Look, Please Touch: Maggie Libby Inspires Others Through Across References

Look, Please Touch: Maggie Libby Inspires Others Through Across References

By Emma Pierce Contributing Writer

“How Would You Map Your Life Yourself?” began as a blank scroll that viewers could add onto themselves. (Photo by Keely McConomy)

   To start off the spring semester, the UMF Art Gallery has been hosting a collection of interactive works by Colby College alumni Maggie Libby entitled Across References since Feb. 7. The installation is staying until March 14.

   Through her art Libby encourages the viewer to ask “provacative questions” about womens’ roles in history and how Maine’s geology may change over time.

   “I have this duality of having a rich and wild New York art experience and then coming back to Maine with this isolation and poverty,” Libby said after explaining her time at the New York Studio School. “So this is why I want to think about, ‘What’s the real Maine? What’s the real Maine experience?’”

   Libby hosted an “art talk” in the UMF Art Gallery on March 1. Art talks are lectures where the artist presents their art and the methods behind it in hopes of listeners gaining knowledge on different forms of art.

   Though lectures can be influential, Libby invited the audience to engage in ways other than listening right away. “So much of my work is about trying to create a dialogue and interaction between object and viewer,” Libby said, “so I would love to make this a nontraditional [talk] and instead have it be a conversation.”

   Libby presented strength to her audience of 20 in her opinions about womens’ roles in the art industry, the status of Maine’s environment, and her stance on her art. “Art is my medium,” she says. “So art is my voice.”

   One of Libby’s pieces features the history of the Sandy River and its surrounding area, which she researched extensively. Libby mapped the Sandy River as a way to leads the viewer from her charcoal drawing of Saddleback Mountain to just before Farmington, mapping the Wabanoki tribe and other geologic features along the way.

   Visitors have interacted similarly to another piece boldly titled, “HOW WOULD YOU MAP YOUR LIFE YOURSELF?” On the installation’s opening day, the piece was a blank scroll of paper spread across the gallery wall, but at Libby’s art talk the artist and participants helped Libby unroll the rest of the scroll to make room for more viewers’ art to be made.

   Meadhdh Carroll, Creative Writing and English major, was struck by the significance of the concept of mapping a life. Carroll says Libby is trying to inspire change in her viewers. “It just seems like [she’s trying to ask], ‘what are you passionate about?’ or ‘what is something that you would fight for in your life?’” Carroll says.

   Visitors have used materials, such as charcoal, maps and markers, provided by the gallery and Libby to become a part of Libby’s art, smearing words stenciled in charcoal and drew pictures on each of the pieces.  

   The gallery’s newest installation doesn’t only encourage those who draw. Libby has also made a box, some containing writing and others containing objects of different textures. “The other thing I love as a Maine resident is I love to look at the birds,” Libby says with a smile as she introduced her box containing housing insulation and birds, developing on her question of “What’s the real Maine experience?”

   Libby’s installation also features portraits of women who have indirectly and directly influenced her life. Her passion for including women as a significant topic in her art was greatly influenced by the work she does as curator of the Colby College Archives’ visual resources. “In my life at the Archives, I realized that. . .women’s history is either nonexistent, lost, forgotten, or overlooked,” Libby says.

   One of her pieces features five women who formed the first social protest at Colby College, focusing on the segregation of the school by biological sex. Libby produced it with a material that causes them to disappear, reflecting on what happens when we don’t speak up for what we want.

  Carroll felt the importance of the inclusion of women in art. “When I look at the portraits of the women,” Carroll said, “I think of the impact that women have had on history. It’s very inspiring because. . .you’re looking at these portraits of these women that have changed so many people’s lives and it kind of seems like she’s trying to get that out of [the viewer].”

   At the end of her art talk, Libby gave those who attended an assignment: “Think about how you can map or articulate or draw the boundaries of your life,” she says. After the art talk ended, the participants mapped their lives and chatted with Libby about art and its prescence in today’s world over coffee and snacks.

   In a time when the campus is divided on issues that plague our university and our world, it is important that we find a way to express the anger, frustration, and need for change in ways that are not filled with malice intent. Across References came at just the right time.

Learning Snowsports the UMF Way

By Emma Pierce Contributing Writer

    The Learn-to-Ski program is teaching students how to ski or snowboard for free as an elective, or as a substitute for a physical education (PHE) credit during the first half of the spring semester.

   “Every student needs to take a PHE credit and this is an opportunity to learn to ski or snowboard as half of that credit,” said Nolan Miler, senior and independent work study for the Learn-To-Ski program. The program has been running since the end of January and will continue to run until the start of spring break in March.

   Lessons occur twice a week at Titcomb Mountain, less than 15 minutes away from UMF. In addition to the free lessons, free transportation is provided for those who need it, and free rental alpine skis are readily available for the use of this course. Enrolling in the lessons also means that the student obtain a free season pass if they have not received one already for the academic year.

   The lessons consist of a small group, normally no larger than 5 people, which helps instructors focus more on strengthening each students skills. Essentially, these lessons are specifically catered to what the student wants to work on with the instructor.

   Portia Hardy, a freshman in the Earth and Environmental Science program and a student taking lessons through the Learn-To-Ski program, makes the most of the lessons. “Before we go down the mountain,” Hardy explained, “[the instructor asks] ‘What are you working on today? Anything you want to focus on?’” With that, they go up the mountain and start working on edging, parallel turns, or anything that the student wants to work on to help further develop skills.

