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Heftler Visiting Artist Gallery

Cast of Blues: An Exhibition to See, Touch and Hear

A program of ExhibitsUSA and The National Endowment for the Arts 
Funded in Part by the van Otterloo Family Foundation and Endicott College

Thursday, April 6 – Thursday, May 25, 2017 Heftler Visiting Artist Gallery 
Reception: Thursday, April 13, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. Entertainment by The Westford Academy Jazz Combo

Gallery Hours:  Monday – Thursday 9 AM - 7 PM, Friday 9 AM – 5 PM Saturday and Sunday 2 – 4 PM
Gallery Closed on Monday, April 17
Hours Adjusted May 8 – May 25:  Monday – Friday 9 AM – 5 PM; No Saturday & Sunday hours.

Beverly, MA - The blues are celebrated this spring with photography, music, touchable sculpture and interactive media at Endicott College.  Blues music was born in Mississippi, came of age in Chicago, and went on to inspire generations of rock and rollers, ranging from the British invasion of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to contemporary groups, such as The Black Keys. As one of America’s contributions to the world of music, the blues took root in the fertile soil of the Mississippi Delta, a flood plain covering 7,000 square miles between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. Early blues greats in the Delta pioneered the strong rhythmic style of music, accenting the raw emotions of the lyrics by squeezing chords out of a guitar with a bottleneck or metal slide.   See, listen, and touch the blues at Endicott College.

A celebration of Mississippi’s rich musical heritage, the exhibition A Cast of Blues features 15 resin-cast masks of blues legends created by artist Sharon McConnell-Dickerson, as well as 15 color photographs of performers and of juke joints by acclaimed photographer Ken Murphy. The exhibition also features braille labels and educational materials, as well as a music playlist for gallery use and a closed-captioned film about the Cast of Blues project. A 3D interactive image has also been created for this exhibit by John Olson and 3DPhotoWorks LLC, with support from the National Federation of the Blind.  In addition, visitors are encouraged to touch the resin-cast masks.  Visitors to The Walter J. Manninen Center for the Arts can experience, A Cast of Blues in the Heftler Visiting Artist Gallery from Thursday, April 6 – Thursday, May 25.  The reception for this exhibition will take place on Thursday, April 12 from 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. with musical entertainment from Westford Academy jazz band under the direction of George Arsenault.  Free and open to the public.

A Cast of Blues artist Sharon McConnell-Dickerson explained, “A life cast is like a 3-D photograph to someone who is blind.” McConnell-Dickerson, who is visually impaired, continued, “It captures the flesh, muscle, bone, hair, and subtle expressions of emotion. I wanted to discover the faces behind the music I love, so I went to Mississippi to map out the visages of the real Delta blues men and women.”

Ken Murphy’s photographs are selected from the groundbreaking book Mississippi: State of Blues (published 2010 by Proteus/Ken Murphy Publishing). A longtime Mississippi resident, Murphy captures the essence of the blues through highly detailed, panoramic color pictures. The exhibition’s compilation of sculpture and photography creates a compelling portrait of the men and women who defined—and continue to shape—the tradition of Mississippi blues.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Charlie Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, and scores of other bluesmen and women barnstormed across the Delta, playing plantations, juke joints, and levee camps scattered throughout the area. It was the next generation of Mississippi music artists led by Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf, who brought the Delta blues north to Chicago. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and other rock and rollers picked up on the Delta sound and introduced it to the world. The musicians who stayed behind in Mississippi kept the tradition alive, passing it from one generation to another. Since the 1990s, Delta blues music has undergone a revival, with the rediscovery of overlooked artists—R.L. Burnside, T Model Ford, and Bobby Rush—and the rise of contemporary blues acts like the North Mississippi Allstars and the Homemade Jamz Blues Band. 

In addition to the sculpture and photographs, an interactive 3D work of art has been created by John Olson and 3DPhotoWorks LLC, with support from the National Federation of the Blind.  This 3D printing process allows blind people to “see” fine art, diagrams, and other images.  Inspired by research conducted by neuroscientist Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita of the University of Wisconsin, 3D tactile printing is based on the concept of neuroplasticity. As Dr. Bach-y-Rita's research within the blind community confirms, “The brain is able to use tactile information coming from the fingertips as if it were coming from the eyes. That's because we don't see with our eyes or hear with our ears, these are just the receptors, seeing and hearing in fact goes on in the brain.”   Coordinator of Visual Arts and Gallery Director at the Walter J. Manninen Center for the Arts states, “We are grateful for the work of John Olson co-founder of 3DPhotoWorks. His expertise while we worked on this collaborative project was immeasurable.  This 3D project included the assistance of students, administration, and physical plant.  We hope that all visitors will enjoy their experience with this interactive piece.”  3DPhotoWorks recognizes Endicott College as the first College in North America to serve this audience with his interactive media.

John Olson began his career as a war photographer and is a decorated Army veteran and was nominated for the Silver Star, awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with "V" for Valor. His photographs from the Tet Offensive won the prestigious Robert Capa Award following publication in LIFE Magazine. He was the youngest photographer ever hired to the staff of LIFE Magazine. As a successful photographer, John wondered what his life would have been like for him without images which inspired him to spend seven years in research, development, and creation of 3D Tactile Fine Art Printing.

The exhibition is accessible to all visitors, featuring braille labels and educational materials, as well as a music playlist for gallery use and a closed-captioned film about the Cast of Blues project. In addition, visitors are encouraged to touch the resin-cast mask sculpture. Says McConnell-Dickerson, “As a sculptural and visual art experience, feeling the life-made casts of these individuals and their facial expressions transfers their experiences directly to our fingertips.” The exhibition is also accompanied by the 2008 documentary film, M for Mississippi: A Roadtrip through the Birthplace of the Blues (94 minutes).

Organized and toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national part of Mid-America Arts Alliance, the exhibition was curated by Chuck Haddix, music historian, author, radio personality, and director of the Marr Sound Archives at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Mid-America is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States. More information is available at www.maaa.org and www.eusa.orgA Cast of Blues is funded in part by the van Otterloo Family Foundation and Endicott College.  If you are interested in bringing a group through the exhibition please contact Kathleen Moore, Gallery Director and Coordinator of Visual Arts at the Walter J. Manninen Center for the Arts at 978-232-2655 or kmoore @endicott.edu

 

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