Projects, Travelogue

Harvester Arts Residency: What, Where, Who, When, How, Why

My Wichita residency wrap-up notes. 

WHAT: I just completed a 2.5-week residency at Harvester Arts in Wichita, KS.

Harvester is a two-year-old arts organization whose residency program encourages artists to experiment and share their process with the community. The results are exhibited, and then two local artists create and present work in response.

 

All the Steps in the Process, Installation view at Harvester Arts, 2015. Christine Wong Yap, drawings on walls, zine, furniture. Contributions from artist-collaborators screening on video.

All the Steps in the Process installation view at Harvester Arts, Wichita, KS, 2015. Drawings and furniture by Christine Wong Yap. Zine edited and designed by Yap. Contributions from artist-collaborators screening on video.

I came up with All the Steps in the Process: a research project on collaboration. I did six interviews with eight artists from the SF Bay Area, New York, and Wichita: Kevin B. Chen, Amanda Curreri, Leeza Meksin and Eleana Anagnos, Armando Minjarez, Elizabeth Travelslight, and Linnebur & Miller. Quotes from these interviews are realized in a series of hand-lettered drawings that line the walls in an exhibition design inspired by publication layouts. I also conducted a survey whose data, along with excerpts of the interviews, comprise CO-LABORATION, a 28-page ‘zine. I designed and built two reading desks and stools especially for reading the ‘zine. I also made a bench for visitors to view a video with examples of collaborative works by local artists: Amanda Pfister & Manda Remmen; Jennifer Koe & Nathan Filbert; Ann Resnick with Bethel Kidrun retirement community residents; Kevin Mullins in response to the work of Anne Schaefer; and Jessica Wasson, Patrick Calvillo, Alex Thomas, Ian Blume, Gray Brand, Bernardo Trevizo, Drew Davis, Jordan Kirtley, Peter James, and Tim Maggard.

CO-LABORATION, detail.

CO-LABORATION, detail.

All the Steps in the Process will be on view through May 17 at Harvester Arts. Wichita-based artists Darren Jones and Anne Resnick will create work in response.

WHERE: This was my first visit to Wichita, and to the state of Kansas.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised with how friendly everyone is. I found it so nice to just let my guard down and feel at ease, away from hyper-competitive places like New York or even San Francisco. It’s a fairly safe city to travel in. Sometimes I have to force myself to be social, and it was a lot easier in Kansas because people are just generally more inclined to respond in kind.

Wichita really grew on me—within a few days I felt like it’s normal for me to going about my day at a relatively chill pace, riding a cruiser on the flat, windy streets (or sidewalks, because there’s so few bicyclists and pedestrians). The art scene seems small but cool, with really strong mutual support and interest. I constantly witnessed examples of generosity, from the plenitude of the potluck—Ann Resnick and Kevin Mullins’ Crock Pot of chili and a still-warm pan of cornbread, and Meghan Miller’s triple-decker black velvet cake—Mike Miller’s lending super cool, vintage bucket-phones for the opening after-party, and Marta McKim of Atomic Elbow Massage, who gives Harvester resident artists free massages!

Bucket-phone outfitted PA system lent by Mike Miller.

Bucket-phone outfitted PA system lent by Mike Miller.

I enjoyed the vernacular architecture around Wichita. Even ICT airport has quirky engraved signage. This terminal will be replaced next month and eventually torn down. I loved visiting the main library; it reminded me of places I’d been as a child. This, too, is moving to a new building, though it’s yet to be determined how the existing building will be re-purposed.

Skyway.

Skyway.

Rock wall facade.

Rock wall facade.

Twin spiral garage.

Twin spiral garage.

Foyer. Wichita Public Library, Central branch.

Foyer. Wichita Public Library, Central branch.

Wichita Public Library, Central branch.

Wichita Public Library, Central branch.

