Waterville to get interactive art project

(Waterville, ME)

By Stephanie Curtis (Correspondent)

WATERVILLE -- A New Hampshire artist is being brought to Waterville for a wide-ranging interactive art project.

In an effort to restore knowledge of Waterville's history, as well as bring community residents together, Waterville Main Street has chosen artist Tim Gaudreau to create the interactive artwork, which gets under way Friday.

Gaudreau's work, which will occur over several weeks, involves large handmade seeds, a photo booth, the Head of Falls and an upcoming concert there. Gaudreau begins by delivering the seeds to a handful of Waterville residents at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Barrels Community Market downtown.

Gaudreau's project was just the sort of thing the Main Street group was looking for, said Executive Director Shannon Haines.

She said that the New England Foundation for the Arts was offering a grant for public artists, and WMS jumped on the opportunity to start a project that would "engage the community in a dialogue."

After deciding that the project would take place at the Head of Falls site, WMS was approved for the grant. From a list of 30 pre-approved artists, the organization's selection committee chose Gaudreau.

The committee is composed of Sharon Corwin from the Colby College Museum of Art, Beth Eisen of Shadow Distribution, Sarah Sugden of the Waterville Public Library, Erik Thomas of Digital ImageWorks and local artist Jennifer Strode. It will continue to help guide the project.

Gaudreau structured his proposal on various stages that will take place over a period of several weeks.

"The brainstorming process is actually quite a challenge, almost a painful process, to find the right idea for a particular place," he said.

Gaudreau said he thought about the effect of the river on the community and his plan sprang from there.

"It was an opportunity to consider where we have been, where we are at, and what will help us to find where we are going," he said.

The first stage of the project, called "Seeds," will consist of originally designed "vessellike" pods that will be dispersed throughout the community. Each "seed" will have a slot into which people can deposit photos, stories, or other personal objects before passing the seed on to another person in the community.

Gaudreau said that he formed the idea when he thought of how there are not as many face-to-face social interactions today, and he wanted to design something to "help to spark conversation."

"It is a repository for personal stories," he said, "and it is the idea of something that inspires interaction of people in the community."

From Sept. 11 to 25, Gaudreau will come to Waterville to begin the middle stages of the project. With booths at both the Franco-American Family Festival and the Hill 'n the Ville festival, the artist will set up a walking trail; a photo booth; an interactive map of Waterville, called "Re-visioning the Future"; and a wall that will incorporate findings from the "seeds," photo-booth images and historical information.

The photo booth will be moved throughout the community and is meant to "capture the people of Waterville today, as we are," said Gaudreau.

The re-visioning aspect is designed to show how people imagine Waterville to look in 50 or 100 years.

The wall will be more of a collage, which can be put back up and pieced together in different ways, he said.

Gaudreau chose each stage to incorporate further his vision of how Waterville's past, present, and future can be tied in together.

The final stage, "Floats of Hope," will take place on Oct. 18 along with Harvest Fest. This consists of floats that will be made by local schoolchildren, giving them the chance to express their own visions for the future.

When finished, the children will launch their floats onto the Kennebec River. In his proposal, Gaudreau said the floats "reference Eastern traditions of launching respectful offerings into rivers and bodies of water."

"I am really excited to have this opportunity," said Gaudreau. "I am looking forward to the potential for conversation and to learn, hear, and share stories of who we are."

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