As an artist, what do you do when a pandemic turns the world upside down and the constraints of caregiving make time alone in your studio utterly impossible? Do those additional responsibilities intensify your need for a creative outlet? How do you keep the demands of caregiving from stymieing creativity?
From March 9 through May 7, the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University is presenting Suzanne Schireson: Aftercare, a series of paintings that Schireson, an artist and professor who lives and works in Rhode Island, created from 2020 to 2023 to maximize her “studio time.”
“With a generosity of spirit and an intensity of color, she invents glowing, nocturnal, makeshift fantasy studios for herself and her circle of caregiving artist friends,” said Jenine Culligan, director of the Wilson Museum.
“A dream of solitary space is contradictory in this moment,” Schireson stated. “As a mother in quarantine, I occupied more of my time with those I care for, making flashes of solitude particularly rare and inspiring….I find it is important to share a range of experiences and promote the multitude of ways that caretakers construct their lives.”
Schireson begins each composition with a fluorescent ground built up with saturated neon colors juxtaposed with impasto strokes and bands of tighter shades. The focus is on structures in the rural landscape; some are mere suggestions of a dig site; others are simple constructed sheds or lean-tos. Many incorporate the artists working intensely, feverishly, at a task, whether it is dyeing, weaving, painting, writing, or thinking and smoking.
“These artists are hungry to make art,” Culligan said. “In this nocturnal world, we witness the artists in action as they use short bursts of time and solitude to care for themselves and their art. In this work Schireson not only sustains her need to paint but also visualizes a world where artist friends have the space they need.”
Schireson’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at the Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia; Smith College, Northampton, MA; the New Bedford Museum of Art, New Bedford, MA; the Sori Art Center, Jeollabuk-do, South Korea; the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati, Assam, India; and the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris. An associate professor of art and design at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, she holds a B.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.F.A. from Indiana University, and a certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Schireson will present a lecture in conjunction with the opening of her exhibition on Thursday, March 9, at 6 p.m. in Niederer Auditorium, Wetherill Visual Arts Center. A reception will follow in the Wilson Museum. The lecture is also available via Zoom; contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the link.
Top image: Suzanne Schireson, Turmeric Dye Night, 2022. Oil on paper. Courtesy of the artist.
She admits that including it in her creative arsenal might be “a bit taboo,” but Erin Masarjian ’25 has no qualms about occasionally harnessing the power of glitter to accentuate her art.
“The pop that it can provide is really fun,” the studio art major explains. “That’s what I think glitter does. When you’re in a dark room or place, you can still have a little bit of light.”
Masarjian’s use of glitter in her work underscores her eagerness to, as she says, “break all the rules,” and her approach is beginning to garner attention. Roanoke’s Art on 1st, which showcases emerging and aspiring artists, is featuring two of her pieces in its Pop Art Exhibition, which continues through March 11. Three more of her works can be seen in “The Healing Power of Hope,” a multimedia exhibit presented through May 8 by the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the William King Museum of Art.
“I just put my entire heart into it. Whatever comes out is what comes out,” she says of her artistic philosophy. “Good, bad, ugly, strange…I just go with it.”
Art has played an essential role in Masarjian’s life since she was a kindergartener in Florida. “I remember the teachers showing us how to draw smiley faces with two dots and a smile, and I said, ‘No, there are eyelashes, eyebrows, nostrils – it’s more than that!’ Then, I created something in elementary school that was subsequently displayed. That was the first time I felt recognized.”
Masarjian was further encouraged by her family. “They supported me a thousand percent. My grandpa would say, ‘I want you to work at Disney, I want you to be an animator,’ and I was always doing artsy things with my aunts. There was this daily reminder, ‘You can do this.’”
About ten years ago, Masarjian decided to fully focus on her art. By that time, she was living in Roanoke and employed at a dental office. “Luckily, they were very helpful and worked with me. I was able to enroll at Virginia Western Community College.”
She studied at Virginia Western under Sue Steele Thomas, a world-renowned watercolorist and one of the top automotive painters in the world. For Masarjian, the experience infused her passion for art with the influence of a good mentor. “She is a true master. I took in a lot when I was working with her and I give her a lot of credit for the technique that I learned.”
When she felt she had absorbed as much as she possibly could at Virginia Western, Masarjian set her sights on completing the next step in her artistic journey at Hollins University. Hollins, she says, had attracted her with its beautiful campus. It became familiar to her through numerous public events she attended prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a dream, really,” she recalls. “When I was younger, I thought, ‘Maybe one day I’ll come here.’” Her wish came to fruition last year when she was accepted at Hollins through the university’s Horizon program. “I’m still in shock sometimes. I’m so happy about it.”