 

Harvester Arts just relocated to a new, dedicated storefront space in Old Town, an entertainment district with lots of bars and restaurants. (It’s right next to B. Young, a hair salon run by Ben Young and Trace Wilson, an exceptionally neighborly couple who are very supportive of Harvester and its artists. And highly recommended!) A few blocks southeast is City Blueprint, an art store/surveyor’s supplier (waterproof notebooks!), and print center. They printed the ‘zine at fantastic prices and great quality. I didn’t get a chance to go to the Yard, a random parts store that artists love, but knowing my weakness for potentially useful things even if I don’t really need them, it’s probably for the best. Commerce Street, a hub of galleries, is a short bike ride away. (I especially enjoyed Yoonmi Nam’s work currently on view in XX7 at Fishhaus Gallery.)

Harvester Arts’ title sponsor is the Hotel at Waterwalk, where I stayed for my entire visit. Other residents have stayed at the sister hotel, Hotel at Old Town, which is only a block away from Harvester. Being further away made me see more of the city and gave me a chance to shake a leg everyday. But towards the end, when I was pulling long days and late nights, I could see the advantage of proximity (such as when I had an SD card—at the studio—and wasn’t sure if it’d work in my laptop—at the hotel). It’s my first time staying in a hotel for an artist’s residency, and though it was a little odd to make such a transitory space feel like “home,” it was quite conducive—there’s WIFI, laundry, a few cardio machines, free passes to a real gym, and a free shuttle available upon request (though I often walked or biked to operate on my own schedule, or hitched a ride with Kate or Kristin).

Harvester’s space is a two-story storefront: the lower level is the resident’s studio and gallery, and the upper level is the office. The unit is set back from the street and felt private enough. I also enjoyed working in the back patio area, which is shaded from the sun by trees inhabited by vociferous birds.

Panorama of Harvester Arts' ground floor studio/gallery, shortly after I arrived.

Panorama of Harvester Arts’ ground floor studio/gallery, shortly after I arrived.

 

Making a bench in Harvester's back patio on a sunny day.

Making a bench in Harvester’s back patio on a sunny day.

WHEN: My residency was from April 8–26.

Harvester’s residencies are usually two weeks long, but I wanted more time, and those few extra days were helpful: I got jetlagged! There’s officially only an hour’s time difference from the east coast, but it felt like more.

My residency coincided with lots of art events. The opening fell on the Final Fridays gallery crawl and a big day of giving to the arts. I also judged the WSU spectacle, Project RunAway, a student wearable art runway competition and fundraiser. The weather was pretty great most of the time—in the 50s to 70s, with a few thunderstorms. There was a tornado warning my first night in town, but no actual twister (whew!).

Having 19 days to develop and install a project for a three-week exhibition makes for a very condensed experience. I could have used more time, but I appreciate how the short period forced me to try new things. Working as an art handler helps, as I can more or less plan and execute an installation, but it also makes me extra picky about small details. In the last few days, as I was feeling stretched thin by what I set out to do, I came up with a mantra: Simply. Prioritize. And ask for help. The hardest part was realizing that the flip side of prioritizing is letting go of what’s not important.

WHO: Harvester Arts was co-founded by Kristin Beal, Kate Van Steenhuyse, and Ryan Gates.

I met Kate in grad school; it was a fabulous surprise to receive Kate’s invitation last year. I believe the program is currently by invitation only. They are currently run with their own donated labor, with the help of interns and friends like Calie Shivers and Bernardo Trevizo.

Leading up to my artist's talk.

Leading up to my artist’s talk.

 

Opening reception.

Opening reception.

Harvester organized three events in conjunction with my residency: an artist’s talk/slide presentation, the aforementioned potluck, and the opening reception (followed by an after-party). My visit was brimming with productivity as well as socializing. It’s helpful to have an artist’s talk early on to introduce and contextualize my practice, and help artists with similar interests self-identify. It meant the potluck and opening were chances to continue conversations.

The communities at Harvester and the art department at Wichita State University—where Kate teaches—overlaps. You could say I began and ended my visit at WSU, attending visiting artist Judy Rushin’s lecture and closing on my second day in town, and the faculty exhibition at the Ulrich on my penultimate day (I really enjoyed Jennifer Ray’s large format photographs of places, and it was great to see  examples of Kate’s paintings and Levente Solyuk’s conceptually-oriented practice).

