IF I am Not going to Disney world…what next?

When I was bored as a child, I would ask my Mom for something to do.  Her response was always:

If you don’t know what to do next, just do something.

Next: Learn something.


Beach Roses—that is what most people call rosa rugosa. Rugosa means wrinkled. They are very high in vitamin C.

Rosa rugosa was first introduced into North America in 1845. The first report of it being naturalized far from the location in which it was planted occurred on Nantucket in 1899. Ten years later it was said to be “straying rapidly” and today it is naturalized on the entire coast of New England.

So I learned to make rose hip jelly. It’s a long tedious process.

1. Park at the side of the road along back shore of Peaks Island, Maine

2. Pick rose hips until your back is tired or the sun set takes your breath away. sunset

3. Sort through and discard gushy wormy ones. De- stem.rosehip-1




4. Cut in half

5. Place in large potrosehip-2

6. Cover with water

7. Simmerrosehip-3

8.Intermittently mash down with potato masher


9. Strain in cheese cloth straining

10. Freeze juice

And in the middle of winter when you are stuck in the house during a snowstorm, make the jelly.


Small world: While living in Portland prior to the Welcoming The Stranger exhibit, I re-connected with the community in which I had grown up – the Munjoy Hill neighborhood, Etz Chaim synagogue, forgotten relatives, summer camp friends, class mates – (even my senior prom date.)

Each #weavethetent event, First Friday openings or  a community workshop became a kind of ‘Pop Up’ Reunion.

One of those chance encounters was with a member of my high school swim team – Sherry Dickstein. We had served together on the newspaper, Year Book, social club, prom committee. She became a doctor and resides in Greensboro, NC. And by the way, her husband, Dr. Kurt Lauenstein, wrote a book to commemorate the 100th year of their synagogue. She sent me a copy. Maybe I would like to visit Greensboro.



Next: Read something.

Established in 1908 by prominent members of the then small Jewish community, Temple Emmanuel has always been known as a Temple of Involvement. The names Sternberger and Cone not only appear in the boxes of papers in the temple archives, but are visible on public buildings throughout Greensboro.




From its inception the congregation of Temple Emanuel was active in all aspects of the community: immigrant aid, women’s rights, schools, housing for workers, YMCA’s and the textile industry.

Small world:

Temple Emanuel is now home to more than 500 families, day school, and supports numerous community programs. Upon the completion of its new synagogue, the members of Temple Emanuel decided to retain the historic Greene Street synagogue.






This year, the kitchen is being renovated. And a hallway art gallery installed.


Next: Advocate something.sign

The streets in the Maryland town where I live are named for famous Quakers – Farquhar, Benedum,  Shepherd. (And William Henry Rinehart – sculptor but that’s another story.)pipe-creek

Since 2001, (pending invasions of Afghanistan/Iraq), on Sundays, I have sat in silence with members of the Pipe Creek Society of Friends (Quaker) community.

Greensboro, North Carolina was settled by Native Americans, Scots-Irish, African Americans and Germans. Some of the earliest settlers were Quaker immigrants from Maryland.guilford

At the turn of the century, Quakers harbored the southern-most point of the Underground Railroad in the woods surrounding the present-day Guilford College.

Guilford is known for its unique curriculum. The 2100 students there can choose majors like Peace and Conflict Studies and Community and Justice Studies.

In response to her need to “do something” about the current refugee crisis, Diva Abdo, Associate Professor of English at Guilford founded the ‘Every campus a refuge’ program.

Inspired by the Pope’s call on every parish to host one refugee family, guided by its Quaker tradition, and animated by the Arab-Islamic word for campus (حرم) which means “sanctuary.”  Every Campus a Refuge calls on every college and university around the world to host one refugee family on their campus grounds and to assist them in resettlement.

Thus far, Guilford College has hosted a Ugandan and two Syrian families on its campus grounds.

Small world:

Jane Fernandes, current President of Guilford College, was the Provost in 2000 at Gallaudet University. I graduated from Gallaudet and taught at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. Gallaudet College is the only liberal arts college for the deaf. Yes, I know sign language.


Next: Weave Something

While writing a review of Welcoming the Stranger for the International Sculpture Center Sculpture Magazine, B. Amore, my mentor and founder of the Carving Studio, asked:

What are you going to do with the exhibit next?