Even though she is only in her second semester, Masarjian believes coming to Hollins is “already helping me to grow as an artist. I can see and feel the difference in my work. I took a printmaking class last semester, something I hadn’t really had any experience with before, and this semester I’m taking a painting class and a drawing class. Through experimentation and trying different things, I’m expanding my practice and informing my work in new ways.”
Masarjian praises the art department, not only for its physical resources (“the studios are gorgeous and the materials available for artists are wonderful”) but also for the professors who have built upon the foundation she cherished at Virginia Western. “Everyone is super nice, super helpful and knowledgeable, and the faculty promote an atmosphere where you’re comfortable talking about art, artists, and technique. It’s refreshing to be in that kind of environment.”
The mentoring that faculty have provided is also appreciated. “My inspiration comes from everywhere and I do a lot of work with found materials (organic or manufactured objects that an artist may favor for their inherent creative value). Sometimes when I see these materials, I’m struck by an idea and that idea stays with me until I get it out. I always have ten million ideas that I want to do, and my professors help me find the focus I need to complete the work.”
The two Masarjian pieces that are on display at Art on 1st are both found canvases. The main piece features mixed media with three separate canvases framed together. It is abstract, colorful, and vibrant. Of the three works she has featured in “The Healing Power of Hope,” two came out of her printmaking class last semester. She considers one of those, “Composition Joy,” to be among her favorite pieces. And yes, glitter figures prominently in both the mixed media work and in “Composition Joy.”
“The sparkles are bits of possibility. It’s another tomorrow even if you don’t know what it will bring. When I look at ‘Composition Joy,’ it brings me joy and it brings me hope. The colors are soothing.”
Masarjian is especially proud of two other venues where her art has been showcased. At a Virginia Western student show, she was thrilled when someone purchased one of her works. “I don’t even know who the person was,” she says, but it was deeply gratifying to her that someone “found meaning in my piece.” Recently, she received her first magazine exposure when Oyster River Pages included a work she submitted.
One of Masarjian’s most ambitious projects to date is currently in progress. When finished, “The Shark Wall” will feature 40 individual paintings of sharks (she’s completed 17 thus far) that she hopes will eventually find a home at an aquarium, science museum, or conservatory somewhere in the world.
The wall is intended to highlight “the vulnerability of sharks, but in a way it’s also a reflection of me having grown up on the Florida coast. So, I see it having a dual purpose: first, to raise awareness about the environment, climate change, and our oceans – this is our world, we’re all here together, let’s take care of it. And second, the wall is a statement of who I am as an artist.”
After Hollins, Masarjian is looking to pursue artist residency opportunities throughout the country. “Truly, my passion is in creating. This is how I live and breathe. I want to be a positive force. I want love to come from my work.”
She adds, “A lot of this is part of Hollins’ doing, and working in the art department someday would be a lovely goal as well. It’s just so welcoming and I enjoy it so much.”
Each year, Hollins’ artist-in-residence program brings to campus a nationally recognized artist who produces work and teaches a special seminar. The program honors Niederer, a beloved art historian who taught for many years at Hollins.
Sulzer draws, prints, paints, and mixes these disciplines in an intuitive and free-associative process. Her daily practice reflects a constant pull between building a foundation and dismantling it, always trying to get closer to the underlying impulse for making things.
Her work often lives on the edge between object and image, statement and question, figure and abstraction. She is interested in landscape as both setting and character, and as an archive of human experience. In much of her work, forms shift, dissolve, and reorganize themselves like the fluid and unstable nature of memory. How a singular solution is shaken out of limitless possibilities and the role that chance plays in keeping this process open is also an abiding interest. At the heart of her practice is the deep belief in the need for wonder and discovery.
Sulzer’s multidisciplinary background includes a Bachelor of Arts in French from New York University and a Master of Arts from Columbia University’s Teachers College. She then completed a Master of Science in forest biology at the University of Maine and became a laboratory instructor at Bowdoin College. Fusing her interest in the natural sciences and art, she illustrated a number of books in marine and conservation biology. In 1998, she left Bowdoin College to pursue her art practice.
In 2004 Sulzer received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Maine Arts Commission, and has held residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Ucross Foundation, and Surf Point Residency, among others.
