By Anna Manuel Contributing Writer
The Water Bear Confabulum is an event with many attractions including an art walk in downtown Farmington, a 5k trail run and child friendly activities. With the help of students, staff and guest artists, the event has become an annual tradition since 2005.
Sarah Maline, an art professor at UMF, is in charge of organizing the event. Maline has to get permission from town managers in order to use their alleys for artwork.
“In 2017, we had about 60 UMF students participating as artists and performers as individuals,” said Maline. “Parents and kids went on the trick-or-treat art trail and there has been a kid’s chalk and/or wheat-paste wall project every year on the Homestead wall.”
Guest artist Beth Wittenberg is from Washington D.C. with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. “I think of the Water Bear Confabulum as an event, a rural avant garde event,” said Wittenberg. “That attracts inquiry into one’s own memory, like a game where all the players are searching for their own meaning.”
Last year, Wittenberg had the opportunity to spend the day before the event with the art students. They gathered in the alleyway where they would prepare the artwork. “We worked with the idea of homelessness in rural Farmington and what that might look like as interpreted by college students,” said Wittenberg. “Reimagining the space, creating the installation, was the task we set out to work with as the days’ activities ensued.”
Another Guest artist, Maggie Libby, is from Winthrop, Maine. Libby has attended Tufts, Colby and New York studio school, in addition to making her own MFA study. Libby described the Water Bear Confabulum as “a celebration of diverse artistic voice; installations, performances and interactivity.”
Last year, Libby contributed an erasable drawing for the event, as well as created a sculpture piece that was put on display. Libby’s piece was a white wooden chair with some chipped paint. On her sculpture was a small, red cat facing the back of the chair, with a bird and branches near the bottom.
Along with the alleyways filled with art, there is also art created in the woods. “Bringing art to the woods creates such an exciting backdrop for some provocative art,” said Wittenberg. “I was very impressed by student work I saw. Some of the art students had very engaging pieces.”
Libby’s favorite part of Water Bear Confabulm is, “getting to know Farmington a little better, talking to people and students, seeing other work”.
“It was also a good antidote to the over-seriousness about art here at Colby; it gets too pretentious here when the museum only honors people from outside of Maine who are the very top of the art profession.”
This year, the Water Bear Confablum event will be held on October 27th from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.. The event takes place in Downtown Farmington and is free of charge.