HOW: Shooting for self-sufficiency and relying heavily on interdependence.

Initially, I’d wondered how to make a project responsive to the site: Should I look into Wichita’s history of aeronautics or at Coleman camping gear? But in the end, interviewing and featuring the work of local artists and collaborators is specific to the site—or rather, a specific slice of a community of artists at this particular moment.

For this trip, I shipped out what’s becoming a basic residency kit: a 14 x 14 x 14” box that I’ve lined with Styrofoam and then shock-absorbing foam and filled with drawing and installation tools; a 36” long tube with a roll of drawing paper and a straight-edge/ruler; and a flat box with two 18 x 24” cutting mats. These three cost about $50 to ship via FedEx Ground each way (I made a minor innovation by printing return labels, and layering them under the shipping labels). It’s really helpful for me to hit the ground running with my own supplies. Being at a residency is an odd mix of empowerment and being somewhat helpless—you’re in an unfamiliar place and given new resources, but cut off from most of your own.

For example, Mark lent Kristin the van so we could get lumber. Kate’s kid was sick, so she would be around, so I could use Ryan’s saws. Home Depot offers the promise of consistency without actual consistency. (Unless you mean that the sheet saw is out of order again… I’m starting to think of their wood selections as a produce store—you can’t assume anything will be in stock, you just have to see what’s there. Fine, I’ll rip-cut my own 1x2s, and buy quarter-sheets at a 150% mark-up, then spend another 10 minutes getting a refund). But in the end, everything worked out. It was a gorgeous, sunny day for doing woodwork in an open garage. I fired up the unfamiliar table saw, and the board sailed through, straight and smooth.

WHY: an intensive, condensed experience of encountering a place and an art community, and being experimental and productive.

Two and a half weeks ago, I had a vague vision of some hand-lettered drawings on the walls, and the rough ideas of a ‘zine and some wood furniture. I knew it would be about collaboration, but I didn’t know what I would find out. What I learned from the process is specific, useful, and optimistic. I would not have done these interviews and surveys, nor met particular Wichita-based artist-subjects and artist-collaborators, were it not for Harvester Arts. All the Steps in the Process directly comes out of Harvester’s particular opportunity to experiment and focus on process. 

My practice involves the study of psychology, but I’m human, flawed and inattentive. For a few weeks, I got to be the center of attention as the visiting artist at Harvester. It’s an ego tightrope—receiving attention makes me want to be deserving of it all, and to work doubly hard. I still get surprised about how my personality manifests. This time, I realized that I’m an overachiever, and I need to work hard to balance the desire for external validation with intrinsic self-worth. When I nerd out on certain details, it can be an imposition of my own values on others helping me.

I’m proud of the exhibition, and in particular, the ‘zine. The interview subjects offered so much advice, experience, and reflexivity. Editing it down to fit the small format was challenging—there were just so many interesting perspectives to consider. I also think the survey worked out really well—huge thanks to all the respondents, and especially to KVS and Calie, who meticulously compiled the data so that I could compare multiple dimensions of the responses. Tacitly, Michael Yap is always an influence in my graphic design development.

Completing a residency and exhibition is bittersweet—I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity and many people who have supported me and given me their resources, labor, time, attention, kindness, and hospitality. And I’m sad to see the end of a magical period of productivity, chances to see the exhibition in this space again, and, most of all, the particular time and space of many blossoming friendships and a sense of community. Thank you to everyone who made my stay so welcoming. Immense gratitude to Kristin, Kate, and Ryan for making Harvester—and thus, All the Steps in the Process—a reality.

 

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Projects, Travelogue

Harvester Arts: Welcome to Wichita

Updates from a residency in Kansas.  

I’ve received an exceedingly warm Midwestern welcome to Wichita. I’ve been here 10 12 days so far in my 18-day residency at Harvester Arts, a relatively new arts organization run by artists Kristin Beal and Kate Van Steeenhuyse, and filmmaker Ryan W. Gates. Harvester’s goal is to foster arts dialogues, and they do so by bringing artists to experiment and share their process with the public in short residencies, which culminate in an exhibition—and then local artists are invited to create and show new work in response.