Sulzer has exhibited in New York, Colorado, Maine, London, Glasgow, and Munich, and has had solo museum exhibitions at the Portland Museum of Art, Bowdoin College, and University of Maine Museum of Art. She also has recently completed a number of large-scale public art projects for Maine schools through the Maine Percent for Art program.
Her work is included in numerous collections: Portland Museum of Art, Bates College Museum of Art, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Colby College Museum of Art, The University of Maine Museum of Art, Fidelity Corporation, Syzygy, and numerous private collections in the United States, Great Britain, and Germany.
Sulzer lives in Maine and teaches part-time at the University of Southern Maine.
“The Golden Foundation Residency Program is specifically designed to assist the professional artist in discovering and exploring the many materials and technologies available today,” states the foundation’s website. “Through the Golden Foundation, residents will have the unparalleled opportunity to work with dozens of unique materials and technologies.”
Campbell will spend four weeks next year in central New York State living and working in a 19th century barn that has been transformed into a 21st century artist residency.
“The residency gives a complete survey to Golden acrylic, watercolor, and oil paints and mediums,” Campbell explained. “The first week is full of workshops and demos for said materials to experiment with new ways of using paints and mediums with opportunities to consult with paint technicians. The rest of the program is dedicated to studio time.”
Campbell praised the backing she received from Hollins faculty for preparing her to pursue an art career. “I graduated as an English major with an art history minor, and while I went to Hollins wanting to be a studio art major, I didn’t have the courage to go for it. I felt as though I didn’t have anything worth painting about and I didn’t know how to transfer my interests into tangible work. Of course, you learn that through time paired with painting regularly, but I didn’t want to fail or find out my ability didn’t ‘match’ my passion.”
Hollins, Campbell said, “definitely gave me more confidence in my work and in my abilities, not just in art but to create anything at all: writing, analyzing, even believing in my own intelligence. I had A LOT of support from [Professor of Art Emerita] Kathleen Nolan, [Associate Professor of Art] Genevieve Hendricks, and [Associate Professor of Art] Elise Schweitzer, and I’m so incredibly grateful to them.” She noted that Schweitzer in particular “pushed me out of my comfort zone in and out of college. Many of the art opportunities I had or learned about were recommended to me by Elise.”
Until recently, Campbell served as fellowship coordinator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond. “I was in charge of a statewide scholarship that is given to Virginia artists, both students and professionals.” She coordinated three to six solo shows a year showcasing former VMFA Fellows, including an exhibition featuring the work of Professor of Art Emeritus Robert Sulkin. “I wanted the Fellowship to have a larger online presence and more benefits to the artists outside of their shows and scholarship such as studio visits, panels, lectures, and the like. The position and the Fellowship are growing and I’m very grateful to have been a part of it.”
Now engaged full-time in making art, Campbell is hoping to enroll in a graduate program beginning in the fall of 2023. In the meantime, she’s been busy participating in workshops, attending lectures, “and meeting great contemporary artists! I just came back from a fall workshop with Ken Kewley at Mount Gretna School of Art. It was wonderful to say the least!”
Outside of art, Campbell is planning to travel to South Korea for a language program. “I have been learning Korean since 2021, something I had been wanting to do since I was 13, so going to a three-month program there should be exciting.”
The Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts began its residency for artists working in paint in 2012. An art auction celebrating the Golden Foundation’s 20th anniversary in 2017 helped ensure that moving forward, artists could take part in the residency at no cost. Residents are selected through a competitive juried process by a committee consisting mainly of artists and art professionals. The committee’s criteria focus on the quality of submitted work.
Located at 109 Campbell Avenue, SW, the art gallery is hosting an opening reception for the show in conjunction with downtown Roanoke’s “Art-by-Night” on Friday, December 2, from 5 – 9 p.m.
Zompetti utilizes traditional and experimental analog photographic methods to investigate land, home, and environment. Her recent cameraless photographic work explores the delicate and resilient nature of film emulsion exposed to environmental conditions where she collaborates with light, weather, and time to create unique photographs that embrace chance, mistake, and deterioration.
“My creative process is driven by curious experimentation with analog photographic materials – not in the quest for the perfect, captured moment, but rather for the possibilities that exist when control is relinquished, and chance helps guide both the process and questions being asked by the work,” Zompetti says. “This curiosity excites and drives me to push the medium further, seeing what is possible outside the parameters of traditional photographic processes.”
Zompetti notes that in “The Lost Garden” exhibition, the cameraless photographs “are created by exposing large-format film to environmental conditions over extended periods of time. The physical remains of wildlife and other remnants of the natural world are placed on the film’s surface. The film becomes an imprint of the fragile body, a witnessing of transformation through loss, and a map-like record of time and place during this moment when our natural environment is on the precipice of irreversible change.”
