneath the covered bridges in Swanzey before making her way to Hinsdale, where she keeps a date with the Connecticut.



The Ashuelot River has spent eons providing food, work, recreation and beauty to the 64-miles of New Hampshire she touches.

Rich in history with a story to tell, the Ashuelot is about to get her due as visual artist Alicia Drakiotes and photographer Bob Johnson, along with the Cheshire County Historical Society, put together a project celebrating the river's long and storied history.

"You know numerous events honor and are built around Mt. Monadnock," Drakiotes said. "It's kind of a major resource that never gets to be the center of attention."

To that tend they have sent out an open call to artists for submissions for the project, which will culminate in a juried art show - "64 Miles: The Ashuelot River Art Exhibition" - in July and an exhibition that will run through the end of September.

"I'm excited to see what they come up with,"said Kathy Schillemat, with the Cheshire County Historical Society. " I have a feeling it's not going to be all just scenery pictures. We've already had one artist come in to look for some historical references."

Johnson came up with the idea as he was putting together a photo book of pictures he's taken of the Ashuelot.

His vision is to recreate the entire 64 miles of the river through a series of 2D artworks done by a variety of artists.

He approached Drakiotes who, as an en plein air painter, thought other artists who also work outdoors would jump at the project.

So far a dozen artists are on board, including someone who works in textiles and a folk artist, Drakiotes said. Artists participating in the project can work in any media as long as the work centers on some aspect of the river.

"So we will have some pastel paintings, we'll have oil paintings, watercolor paintings, we'll have mixed media," Drakiotes said. "I don't think you'll be bored."

The works can represent any season and be present day or historical. And it's an impressive history.

The Ashuelot has given up some of the oldest evidence of human presence in New England, dating back more than 10,500 years, according to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

It's hosted dozens of mills along its shores, bred a host of fish in its belly and served as playground for boaters for generations. It has flat water, rapids, places where it rages and sites where it is nothing more than a trickle, according to the DES. The project aims to capture all of that.

"We are hoping that people will portray the river, not just from a landscape view, but also show historical things or recreational activity along the river, maybe wildlife along the river," Drakiotes said.

When the exhibit is hung in it will be in sequence, with the name of the town and approximate location of that part of the river portrayed in the artwork labeled.

The organizers also are hoping to portray the river through all four seasons as well. So each piece an artist submits must be of different parts of the river and each showing a different season.

So far, Drakiotes thinks that one of the challenges will be piecing in the parts of the river that run through private property. She's hoping that landowners along the river will contact the historical society to offer permission for artists to come out and at least get photos to work from of those portions of the river so that it will be represented in its entirety.

Artists are invited to submit two or three works created within the last 18 months and can submit their work until the end of June.

There will be a registration fee of $25 for the juried exhibition, and artists will be asked to contribute 25 percent of proceeds from sales to the historical society. "64 Miles" is scheduled to open July 19, in the society's exhibit hall on Main Street in Keene.

For further information or a registration form, log onto hsccnh.org or call 352-1895.


Old photos of mills along the Ashuelot and the river itself. Courtesy 


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