While visiting the Guilford College campus, I met with Theresa Hammond, Founding Director and Curator of the Guilford College Art Gallery. We talked – a lot. About – Quakers, Art, Welcoming the Stranger….and we made a plan to do somethingtheresa

It seemed to be a perfect confluence of events: synagogue kitchen, Guilford ‘every campus a refuge’ project and the Fabric of Freedom theme of the upcoming Folklife festival. So I returned to my studio and  started sending emails, making phone calls and contacting potential partners to find a way to bring Welcoming the Stranger to Greensboro.


Small world:

North Carolina Folklife Festival – Fabric of Freedom September 10, 11 2016

In 2014, the City of Greensboro passed a resolution declaring itself a welcoming city – “one that affirms the beauty and richness of our diversity, and one in which all are welcomed, accepted and appreciated.

This year’s theme is Fabric of Freedom. The festival is a series of arts programs that celebrate the diversity and cultural history of Greensboro, host city for the National Folk Festival (2015-2017). Exhibits, music, dance, community events, and more will be presented in venues across the city throughout September.

On September 10 and 11, I will be at the North Carolina Folklife Festival to create ‘journey loom’ weavings. Participants at the #weavethetent events will work together to add panels to Abraham’s tent.

The community weavings will be included in the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit at Guilford College Art Gallery, opening September 14 and continuing to October 30, 2016.

Temple Emanuel will also partner with Guilford to exhibit Sarah’s Generosity in conjunction with the renovation of the Greene Street kitchen.

Next: Sing Somethingmoose

 On the 19 hour drive from Maine to North Carolina in a very packed rental van, while my Installation Team that consists of my kayak coach/tent rigger/performance artist and overall good guy who is willing to carry lots of heavy stuff but drives with ear buds listening to a book – my brain was taken over by ‘ear worms.” earbudsActually one particular ear worm.

In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 and prior to the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney commissioned song writers Robert and Richard Sherman to create one song that could be translated into different languages as part of its exhibit for the US exhibit hall.

I may not be going to Disney world but I am going to Greensboro AND as this exhibit takes shape, with the help of so many organizations and volunteers, I realize once again,

It’s a small world after all….


It’s a world of laughter

A world of tears

It’s a world of hope

A world of fears

There’s so much that we share

that it’s time we’re aware

it’s a small world after all…

Follow the progress of the installation of Abraham’s Tent at Guilford College and events at the North Carolina Folklife Festival and Fabric of Freedom:

Instagram: #weavethetent


Susan Andre preparing display table.

Facebook:         Welcoming the Stranger Art



Gregg Bolton working on booth installation.


Guilford RA’s ripping fabric with which to weave on the Journey Looms.


Line to weave the tent.








#weave the tent at the North Carolina Folk Festival











Every year since 1987, Super Bowl MVP winners are asked in a commercial:

What are you going to do next?

They always respond with great exuberance:Disney

I’m going to Disney World.!

At the closing of the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit – a 2-year community-based art project – everyone asked me:

What are you going to do next?

I replied:



  • return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength
  • recuperate, get better, convalesce, regain one’s strength, get stronger, get back on one’s feet 

In October, the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit closed.

In November, my Mom died. **

In December, I returned to Maryland. firehousesnow

In January, ‘snowzilla’ led to a decision to paint the firehouse walls.01 snow

In February, I fell.


I fell 12’ from scaffolding.

I broke my ankle.



In’ valid

  • Latin in (not) + validus (strong) = weak
  • Suffering from disease or disability



I live in one of the least accessible places you can imagine. There are 17 steps from my front door to my living space. There are 3 more steps to the kitchen; 7 more to the bedroom in the loft.

I would be bed-ridden with my leg elevated above my heart for 6 weeks. I would spend most of my time establishing my own version of the intricate systems I had created for my Mom when she broke her hip.

I used a computer chair with wheels to transfer in and out of bed. I set up an “ accessible” kitchen. I borrowed a mini fridge into which multiple Tupperware containers appeared daily. (The empties eventually made their way back to their original owners.)Tupperware

I devised a job chart (remember I was a 1st grade teacher) listing a variety of tasks – laundry, transport, library, dishes, boredom reduction. Friends signed up for a shift. I will be forever grateful for their continuous support.

I would eventually go to Physical Therapy twice a week for several months.

I slept – a lot.

I watched Netflix – a lot.

I celebrated my birthday – not so much.

I did not make art.


  • Being without foundation or force in fact, truth or force

There is a legacy of making art while bed ridden.

Renior continued to paint while suffering from rheumatoid arthritis so crippling that his son applied the paint to the brush and placed it in Renoir’s hand.