Zompetti holds a B.F.A. in visual arts from Northern Vermont University and an M.F.A. in visual arts from the Lesley University College of Art and Design. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, from Hollins’ Eleanor D. Wilson Museum to galleries in Boston, Brooklyn, and Iceland.
“The Lost Garden” is partially funded by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.
After she began playing the cello as a fourth-grader, Brigitte Bonsu ’25 became fascinated with music’s healing power. As a high school senior, she decided to pursue a position with the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL), and as part of her application she was asked to submit a 90-second video on a topic of her choosing.
“I focused on music and mental health,” she recalled, “and after I was accepted into SRL, they wanted to continue looking into that idea.”
Working with producer Eli Kintisch, Bonsu and segment cohost John Barnes (an undergraduate at the University of Virginia) interviewed experts, explored the latest research, and reflected on their own personal musical odysseys. They created a five-minute-plus story on the link between music and our moods that premiered online in the PBS NewsHour Classroom on September 16 and was broadcast nationally October 24 on PBS NewsHour as part of CANVAS, the newscast’s arts and culture series.
Bonsu, Barnes, and Kintisch started putting the piece together at the end of Summer 2021. “So, throughout my first year at Hollins, that’s really when I was working on it,” Bonsu explained. The result is a lively, entertaining, and informative story punctuated with humor and animation. As cohosts, Bonsu and Barnes have an engaging rapport that underscores how much the project resonated with them.
“John plays guitar, but he didn’t actually pick it up until his senior year in high school. He was self-taught,” Bonsu said. “The fact that he went from not having traditional lessons to performing now in band, that shows how you can get to the point where this hobby can really become a part of you in a way where you can just express yourself.”
Bonsu hopes viewers come away from the segment understanding that virtuosity and perfection are not prerequisites for enjoying music’s benefits. “Sometimes when we look at music, we think we can’t touch it unless we meet particular criteria or reach certain heights. Anyone can connect with music. You can always play or listen to it. We can use music in our daily lives and it can help us during distressing times.”
Playing the cello, Bonsu said, not only helps her stay disciplined, but also offers her a creative space that ensures a healthy balance with her academic responsibilities. “When I began in fourth grade, I didn’t expect to keep pursuing it to this point. But, I’ve grown really close to it. I’ve made learning and performing my own thing.”
Bonsu recently declared English as her major and intends to keep playing the cello throughout her undergraduate career. For the upcoming January Short Term, she is seeking a Diplomatic and Consular Services Retired Archives internship in Washington, D.C., focusing on equity and inclusivity. After Hollins, she wants to pursue graduate school in both English and music and eventually become a professor and a writer. Wherever her plans take her, she is certain what she learned from working with SRL will continue to be impactful.
“One thing I took away from SRL is that there are different ways to use what we already know and the skills we already have to create something very accessible and relatable to give back to the world. I never thought I could make a video about music and mental health, see it published, and have it help others. I really do like how a lot of people have been able to connect to it.”
The Perry F. Kendig Awards, which celebrate the people and organizations that support excellence in the arts in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, were presented during a ceremony at Hollins University on October 11.
The awards are co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College, and they are awarded annually in three categories: Individual Artist, Arts and Cultural Organization, and Individual or Business Arts supporter. Recipients are selected from a group of nominees who live or work in the counties of Roanoke, Botetourt, and Franklin, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, or the town of Vinton. The awards are named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts.
“Roanoke College is happy to again join with Hollins University to present these Kendig Awards, and it is our privilege to carry on the tradition of this event in President Kendig’s name,” said Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr., who joined Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton to present the awards.
This year’s nominees were Seth Davis, resident musical director at Mill Mountain Theatre; Michael Hemphill, founder and host of the inspirational Blue Ridge PBS and YouTube show “Buzz4Good”; Michael Mansfield, an actor and director who has worked with multiple local arts organizations; Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the city of Roanoke; Sandra Meythaler, executive director of Roanoke Ballet Theatre; and the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir.
The 2022 Kendig Award winners are:
Individual Artist Award
The recipient of the Individual Artist Award for 2022 was Seth Davis, Mill Mountain Theatre’s resident music director. For nearly a decade, Davis has inspired more than 4,000 children and teenagers by helping them find joy and fulfillment through music. His students develop leadership and talents they can apply to their studies and future careers. “Teaching is Seth Davis’ passion; music is his language,” said one of the nominators.