I'm the inaugural resident in Harvester Arts' new location in Old Town. The ground floor is my workspace and will be the gallery for my exhibition. This was shot shortly after  I arrived.

I’m the inaugural resident in Harvester Arts’ new location in Old Town. The ground floor is my workspace and will be the gallery for my exhibition. This was shot shortly after I arrived.

As someone who has spent most of my life on the West and East coasts, the change of location has been a dramatic change of scenery (I am loving the vernacular architecture here; see Instagram) as well as a shift in attitudes. RWG said it’s unpretentious here, but more than the absence of a negative trait, everyone I’ve met has been genuine and proactively friendly. In NYC my first reaction to strangers is an immediate, instinctual suspicion—friend or foe?—”foe” a broad spectrum including anyone who will needlessly waste more than a few seconds of time. Here in Wichita, pretty much everyone I’ve met—including people outside of art contexts—has immediately asked me how I like it here, and are invested in making sure I do.

Before my artist's talk at Harvester Arts.

Before my artist’s talk at Harvester Arts last Tuesday.

I realized that this genuine mutual interest made me feel very safe, and I found myself divulging more about my life and feelings than usual during my artist’s talk last Tuesday. And it was wonderful to be myself, and to talk about personal emotions publicly, and feel completely accepted.

My project for the residency is to research collaboration. I have been conducting interviews with colleagues in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, and around Wichita. Their insights have been reflective and steadfastly optimistic. It’s been an honor to spend this time mulling the bounties of working with other people. To share their words, I’ve been hand-lettering quotes from the interviews for the exhibition, whose design is inspired by publication layouts. I’ll publish some of the interviews in a ‘zine or online.

Kristin Beal shot this great photo for my forthcoming residency project show. Featuring quotes on collaboration (L-R) by lovely interview subjects Eleanna Anagnos and Elizabeth Travelslight and from a book by Twyla Tharp as recommended by Alicia Eggert and Christian L. Frock. The title of the exhibition,

Kristin Beal shot this great photo for my forthcoming residency project show. Featuring quotes on collaboration (L-R) by lovely interview subjects Eleanna Anagnos and Elizabeth Travelslight and from a book by Twyla Tharp. The title of the exhibition, “All the Steps in the Process” is also inspired by Travelslight’s interview comments.

I also conducted a survey (thanks to everyone who responded!) and will visualize the data (with the help of number-crunching by Kate and Callie).

It’s been a whirlwind of activity—conducting interviews, drawing, meeting local artists, attending and participating in art events, and over the past two days, designing and building furniture that will be in the exhibition. In fact, this two-week residency feels not short but condensed, and I hardly have time to reflect and post here about my experiences in further detail. That can come after the opening. So hope to see you then.

Opening Reception: Final Friday, April 24, 7–10pm

Harvester Arts, 215 North Washington, Old Town, Wichita, KS

Exhibition: April 24–May 17, 2015

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Travelogue

Tides Institute and Museum of Art StudioWorks residency wrap-up

Just completed my first printmaking residency: I spent the month of June in Eastport, ME, making prints in the Tides Institute and Museum of Arts’ new StudioWorks building on the main street in the historic downtown.

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The Studioworks building is a historic preservation effort by the Tides Institute, assisted by talented masons. The renovation work is proceeding. For really cool photos of the process of turning a historic building into a working printshop, check out the Tides Institute’s Facebook page.

It’s been a productive experience: I’m coming away with three projects involving woodcut and letterpress printmaking, banners, and semaphore flags. Some projects are nearly finished, others are series with initial pieces completed and more ready for production.

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Finished projects on display in the Open Studio. Supported by the STUDIOWORKS/Tides Institute & Museum of Art, a private not-for-profit organization.

Eastport on a Nat Geo map.

Eastport on a Nat Geo map.

