By Kelly Burch
---- — A new exhibit in downtown Haverhill is open to the public with one caveat: You must leave your wallet at home.
“I do it because it’s a nice thing to do for the arts,” said organizer Sharon Silverman of Methuen.
“Under the Same Sky” displays 750 4-by-6-inch photographs of the sky from around the world, taken by 93 artists in 19 countries. The exhibit runs through the end of February at Angles & Art.
Silverman came up with the idea for the show more than a year ago.
“I was sick of all the negativity that we get bombarded with,” she said. “This exhibit is a metaphor for peace. No matter what your circumstances, we are all under the same sky. People really responded to that idea.”
Silverman reached out to the International Union of Mail Artists, an organization that supports free art events. Artists in the union submit their work to the person putting on a show, with the understanding that the show must be free to the public and that none of the work is for sale during or after the exhibit. Silverman has been part of the group for years and has sent her art to shows around the globe.
“The whole philosophy of ‘free’ is something that I’m really passionate about,” Silverman said. “It is a totally different philosophy from what this country is used to. When you take the ego out of art and take the money out, it blows people’s minds. They can’t wrap their heads around the fact that it’s free and there is nothing to buy.”
In addition to submitting her art for exhibits, Silverman has organized shows in the past. One of them, “The Contemporary Faces of Jesus,” was seen by more than 100,000 people.
For the “Under the Same Sky” project, Silverman asked people around the world to take pictures of the sky above them. She didn’t want landscapes, wires or birds — just straight shots of the sky.
“I asked people to shoot above their heads, wherever they were,” she said.
Ninety-three artists from 18 foreign countries and across the United States participated. Many of Silverman’s students from The Studio at Dundee Park in Andover and Shoe Town Art Studio in Haverhill also took pictures that are displayed. The results, Silverman said, were better than she was hoping for.
“It blew my mind,” she said. “The textures and colors are just phenomenal.”
In one picture, clouds curl over, looking like the surf breaking on a beach. In others, lightning cracks or a full moon shines. One picture submitted by a man from Derry, N.H., shows the beginning of a tornado.
Silverman can quickly pick out the pictures from Greece because of the vivid color of the sky over the Aegean Sea.
“Some of the pictures are so peaceful and muted, and some are so in your face,” she said. “People hear that the exhibit is pictures of the sky and wonder how different they can be, but the atmospheres and colors are amazing.”
One artist wrote to Silverman saying, “Thank you for making me look up again.”
That sentiment was exactly what Silverman was hoping to inspire with the project.
“That made me feel great,” she said. “Everyone should be thankful for their blessings. There is beauty around us, but we’re so stressed that oftentimes we don’t notice it.”
Silverman said that she couldn’t have completed the project without the help of many people in the community. Angles & Art allowed her to take over the lower level of the shop, and friends helped her mount all the photos and place them on the walls.
“That took a very long time,” she said.
Silverman is dedicating the show to two friends who could not be there. Ed Romano was a local artist who recently died of brain cancer. Before he died, he left Silverman all of his mounting boards so that she could properly display the photos. Rose Krikorian was a family friend who recently died at 93.
“She never missed a single art show that I did,” Silverman said. “You can’t do something like this without people who are kind.”
After the show, Silverman plans to turn some of the pictures into postcards, which she will use to mail thank-you notes to the participating artists. The rest of the pictures will be given away, in line with the IUOMA philosophy of distributing free art.
The pictures are displayed from top to bottom on one wall at Angles & Art, with chairs facing them. Silverman hopes that people will come in, make themselves a free cup of coffee or hot chocolate, and lose themselves in the art.
“I want everyone to take a deep breath and take a break from whatever is going on,” she said. “No one is saying, ‘Buy this.’ There aren’t many places like that.”
If you go
What: “Under the Same Sky,” a photo exhibition
Where: Angles & Art (lower level), 80 Wingate St., Haverhill
When: Runs through Friday, Feb. 28. The gallery is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
How much: Free
More information: www.anglesandart.com
About the IUOMA
The International Union of Mail Artists is a group of more than 3,000 artists from around the world who are committed to providing free art.
“The idea is to get all economic backgrounds into these shows for free,” said Sharon Silverman, who organized the “Under the Same Sky” exhibit.
Artists submit their work to the person organizing a show. The only rules are that the show must be free to the public and none of the work is for sale.
“It’s art for art’s sake,” Silverman said.
For more information, visit www.iuoma.org