   The lessons in the program are taught by UMF students, most of them in the Alpine Operations certificate program run by the Outdoor Recreation and Business Administration (ORBA) major. Sam Shirley, a freshman in the ORBA program with a concentration in Alpine Operations, is an instructor for the Learn-to-Ski program. Originally from Massachusetts, he has instructed skiing lessons at Ski Bradford since 2016 and has taken on an assistant director’s position at the snowsports school at Black Mountain of Maine in Rumford since his arrival at UMF.

   “I have taught a number of different students in the Learn-to-Ski program of varying ability levels,” said Shirley in an online interview. “Most recently I have been teaching two level 5 skiers.” This means that the skiers are confident on all beginner trails and ready to move into more difficult intermediate terrain, can use turn shapes to control speed going down the mountain, and can generally complete a hockey stop: using the edges of the skis to come to a full stop.

   On top of Shirley’s ski-related jobs, he also teaches Snowcats, an after-school program for children in kindergarten to third grade who want to learn how to ski. Snowcats is also coordinated by the Alpines Operations program, and many of the instructors that teach Learn-to-Ski lessons also teach Snowcat lessons. The larger class sizes of the Snowcats lessons require more instructors than the Learn-to-Ski lessons, and the different teaching style needed for young children compared to adults, Shirley said, “is a much different dynamic for a number of reasons.”

   Even though these two age groups have significant differences in how they are taught, Shirley still appreciates the hands-on experience he receives from these lessons and strongly supports this style of learning. “Having on snow experience is the only way to learn what works best as your teaching style,” said Shirley, “As an instructor, I also learn new things almost every day from my students. They help me develop new methods of teaching and show me new ways to connect with students.”

   There is still time to take ski or snowboarding lessons through Learn-To-Ski. “They’ll allow anyone to join at any point,” said Miler. “We like teaching people to ski so come on over.”

   If a student wants to use this course as a PHE substitute from now until the Learn-To-Ski program ends, they’re encouraged to ask their PHE instructor about how to sign up. If a student want to join as an elective, contact Isaac Seigle at isaac.seigle@maine.edu or Nolan Miler at nolan.miler@maine.edu.

The Fremont Street String Band Strums Their Way Into UMF

By Emma Pierce Contributing Writer

   On Feb. 3, the Fremont Street String Band, originally formed in Machias, performed at The Landing. From the sound check thirty minutes before the show started to the very end, the Fremont Street String Band put smiles on the faces of those who attended the show and plucked the audience members’ heartstrings.

   The show featured original songs from their album “Dirigo,” such as “Piscataqua,” referencing the famous Piscataqua River Bridge that connects Maine to New Hampshire via I-95, and connecting the bridge to the idea of love and inviting the comfortable feeling of home. They also performed covers of songs not featured on their album, such as a fun, fast-paced untitled mashup of songs ranging from “Low” by T-Pain to “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray, into one bluegrass performance.

   Landon Knittweis, one of the vocalists and songwriters for the Fremont Street String Band, thought long and hard about what his favorite song to perform was. Knittweis couldn’t pick a favorite easily, but he does love the people he performs with. “I just like the collaboration. I like the sound that we make. I couldn’t do this on my own. I don’t have enough skills,” Knittweis laughed.

   But the band is skilled. The group consists of five members playing a variety of instruments, some of the members playing more than one instrument. Ryan French plays the upright bass and provides a drum beat by hitting the back of it mid-song, Michael Giudelli plays the guitar and sometimes sings lead vocals, and Ryan Martin plays the banjo and offers back-up vocals to add to their harmonies. Alan Cook played the fiddle and the mandolin, and he can play anything he sets his mind to, according to the band’s Facebook page.

   During their UMF performance, the Fremont Street String Band tried their hand at connecting with the audience by talking and laughing amongst the band members between songs, but there was a vibe that the audience didn’t know what to do with such an interactive performance–not that it phased the band. “Tough crowd to get chuckles out of, but that’s alright. Not everyone appreciates our humor,” Knittweis cracked with French and Giudilli.      

   In general, the crowd energy at the show was comfortable and excited to hear live local music. Everybody who went was enthusiastic about the band or the genres of country, folk, or bluegrass music so there were plenty of positive vibes to spread to the band and the audience.

   The comfortable setting of The Landing fit the vibe of the Fremont Street String Band nicely. The audience members sank into the couches and loveseats and every wooden chair was accompanied by a person. The low stage created a more equal ground with the audience–literally and metaphorically–and a better established connection between the band and the audience.

   Jordan Shaw, Graduate Activities Coordinator at UMF, is in connection to the Association for Campus Entertainment (ACE) and the Landing to bring local music groups, comedians, and more to The Landing stage.

       “With this particular band, we were looking for something to grab people’s attention and interest at the beginning of the semester in hopes of convincing more people to stay on campus over the weekend,” said Shaw.

   Shaw’s connections with the Fremont Street String Band and Farmington came in clutch on that cold Saturday night–around 90 people gathered in The Landing to hear the band perform. Almost half of the people attending the show were were older than 25, one enthusiastic fan even brought a young child to watch the show.

   This concert is only the beginning for the Fremont Street String Band this year. On top of the shows they will be playing at bars and breweries, the band plans on attending a songwriting retreat in a couple of weeks.

   “I think we would like to record more music at some point,” says Knittweis, “but life is just happening and we’re kinda just, taking this one step at a time.”

      To hear more about events at The Landing, anyone is welcome to follow them on Instagram @umf_wae, find them on Snapchat @umflanding, or look around for posters in the Student Center advertising their events.

   To follow what the band is doing next and where they will be performing, follow them on Instagram @fremontstreetstringband or like their Facebook page.