Eastport: Neighborliness in Abundance

It was quite an  adjustment, coming from the metropolis of NYC and adapting to small town life, where everyone knows each other and many are quite curious to meet new people such as myself.  In the city, anonymity feels safe and efficient. In Eastport, the standards of common courtesy are exceptionally high. For example, drivers will often wave to pedestrians. It’s baffling at first. Did they mistake me for a friend of theirs, I’d wonder. Did they wave because I was walking in their way?

To me, Eastporters’ investment in welcoming and learning about every individual living alongside them, if only for a summer month, is practically astounding. The weave of the social fabric was so tight. Many years ago, I made paintings that I thought were about the psychology of public space. But I see now that they were specifically about urban space, and isolation and distrust.

Eastport is technically a city, though it feels like a small town. In every direction from the house where I stayed there were people who made my welfare their concern. Most of all they wanted to know that I enjoyed my time in Eastport. The pride in their town was very clear.

The pace of Eastport made it possible for me to get a lot of work done; the distractions were few (though that will change this week with the Fourth of July). The past few weeks were restorative for me. It was quiet and very  easy to spend the day and evenings working, then wind down and get a good night’s rest. Very sociable artists might find the town’s night life in adequately lively, those who can tolerate a lot of studio time will find it perfect.

I stayed in an old Veteran's Hall, where I also did a lot of sewing. This was a great space for working—spacious, quiet, and light-filled, as the StudioWorks building is being renovated.

I stayed in an old Veteran’s Hall, where I also did a lot of sewing. This was a great second space for working—spacious, quiet, and light-filled—as the StudioWorks building’s renovations are underway.

The Fireman's Muster is an annual tradition; part of Eastport's Fourth of July festivities.

Eastport’s Fourth of July festivities are the largest in the state of Maine. I got to catch part of Eastport’s Fourth of July festivities, such as the Fireman’s Muster. Independence Day seems to kick off the busy summer season. Even in the four weeks of June, I could sense the town emerging from the winter and spring.

I enjoyed meeting many amazing, friendly people. The town’s demographic skews grey, but there are some very sweet and funny young parents with creative interests in the arts as well as local food. I attended some fantastic potlucks with great homemade eats, lively conversation and smart folks.

Butternut squash muffin, fellows from near and far, on Marit's family's camp porch. This would be after the swimming, and before the fireworks.

Butternut squash muffin, fellows from near and far, on Marit’s family’s camp porch. This would be after the swimming, and before the fireworks.

Porchlight song.

Porchlight songs.

Artists thinking about applying will be happy to hear that Kristin McKinlay, who coordinates the residency, is good humored, accommodating, and also a working artist. See her embroidered wall works at her site.

I also really enjoyed meeting Anna Hepler. Via conversations and a studio visit with her and her husband Jon,  I felt a great support and intellectual camaraderie. Both accomplished in their fields, they close to relocate to Eastport as a home base for being citizens of the world (with their two young children in tow; very inspiring!). Luckily, the Eastport Gallery invited Anna to do a talk this month, so I had the chance to learn more about her work and the development of her thinking. (Future residents can enjoy a talk by Kristin!)

The area is has so much history, much of it persists into the present in the form of amazing artifacts.

Boxes containing player-piano tunes.

Boxes containing player-piano tunes.

1888 campaign ribbon at Marit's.

1888 campaign ribbon at Marit’s.

A sweet "rose-velt" campaign item from FDR's Rosevelt-Campobello Park on neighboring Campobello Island in Canada.

A sweet “rose-velt” campaign item from FDR’s Rosevelt-Campobello Park on neighboring Campobello Island in Canada.

For those artists influenced by landscape and light, or people who savor them, Eastport is amazing.

Artists can watch the tides go in and out, just past the Tides Institute, from their breakfast nook.

Artist-in-residence at the GAR building can watch the tides go in and out, just past the Tides Institute, from their breakfast nook.

The view from Harris Point, a nice walk from downtown.

The view from Harris Point, a nice walk from downtown.

A school of fish, perhaps herring, plashing in the bay.

A school of fish, perhaps herring, plashing in the bay.

Looking out towards Campobello Island at sunset.