Through his work at Mill Mountain, Davis has challenged and encouraged children through conservatory classes and stage productions. “I really love what music can do to increase a child’s confidence,” Davis has said. “Students come to us not sure where they even fit in life. Teaching is an opportunity to provide that sense of belonging through music.”
At the ceremony on Tuesday, Davis said he was pleasantly surprised by the recognition.
“I’m grateful for the chance to work with kids and folks of all ages on something that brings them so much joy,” he said, “and it is mutual, because it also brings me joy.”
Arts and Cultural Organization Award
The Arts and Cultural Organization Award was presented to The Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir (RVCC). For 35 years, RVCC has met the needs of young people across the Roanoke Valley, providing an artistic and in-depth study of voice in a choral setting. The choir currently has 130 singers aged seven to 18. It is divided into a “Little Singers” group for children ages 4-6, three training choirs, and a concert choir. Children move up through the groups as their development and aptitude deepens.
Weekly rehearsals culminate in community performances that help students develop vocal techniques, confidence, leadership and teamwork. Each choir participates in an annual regional, state, national or international honor performance, giving the students an opportunity to travel. The choir also collaborates on performances with professional organizations such as the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Opera Roanoke. Susan Smith, chairwoman of the RVCC Board of Directors, accepted the award on behalf of the choir.
“We are proud to have served the Roanoke Valley as a world-class choral program for 36 years,” Smith said. “If you know, you know: There is no sound quite like the choral sound of children’s voices.”
Individual or Business Arts Supporter Award
The Individual or Business Arts Supporter Award was presented to Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the city of Roanoke and capacity development specialist for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Jackson is a long-serving and faithful ally of the arts in Virginia’s Blue Ridge who is invested in finding ways to make the arts compelling and accessible to all. He has done that through community initiatives such as BOOK CITY and Roanoke’s Year of the Artist.
“Doug’s belief in the power of the arts to strengthen community in all its diversity, and to build trusting relationships, is contagious,” a nominator said.
Roanoke’s Year of the Artist, Jackson’s recent effort to secure and distribute funding for the arts, has empowered and validated the existing creative community and has helped to bridge the gap between working artists, arts organizations, and city government. Beginning in 2013, Jackson helped create the Parks and the Arts program, which brought the best of Roanoke’s arts and culture experiences to neighborhood parks and community centers.
“The arts are how I was able to get involved in Roanoke and feel a part of the community,” Jackson said. “The arts can give us agency.”
Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the Kendig Awards program was established in 1985 and presented annually by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge through 2012. Hollins and Roanoke College have now partnered for 10 years to bestow the honors. Kendig’s sons, Bill Kendig, a 1980 graduate of Roanoke College, and John Kendig, attended Tuesday’s event to represent their family.
“We so appreciate the fact that Roanoke College and Hollins University honor Dad with that award,” John Kendig said. “He would love to be here. He would be in his element.”
Photo caption (from left to right): Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr.; Michael Mansfield, actor/director; Sandra Meythaler, executive director of Roanoke Ballet Theatre; Seth Davis, resident music director at Mill Mountain Theatre; Susan Smith, executive director of the Roanoke Valley Children’s Choir Board of Directors; Douglas Jackson, arts and culture coordinator for the city of Roanoke and capacity development specialist for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development; Michael Hemphill, founder and host of the Blue Ridge PBS and YouTube show “Buzz4Good”; and Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton.
“Seeds from the East” showcases the work of A.D. Herzel, an internationally recognized artist, educator, designer, and writer who lives in Blue Ridge, Virginia. She is also a Korean adoptee who explores her identity and creates community through her art.
“This exhibit presents graphite portraits of Korean adoptees accompanied by silhouettes executed in gold ink and drawings of flowers, seeds, spirals, and other imagery specific to each portrait,” explained Wilson Museum Director Jenine Culligan. “Herzel offers her art as a way to help process grief and trauma, as well as to join the larger conversation about place and belonging in immigrant communities across the globe.”
In 1970, Herzel was among three Korean children (two girls and a boy) who were adopted by the Holt family, who also sponsored about 50 other children for adoption. She noted, “It has taken me 50 years to give light to the shadow of my adoption story. This current flowering moment, rooted and wrapped in the tendrils of history, is seeded by the currents of global, religious, and political history. My story, though textured with facets, divets, and spikes, is just one story in the Korean diaspora and one of the many American immigration stories worth telling.”
