Treasured Places, Protected Spaces: An Exhibition of Artwork Featuring Conservation Lands of the Monadnock Region

May 29, 2015-September 5, 2015

Treasured Places, Protected Spaces: An Exhibition of Artwork Featuring Conservation Lands of the Monadnock Region
This summer art, conservation, and history will come together at the Historical Society of Cheshire County. The featured exhibit at the Historical Society — Treasured Places, Protected Spaces — will showcase conservation lands of the Monadnock Region through the eyes of over forty regional artists.

Alicia Drakiotes, an artist from Marlborough, New Hampshire, is helping the Historical Society produce the Treasured Places exhibit. Drakiotes can often be seen around the Monadnock region painting en plein air, her Ford SUV nearby with its “Art Supports Me” bumpersticker. “Treasured Places gives an artist a chance to create a work specifically for the exhibit and for the public to see it,” says Drakiotes. “I enjoy creating opportunities for the community to embrace the art, and I am glad the Historical Society has a nice space to give the artists the exposure. And the artists will have an opportunity to sell artworks that have been accepted into the exhibition.”

Alicia Drakiotes feels that art gives a distinctive flavor to Keene. “The downtown is much more colorful and vibrant because of the art on view,” says Drakiotes. “Restaurants and cafes such as Prime Roast, Brewbakers, Kristin’s, and The Works benefit from displaying the work of local artists, and the artists benefit from showing their work. Syd’s has started to showcase artwork from the Monadnock Area Artists Association, and now people who are shopping for furniture can also look at original artwork for their walls. Businesses such as Creative Encounters, Indian King Framery, and Inkberry benefit from the art community and support the local artists in turn. Art is paying its way in the community.”
The Monadnock Conservancy is one of several conservation organizations in partnership with the Historical Society for Treasured Places, including the Harris Center, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, and the New Hampshire Audubon Society. Ryan Owens, Executive Director of the Monadnock Conservancy says, “Years ago I helped conserve part of an old family dairy farm near my home in Walpole. Great Brook Farm is soil, grass, rocks and cows. But it is also nine generations of a family, a business, annual community gatherings, too many tractors to count, old buildings and innumerable stories. It is land, but it is also who and what we are as a town. Every town has places like this. I believe that, when we save land, we are saving, in effect, culture.”

Owens muses on the intersection of land, culture, and art. “It is unsurprising that artists have flocked to the Monadnock region for generations – it is beautiful. And just as land is more than soil, rock, and water, art is more than pictures. Art captures a scene, but it also captures a feeling, encompassing all the senses of the artist’s experience of the moment. The artist’s gift to us is a connection to both her experience and to the place – through the painting we can go there again and again. Depictions of our landscape are a reminder of the preciousness of this place, a call to steward it with care.”
Gina Goff, Senior Director of Community Involvement at C&S Wholesale Grocers, Inc., observes that conservation is good for business as well. “The Monadnock Conservancy’s work to protect natural resources and special places – – whether forests, waterways, or farms – –  is a key factor in what makes this corner of New Hampshire so desirable,” says Goff. “In addition to attracting tourists and their spending, having places for families to hike, swim, ski and paddle is a draw for companies seeking to attract and retain employees.”

The Treasured Places exhibit represents a new emphasis for the Historical Society of Cheshire County, a redefinition of the organization that is drawing a wider and more diverse audience. The Historical Society, as have other successful historical societies across America, has realized that people won’t return again and again to museums that are simply repositories of “old stuff”. Today people support organizations that are vital, alive, happening, and provide continuing benefits that suit members’ and consumers’ present needs.

The Executive Director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County, Alan Rumrill, says his organization is meeting the challenge head on. The Historical Society’s strategic plan is focused on a vision of a “cultural heritage center” which provides relevance and a sense of place. “Cheshire County has certainly been shaped by its history,” says Rumrill, “but it should be more broadly understood by wider audiences in terms of its art, its music, its literature, its crafts, its industries, and its social fabric.”

The Historical Society’s Director of Education, Jenna Carroll is excited about how Treasured Places represents the direction the organization is going. “Individuals, organizations, and business within Cheshire County can engage with the past and participate in making history,” says Carroll. “The participating artists have created beautiful works of art for the show; but they have also assisted us in documenting conserved lands, in a particular time and place, to be enjoyed for generations to come.  They have, in fact, created history.”

As a result of arts and cultural events such as Treasured Places, Keene’s downtown stands to benefit economically as a summer attraction for residents and visitors. A 2009 study of the Monadnock region by Americans for the Arts found that attendees at nonprofit arts and culture events spend an average of $18.46 per person on meals, souvenirs and gifts, transportation, and lodging (“Arts and Economic Prosperity III: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and their Audiences in the Monadnock Region). A 2012 study by Americans for the Arts showed there is a multiplier effect of the spending in terms of jobs and resident household income (“Arts and Economic Prosperity IV: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Culture Organizations and their Audiences in the State of New Hampshire).
At the opening of Treasured Places, Protected Spaces on May 29th, artists will be on hand to discuss their works, and music for flute, viola, and harp will be performed by Electric Earth Orchestra of Peterborough in a short program inspired by the region’s wildest preserved lands. Throughout the run of the exhibition, a number of special events such as presentations, field trips, school visits, and guided gallery walks will celebrate various aspects of the Monadnock region’s conservation lands.

On July 22nd Ryan Owens of the Monadnock Conservancy will give a presentation on how the conservation movement is connecting with human needs and interests such as social services, health, and culture to build community relevance.
On August 1st art and nature lovers are invited to take a family-friendly plein air hike along Calhoun Family Forest’s trail in Gilsum, which is owned by the Monadnock Conservancy. The trail follows a babbling brook and leads to a gorgeous waterfall. Along the way, hikers can engage with plein air artists at work.
On August 5th the Historical Society will host a presentation on “The Sense of Nature” by Charolotte Wharton, a plein air and portrait artist from Worcester who has given painting workshops and demonstrations throughout the United States and Europe. She has taught for over twenty years and has won numerous awards such as the Copley Society of Boston’s Gold Medal.

On August 19th the Historical Society will host a presentation on “The Bald Eagle Recovery in New Hampshire” by Chris Martin of New Hampshire Audubon. For over 20 years his work has focused on coordinating recovery efforts for New Hampshire’s endangered and threatened birds of prey. He has trained and continues to supervise an enthusiastic corps of volunteers who assist with monitoring and management of the state’s bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and osprey populations.  Chris is also the co-host of NHPR’s “Something Wild.”  This program is co-sponsored by the Friends of Open Spaces, dedicated to preserving open space and natural resources in Keene and the surrounding towns.

On August 26th the Society’s own Alan Rumrill will provide a look at why the Monadnock region is home to so many conservation properties. Many radio listeners are familiar with Rumrill’s Monadnock Moments on WKBK radio. Rumrill’s talk is entitled, “Why Here? The triumphant history of land conservation in southwest New Hampshire.”
On September 2nd Dave Anderson of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests will present on “A Century of Statewide Land Conservation.” His bimonthly column “Forest Journal” appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News and his quarterly “Nature’s View” columns are a regular feature in the Forest Society’s quarterly magazine Forest Notes.  He is also the host of NHPR’s “Something Wild.”

For a complete schedule of events for Treasured Places, Protected Spaces, go to the Historical Society of Cheshire County’s website at The exhibit and programs have been made possible in part through the support of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and UNFI, Inc.