Kahlo in bedFrida Kahlo spent 9 months in bed after an accident in which her bus collided with a trolley car. She suffered a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. During her confinement, she created a series of works referencing her accident and recovery. Kahlo art

Henri Matisse turned to cut outs when a chronic illness made painting too difficult.

foto_cutoutThe cut out was not a renunciation of painting and sculpture: he called it “painting with scissors.” Matisse said, “Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.” Moreover, experimentation with cut-outs offered Matisse innumerable opportunities to fashion a new, aesthetically pleasing environment:

When a young Henri Matisse asked Renoir why he kept painting [ in chronic pain], Renoir is said to have replied, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”


My hat

If you are not making art,  are you still an artist?

I had spent the greater part of 2 years creating the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit. And now, I was spending most of the day staring at the walls, re-arranging my pillows and planning for the next action I would take – retrieving an object, transferring to the chair, brushing my teeth. I allowed myself 2 hours a day to be depressed.

I do not make art.

I learn.

I learn how long a bone takes to heal.

I learn how to depend on friends.

I learn how to be humble.

I learn how to be patient.

I learn how to be grateful.

I learn that chicken soup is not just a Jewish thing.


  • find or regain possession of (something stolen or lost).
  • retrieve, regain (possession of), get back, recoup, reclaim, repossess, redeem, recuperate, find (again), track down 

My art career started with the death of my Dad. In his last few months of life, he encouraged us to live our dreams – – and not wait. He had hoped to spend his retirement painting. He died at age 61.

My return to Maine and Peaks Island was to sculpt a granite memorial on the 20th anniversary of his death and to film a documentary of the process.

My mother visited my exhibit just before she died. She wove on the Journey Loom, wrote comments on the chalkboard, viewed the aprons and Abraham’s  tent. As a result of many falls and several broken bones, she was confined to a walker. Our visit to the Maine Jewish Museum two years before had led to the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit.

The CDC reports that falls are the leading cause of accidental deaths and 43% of those are from ladders. After my friends elicit a promise that I will never climb scaffolding again, they then ask:

What are you going to do next?

Just to recover physically will not be enough. I need to reclaim my life – my artist life. I need to learn to walk again on the stone path. I am not sure about what that will require, but I know one thing for sure:

I know, I’m not going to Disney World!

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso


**Caroline Borofski Israelson

Community activist and long time Munjoy Hill resident.

In the 1960’s when the East End Beach was closed due to pollution, Munjoy Hill (PTA) mothers marched on City Hall demanding a swimming pool be provided for their children. Leading the march was Caroline Israelson.

Caroline Israelson passed away, November 22, 2015. She was born on March 20, 1929 the daughter of Joseph Borofski and Elizabeth (Levinsky) Borofski.

An ardent Democrat, her first foray into the world of politics and community activism was when she wrote to President Roosevelt requesting a photo with his signature. In support of the war effort, she joined others of her generation and collected scrap metal for recycling.

Caroline bequeathed a ‘Legacy of Values’ to her children. She lived by two principles:

Tikkun Olam – a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or ‘mend the world.’


The Golden Rule to treat others fairly and respectfully no matter race, religion, sexual orientation (or during the 1960’s, length of hair.)

A lifetime resident of Munjoy Hill, she adhered to an ‘open door’ policy at her Moody St. home. Anyone in need of food, shelter, coffee, conversation or counseling was welcomed at her table – day or night – whether the dishes were done or the floors washed or the laundry put away.

Throughout her life, she continued to serve the community. As an organizer and advocate – politically and socially – she sought to improve the lives of those less fortunate. She was one of the first members of the Portland Chapter of the NAACP and attended the annual Martin Luther King Day breakfasts.

She was also a member of the Anti- Defamation League, Hadassah, B’Nai Brith, National Council of Jewish Women, Etz Chaim and Bet Ha’am Synagogues.

Caroline volunteered at St. Paul’s Soup kitchen and served on the board of Serenity House. She worked with young children as a volunteer for Head Start and as a mentor at the Juvenile Youth Detention Center.

As a Notary Pubic, Justice of the Peace, Caroline performed many marriages in her Moody St. living room.

At the People Regional Opportunity Program (PROP) she worked to keep youth safe by improving recreation opportunities, advocated for affordable safe housing, and food access.

She never lived more than a mile from the corner of Moody and Munjoy Streets. After her move to Bayview Apartments, she remained political – participating in resident meetings, registering voters and monitoring at polling stations. Although her bid for a seat on the City Council ( ‘Go with Experience” ) was unsuccessful, her mentorship and endorsement was sought by first timers seeking elected office.

A tireless campaigner, she supported efforts to elect the first African American President. She had hoped to witness the election of a woman President and reminds everyone to vote in 2016.