In conjunction with the exhibition, Herzel will deliver an artist lecture at the Wilson Museum on Saturday, October 1, at 2:30 p.m. A reception will follow. In addition, she will present a youth workshop entitled “Identity Development through Writing and Art Making” on Saturday, November 12, from 2 – 5 p.m., also at the museum. The workshop is intended for young adults ages 12-22 and delves into concepts of self-discovery through art and writing. Herzel will guide participants through investigative processes to help understand and clarify questions of belonging and becoming, especially for youth in adoptive or foster families. Registration for the workshop is required; contact Kyra Schmidt at email@example.com or 540-362-6496.
The Wilson Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Admission is always free.
The new production from a Hollins University film professor is receiving major support from the world’s leading distributor of independent films by and about women.
Associate Professor of Film Amy Gerber-Stroh’s Hope of Escape has earned official sponsorship from Women Make Movies (WMM), a nonprofit media arts organization based in New York City. For 50 years, WMM has backed women directors and producers in an effort to promote a diverse and inclusive filmmaking landscape.
“Hundreds of films by women have been made with the help of WMM’s Production Assistance Program,” Gerber-Stroh explained. Along with fiscal sponsorship, the program “offers professional development, nonprofit tax-exempt status, consultations, and workshops. Films and filmmakers supported by the organization have won Academy Awards, Emmys, and prizes at major film festivals worldwide.”
Currently in post-production, Hope of Escape is based on the true story of the journey of an enslaved mother and daughter who must escape before they are sold and separated forever. Their only hope is to connect with their free relatives in the North and convince the most powerful abolitionists of their time to help them.
“Hope of Escape champions the enslaved American heroes and abolitionist allies who, leading up to the Civil War, were willing to take on immense risk in order to combat the wretchedness of slavery,” Gerber-Stroh said. “As a descendant of slaves, I wish to add a different perspective to the lesser-known story of our collective historical memory by shining light onto the ‘above-ground railroad’ where slave masters were paid ‘ransoms’ (much like how Frederick Douglass gained his freedom) by families, mostly in the North, in order to free their enslaved relatives.”
Gerber-Stroh noted that “it ‘took a village’ to fundraise and emancipate a slave. Hope of Escape shows how my own family depended on a complex network of abolitionists, both inside and outside the United States. We see how, even though separated for many years and by thousands of miles, families (both free and enslaved) managed to keep their connections, holding onto hope that their circumstances would change for the better.”
Researching and making Hope of Escape has been a profoundly moving experience for Gerber-Stroh. “It has taught me that the women in my family, as well as women in scores of other families, did indeed resist with fierce hope in their hearts during slavery times. They courageously persevered so that their descendants (like me) can keep fighting and hopefully someday escape the national nightmare of institutional slavery and its lasting consequences. In a small way, my film is part of that fight.”
Gerber-Stroh has written and directed independent films, which focus on the intersection of memory, culture, and history, for over 30 years. Her films have won honors at numerous national and international film festivals. She chairs the film department at Hollins, where she teaches production, animation, and film studies.
An opening reception will be held on Monday, August 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. with a talk at 5:30 p.m.
A photographic artist, Zompetti utilizes traditional and experimental analog photographic methods to investigate land, home, and environment. Her recent camera-less photographic work explores the delicate and resilient nature of film emulsion exposed to environmental conditions where she collaborates with light, weather, and time to create unique photographs that embrace chance, mistake, and deterioration. “The Lost Garden” series is created by exposing large-format film to environmental conditions over extended periods of time. Wind, rain, ice, and snow alter the film, leaving time- and place-specific impressions.
“My creative process is driven by curious experimentation with analog photographic materials – not in the quest for the perfect, captured moment, but rather for the possibilities that exist when control is relinquished and chance helps guide both the process and questions being asked by the work,” Zompetti said. “This curiosity excites and drives me to push the medium further, seeing what is possible outside the parameters of traditional photographic processes.”
Zompetti received an M.F.A. in visual arts from the Lesley University College of Art and Design in Cambridge, Mass., and a B.F.A. in visual arts from Northern Vermont University. She is a recipient of the 2020 Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant in support of new analog, camera-less photographic work, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Mass., the Mjólkurbúðin Gallery in Akureyri, Iceland, and the A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y. Zompetti has attended artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and at the Gil Residency in Akureyri, Iceland, and her work is also held in several collections, including the artist book libraries at Yale University and the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity.
The exhibition, opening reception, and artist’s talk are free and open to the public. The gallery, located on the main floor of the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons, is open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and noon to midnight on Sunday.