Looking out towards Campobello Island at sunset.

Twilight over Eastport.

Twilight over Eastport.

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Travelogue

Process photos

A story in photos on the making of letterpress labels for a set of semaphore flags representing the VIA Character Strengths and Virtues.

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California Job Cases of lead type.

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Setting type in the composing stick, which for an Indistrial Age metal contraption, is amazingly ergonomic.

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The type locked up with wooden furniture and ingenious locking quoins.

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The printed labels.

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Label assembly. There are 24 character strengths in all.

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Labels are sewn onto cotton twill tape that forms the hoist end of each flag.

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Each flag is sewn from linen and features an interpretive, abstract icon appliqued in ribbon.

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The first five prototype flags.

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The semaphores alongside other projects at the Open Studio

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Techniques, Travelogue

Printmaking minutia

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Proofs in the printshop windows. I'm too shy and easily distracted to print with focus on the etching press nested in the storefront.

[If you print readily and often, these notes may seem trivial or obvious. Since i don’t, these tips were useful  time savers and I hope to share them with others as well as my future self. Enjoy.]

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New woodcut prints on linen and cotton, to be sewn into banners.

I’ve been cranking away in the print shop for the past 2.5 weeks in this Studio Works residency at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art. It’s been great reaching far back into my memory and bringing my old woodcut and letterpress knowledge into the present.

Luckily, traditional printmaking techniques are antiquated, so they are pretty much the same as when I last printed (only less toxic, due to solvent alternatives and less showy bravado on my part). Still, there is always room for invention.

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On-block registration.

For example, its fun to embellish upon established registration methods to suit your needs. I’ve taken a basic centerline and overlaid axes, with each direction labeled N, S, E, or W.

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Annotated print-in-progress. It doesn't look like much but you'd be surprised how many prints I made before I realized how much a few notes would help.

I’ve annotated each print with the direction and offset distance of each pass (i.e., S 0.25″). Then if I want to do a series of passes on a 45 degree angle, my notes will remind me how far I’ve gone, and what the next pass should be (i.e., SW 1″, SW 0.5″, 0, NE 0.5″, etc.).  

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Woodcut prints on fabric adhered to plastic backing sheets for printing and registration.

I’m really pleased with the materials I got for mounting fabric during printing. I’ve only printed on fabric once or twice before this, and I knew I needed to keep the fabric rigid for registration across multiple passes. At the old CCA printshop, which included stone lithography equipment, there were plastic tympans to use instead of blankets between your plate or block and the press drum. Eastport is small enough that I knew I had to order my materials in advance, so I got HDPE sheets–they’re flexible,  durable, easy to cut with scissors, and, most importantly, chemical resistant. I also knew from screen printing that I’d need spray adhesive. Low tack repositionable spray adhesive behaves just like it sounds, and so far has left no residue. Together, these two things have made printing on fabric a breeze. I spray a light mist of adhesive on the plastic sheet, lay down my cut fabric, smooth it out like vinyl, and it stays perfectly in position through multiple passes through the press.

Instead of laying my printing substrate down on the block and then turning the press handle, I’ve found another method to print cleaner: register only the front end of the tympan, then push the bed forward so the drum grabs, then release that hand to crank. Keep the back end high throughout, so the fabric only makes contact to the block when both are under the drum.

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Labels for character strengths semaphore flags. Lead type printed on ribbon.

The same materials, though smaller in scale and manifold, has been working out really well for printing lead type on ribbon to make labels on a proofing press.

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Travelogue

Eastport Aesthetics

Many residents of this area are creative, but visual arts are only one party of the larger aesthetic experience of being here.

The island, its climate, and the outdoors seems to attract as spring showers persist into summer.

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Eastport's heyday was in the 1800s, and most of the architecture are historic buildings. I love the pleasing and inventive palette of the house on the far right.

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Amazing scents!

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These brilliant orange flowers with crepe paper petals are blooming all over the island right now.

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The harbor is coming to life. Summer starts a little later in such nirtern climes.

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Looking out towards Deer Island from Eastport's Moose Island.

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Rainbow joy.

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