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Woodstock museum hosts collaborative project between Upper Valley artists and farmers

One of the displayed artworks of Evening Song Farm by illustrator Clover Ajame
Clover Ajame
/
Evening Song Farm
An illustration on display at Billings Farm and Museum of Evening Song Farm by Clover Ajame.

A farm and museum in Woodstock is hosting a portrait exhibition highlighting farmers in the Upper Valley who are taking steps to reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change.

Billings Farm and Museum is displaying "Portraits of Resilience," a project co-created by artist Cecily Anderson and the Upper Valley nonprofit, Vital Communities. The exhibition is on display until June 23.

The project paired artists with farmers, a group the project calls "the climate farmers," who use sustainable agricultural practices to help mitigate climate change. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farming in the United States accounted for 10.6% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2021.

Reproductions of the 24 works of portraiture created across mediums — including digital pieces and quilting — have been on display at the King Arthur Baking Company’s cafe in Norwich and other community spaces.

The exhibit at Billings Farm and Museum is the first time all of the original works of art have been shown together.

Museum curator Sherlock Terry said the idea to showcase the originals came after seeing one by happenstance, when quilter Linda Diak was dropping off another of her works. She asked Terry if he’d like to see what she had been working on with the climate farmers.

“And it was just so striking and so, so interesting and gave us the idea that maybe there was something great about showing the original artworks that were part of the climate farmers, climate farmers' stories,” Terry said.

This iteration of the exhibit at Billings Farm and Museum has been expanded to include educational programming for kids and adults. It features a station where children can build their own climate farm in a playset equipped with solar panels and compost bins. There is also an area where visitors can write postcards to farmers working to mitigate climate change.

In addition to the presence of the original artworks, Terry said this exhibition is distinguished in its connection to the land itself.

“We are practicing regenerative agriculture, and a lot of the practices that the climate farmers are practicing, as well. So I think that that adds so much for the visitor to be able to see this exhibition in a context that is very, just very authentic.”
Sherlock Terry, Billings Farm and Museum curator

Billings Farm and Museum has been an operational farm for over 160 years.

“We also are dealing with the effects of climate change,” he said. Last July’s historic flooding affected the farm’s hay crop, and the farm lost some of their land.

“We are practicing regenerative agriculture, and a lot of the practices that the climate farmers are practicing, as well,” Terry said. “So I think that that adds so much for the visitor to be able to see this exhibition in a context that is very, just very authentic.”

Farmer Kara Fitzbeauchamp co-owns Evening Song Farm in Cuttingsville. After losing her first farm in 2011 to flooding during Tropical Storm Irene, Evening Song practices sustainable erosion management and has implemented land depressions called swales to redirect heavy rainfall away from crops.

“I've always seen the power of art in a bigger societal way to tell messages, and so it felt really exciting when I saw this project come across as something I could apply for to blend things that are important to me, which is like addressing the climate crisis and using art as a tool for that,” Fitzbeauchamp said.

More from Vermont Public: After so. much. rain. Vermont farmers are finally making hay this week

She said the farmers got to rank which artists they wished to work with. Fitzbeauchamp was paired with cartoonist Clover Ajamie. She said the process involved a farm visit and a conversation about how Evening Song wanted to be represented.

“I feel like Clover also got the essence of the different seasons and things that were happening in there,” Fitzbeauchamp said. “So I guess I'm hoping viewers of that piece of art can just see the wildness and joy that can be in an ecologically minded, small, diversified farm.”

“I've always seen the power of art in a bigger societal way to tell messages, and so it felt really exciting when I saw this project come across as something I could apply for to blend things that are important to me, which is like addressing the climate crisis and using art as a tool for that.”
Kara Fitzbeauchamp, co-owner of Evening Song Farm in Cuttingsville

Both artists and farmers applied and were selected to participate by a small committee. Artist Cecily Anderson, co-founder and creative director of the climate farmers project, said she’s been illustrating farms for years.

“I think, like a lot of artists who live in Vermont, I love the agrarian landscape,” Anderson said. “I love the kind of community that happens when people have to pitch in together and create something outside and on the land.”

She said she wanted the portraits to also be of use to the farmers for marketing purposes. When the exhibition concludes, the artwork will belong to the farmers.

“From my perspective, we have been raising awareness about the connection between climate change and food resilience and food security and what these local farmers are doing,” Anderson said. “It feels like there has been a decent amount of visibility within our small area. And so that feels like an accomplishment.”

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Samantha Watson is Vermont Public's news intern.
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