Back in August, Springfield Museums called for the community to submit portraits for an upcoming exhibit. The selected artwork is part of a This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today, currently on display at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Quadrangle. 

The collection features 53 pieces of art from artists hailing from the Connecticut River Valley and northern Connecticut. Connecting Point Producer Dave Fraser talked with three artists whose work is part of the exhibit, as well as the museum’s curator Maggie North to learn more. 

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Maryanne Benns, Sculptor: The first time I put my hands in it, I took a ceramics one class and I knew this was it was like love.

Terry Gibson, Photographer: I think more than ever, art will always be responsible for highlighting our times and kind of marking our times.

Wynne Dromey, Artist: I think starting freshman year of high school, that’s when I really became more serious with art. And I start doing it pretty much every single day. And that’s when I realized that art was something I really like to do.

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: Three artists, all with different backgrounds and experiences, joined several others to showcase their artwork in the “This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today” exhibit at the Springfield Quadrangle’s D’Amour Art Museum.

Maggie North, Curator, D’amour Museum of Fine Arts: “This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today” was inspired by a larger exhibition, “The Outwin: American Portraiture Today,” which is on view at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in our Wheeler and Barn Galleries. We thought, why not — while highlighting national portraiture — also highlight the contemporary, regional portraiture right here in western Massachusetts and also in northern Connecticut.

Dave Fraser: Submissions ranged from photography, paintings, sculptures, drawings and more, all focused on similar themes — human connection, political climates, and social events. Terry Gibson is a self-taught street photographer who lives in Holyoke. He says his work explores the neighborhoods and communities whose residents are predominantly black and brown.

Terry Gibson: I chose the image of a young man that is standing in the center of a crowd and there is a woman’s hands across his chest. He’s looking on into a demonstration into a speaker. The response that I would like to hear is that folks are aware that young people are in the crowd. And so, that’s being mindful of the of the example that you’re setting at the protest, right? So, you could be angry and be mad —  and rightly so — but you also have to be aware that there are young people out here that are watching along and this is our future. So that’s really what I wanted the image to be about.

Dave Fraser: The open call for portraiture began back in August and the museum received 65 submissions. Twenty-three of the pieces are displayed on the museum walls and the others are featured on a digital slideshow.

Maggie North: This exhibition takes on a special significance today in our time of social distancing, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. And we thought that portraiture would be a wonderful way, not only to showcase local talent, but to invite our visitors to meet their neighbors and to share stories and come together within this space in order to see unmasked faces. Sometimes we, we can’t do that as often as we’d like to these days.

Dave Fraser: Wynne Dromey is a senior at Longmeadow High School. Her acrylic on canvas is a portrait of her friend Sandra, who, according to Dromey, represents the strength and determination within a community.

Wynne Dromey: During quarantine, that’s when the Black Lives Matter movement became really prevalent. And my friend Sandra actually started a peaceful protest for the Black Lives movement. And I think that’s just kind of made me realize, like, wow, like Sandra is such an incredible, powerful person. And that definitely solidified my plan of someone submitting this portrait for the competition.

Dave Fraser: According to the museum’s curator, Maggie North, they did not define portraiture when they posted the open call for this exhibit, hoping instead to let the artist choose how they wanted to define it.

Maggie North: So often when the word portraiture is used, what comes to mind is an image of a person’s head and maybe their shoulders. But in fact, a portrait can be so much more than that. It doesn’t have to be a painting or a photograph. It can be a sculpture or a watercolor, a mixed media piece, a work that showcases somebody’s body or illustrates their story in a different way.

Dave Fraser: In the spring of 2020, when the COVID pandemic forced many businesses to close, Maryanne Benns’s found herself alone in her studio in Holyoke. She said she turned inward for inspiration and created this three-dimensional clay piece.

Maryanne Benns: A lot of the work that I do has, I’m going to say, a lot of content. And sometimes it’s — it’s heavy, but I, I try to make it so that there’s a connection, that people can have a connection. Oftentimes people will ask me what this is about. What does this mean? And I like to ask them, “what does it mean to you?” What is it, what’s the connection you have to it? If you go and you look at work and you think “oh that blue is pretty” or “that green is pretty,” that’s a kind of a connection. But when it when it hits you inside, that that means a lot.

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: The exhibit runs through May 2nd of 2021 at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield.