Written by Akaya McEleveen
Willimantic, Conn. - Anne Dawson, chair of the Visual Arts Department and professor of art history at Eastern Connecticut State University, is working on a multifaceted project on J. Alden Weir, the world-famous artist who lived and painted in Windham from 1882 until his death in 1919. Dawson's project will include two art exhibitions, a book, speaking appearances and an expansion of the project's website. Dawson's research began in the fall of 2009 and is expected to be complete in 2016.
Eastern's Akus Gallery will present a Weir-related art exhibition from February to March 2016 to celebrate the opening of Eastern's new fine arts instructional facility. The exhibit will feature artwork from a contemporary artist that interprets Windham settings from today's perspective, and to highlight the role Windham played in inspiring Weir during his life from 1882 to 1919. The Akus show will include projections of Weir paintings and computer monitors displaying the project's website, WeirInWindham.org. By subtly referencing its historic past, the contemporary artist exhibition will celebrate Windham's sense of place, both past and present. There will also be a viewing of a "Weir in Windham" documentary created by Communication Professor Denise Matthews' documentary class.
The Akus exhibition is planned as a prelude to the historical exhibition, "Love at First Sight: J. Alden Weir and American Impressionism in Eastern Connecticut, 1882-1919," that will be on view at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London from March to September 2016. It will include major paintings by Weir and others as well as historical photography that documents Weir's life in eastern Connecticut.
Aside from presenting the two art exhibitions at the Akus Gallery and the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, Dawson is in search of a publisher for a new book titled "Love at First Sight: J. Alden Weir and American Impressionism in Eastern Connecticut, 1882-1919." The book is a compilation of interdisciplinary essays focusing on Weir, Windham at the turn of the century, and Connecticut's role in the country life movement and is edited by Dawson.
Dawson hopes the project will make people aware of the importance of the Windham/Willimantic area at the turn of the 20th century in terms of art, industry and culture generally. "The point of the project is to celebrate an artist that lived in the area," says Dawson. "It's to complete a neglected area of scholarship on Weir and encourage pride in Windham."
More information on Dawson's project can be found at http://www.weirinwindham.org/.