LACONIA – The photography and artwork created by participants in the River Crew Art program will be showcased in an art show at Gilford Public Library, located at 31 Potter Hill Road in Gilford. The exhibit will be on display during the month of January. Artwork and photographs on exhibit will be for sale, and all proceeds will directly benefit the program.
Participants in the program have produced artwork throughout the past year in various forms including collages using found objects, painting, wood sculpture, and other media. The photography on exhibit will include images of Laconia, the Winnipesaukee River, and local wildlife. Poetry and essays will also be featured.
River Crew Art began in January 2012 with local volunteers Elaine Morrison and Dick Smith. Both have right background for their work with the participants of River Crew. Morrison is a retired special education teacher and an artist; Smith is a retired medical social worker and an amateur photographer.
The pair began with a single idea and that was to use art and photography as a tool for empowerment. They approached Laconia's downtown homeless and invited them to participate in creating artwork and provided lunch for all those in attendance. Laconia Parks and Recreation quickly granted Morrison and Smith permission to hold their meetings behind the former police station located at 51 Church Street in Laconia. The participants chose their own name, River Crew Art, for the newly-formed group.
The road to empowerment has not always been easy. There are always challenges when working with the homeless, and shortly after starting the program, one of the program's participants drowned in the Winnipesaukee River. His fellow members chose to plant a memorial garden in his honor in front of the police station, which was an Adopt-A-Spot site. The group won an award for their efforts. The garden has since moved to the starting point of the WOW trail.
Morrison and Smith rely mainly on donations to purchase art supplies and lunch for members. The program is structured so that members not only create art, but they also give back to the community that willingly supports River Crew. Projects have included making a flower wreath for the Newtown, CT residents, flower pins honoring the late Lilyanna Johnson, decorated pumpkins for the pediatric patients at the Laconia Clinic, and cards for the Wounded Warriors.
The work of the talented members of River Crew has been exhibited in many places throughout the community including the Busiel Mill, Lakes Region Camera Club, Downtown Deli in Laconia, Laconia Congregational Church, Unitarian Universalist Society, Hands Across the Table, Friendship Club, Better Together, and the Taylor Home.
Part of their mission is to educate the community about the issues of homelessness and the challenges of addiction. The participants in River Crew Art have a strong sense of belonging.
Expanding on the success of River Crew Art, Morrison and Smith continually create new project ideas for participants. In the upcoming year, they will focus on the genealogy of members and will further develop the photography program to include editing, portraits, and lighting. Their work in the areas of woodworking, poetry, and writing will also continue to grow.
The River Crew Art exhibit at the library in Gilford is free and open to the public. Gilford Public Library is located at 31 Potter Hill Road in Gilford. The library's hours are Monday-Friday 9-6, Tuesday and Thursday 10-8, and Saturday 10-2.
The art and photography of River Crew Art members will be featured in a display at Gilford Public Library during the entire month of January. Shown here is a print of a flower wreath created by River Crew in memory of the victims of the Newtown, CT shootings. (Courtesy photo)