, Newburyport, MA


January 23, 2014

Representing the community

Pentucket Arts Foundation's public art project is a unique collaboration


As part of the project, a photograph of each item is paired with a statement — drafted by its donor — explaining how it symbolizes the organization that donated it. Photos and statements will be bound together into a viewbook accompanying the finished art piece.

A Pentucket alumnus, Bixby is an award-winning children’s book illustrator who lives in Newburyport and teaches visual art at Pentucket High School. As Stasiuk and her colleagues unloaded box after box, snapping pictures with their phones, he slowly circled the tables, thoughtfully taking in the found treasures for the first time.

He examined each item, lifting some in his hands to get a feel for their heft: an intricate-looking fuel pump from Brunault’s Auto in West Newbury; the coupling section of a 1963 fire hose from the Groveland Fire Department; a small saute pan representing the “home cooking, warmth and coziness” of Rhythm Cafe in Merrimac.

“I’m looking for combinations — shapes, colors, textures — for things that naturally go together, but also things that are unrelated but look interesting when put side by side,” Bixby said.

He continued taking stock of the bounty scattered across the tables: wooden drumsticks, library cards, police badges, pizza boxes, coffee mugs, a hair stylist’s scissors and hairbrush, a pine derby racer, original pieces of pottery, and sculptures created by other local artists specifically for the project.

Bixby points out that many of the items not only represent different groups in the community but also different time periods.

West Newbury’s town clerk offered two postcards from the 1950s with renderings of the 1910 Town Office Building and the Congregational Church, erected on Main Street in 1856. The Groveland Council on Aging also gave an antique postcard — featuring a kick line of old-fashioned bathing beauties.

Cindy Adams of Long Hill Orchard in West Newbury contributed a section of a wooden apple crate dated 1965, while Don Fowler of the West Newbury Food Mart donated a lottery ticket from 1972 — the year the 55-year-old store first started selling scratch tickets.

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