Until her health declined in recent years, Caroline (wearing one of her colorful bandanas) was a familiar figure to East End residents . Her daily walk along the Eastern Promenade culminated in a cup of coffee – regular, cream, 2 sugars and donut – at the Hilltop Café. On her return loop, there were brief stops to pet a cat or two along the way. She continued her neighborhood forays even using a walker.

She became a die hard Red Sox fan while attending Red Sox games at Fenway when dating her husband, Leon. They saw Ted Williams play.

Caroline was sure if she were the manager, she could make them win the World Series and finally got her wish in 2003 with the arrival of Pedro, Manny and Pappi.

Known for her sense of humor as well as her sense of adventure – including a solo trip to Australia at the age of 60 – she took bus trips throughout New England with Anne Jordan and other friends….

She never stopped learning and growing. She was an early adopter of yoga and reflexology and practitioner of (TM) meditation. As a Member of Codependents Anonymous, Caroline believed in the healing power of counseling. She was often asked by neighbors to include prayers for a job or health during her Shabbat candle lighting ritual.

Caroline made her home wherever she lived. In declining health, she accepted her move to Southridge Assisted Living in Biddeford with both grace and grumbling. There she became a beloved member of that community – staff and residents alike.

She treated everyone with respect and valued her friends as much as family. Caroline cherished her life-long friend Margaret Carter that she met in kindergarten.

She was one of the first participants in a study of the use of Lithium for Bi-polar disorder. Founding member of the Polar Bears –that offered support to many individuals suffering from bi-polar disorder and depression.

Pre-deceased by her husband Leon of almost 40 years and her sister Sylvia Glantz, she will be missed by her family and friends especially the Margaret and Robert Carter Family.

Family: Jo Israelson, Union Bridge Maryland, Katherine Scott of Palo Alto California, Lynne Israelson Mason and husband David of Newburyport Mass, Michael Israelson and his wife Norma of Westbrook, Maine. Her grand children, Christine Henry, New York City, Emily and Elizabeth Scott of Palo Alto CA, Rachael Israelson and Michael Israelson of Westbrook and her nephews and nieces Joseph Glantz of Bridgton, Faith Glantz and Sasha Morelli of Portland.

Service to be held Tuesday November 24 at Congregation Bet Ha’am, 81 Westbrook St. South Portland, Maine 10:30 am followed by interment Temple Beth El cemetery, Portland 04103.

Temple Beth El Memorial Park

Following the interment, A Celebration of Caroline’s Life and luncheon will be held at Bet Ha’am beginning at approximately 12:30 p.m. All are welcome. Please bring a canned food item to be donated to local food banks in her name.

Tuesday evening from 6 pm – 8 pm, friends are encouraged to come with stories and stay for coffee at Becky’s Diner, Commercial St. Just say you are a “Friend of Caroline’s “.

In honor of Caroline’s unique fashion sense, the wearing of bandanas and/or Red Sox regalia is encouraged.

In lieu of flowers and cards, donations can be made to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention , Portland Chapter of the NAACP or the charity of your choice.


– ING Part 3 (b)

2nd Law of Thermodynanics – Law of Entropy

aka Murphy’s Law

In particular, Murphy’s Law is often cited as a form of the second law of thermodynamics (the law of entropy) because both are predicting a tendency to a more disorganized state.

It is impossible to delineate all the tasks that need to be accomplished in a multi-media installation nor to predict all the problems that will need to be addressed. To-do lists and post-its are often inadequate. So for the most critical of needs, my hand becomes a bulletin board.


In her one-woman show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Lily Tomlin portrays a homeless woman who was once an executive and leads her life via the post-its attached to her clothing.

Count-ING Down

Murphy Challenge #1: Weather

Temperatures would be in the upper 80’s during the entire installation. (Maine in September!! Who knew?)

The Maine Jewish Museum is not air-conditioned.

TEN: Prepping Walls

Maine Hardware is the go-to place for most Peaks Islanders. The employees are knowledgeable AND they provide FREE popcorn.


Ladders, tarps, paint, coffee, blue tape, levels, sand paper, spackle, scrapers, coffee, buckets, paint trays, rubber gloves, coffee… a seemingly endless list but the multiple trips enable us to replenish, not only supplies, but popcorn. (Which is important if, in addition to the coffee and donuts, it becomes another source of nutrition during the 10-day installation.)

NINE: Painting Walls

Etz Chaim sealEtz Chaim synagogue was built in 1921.  After several incarnations and years of disuse, it was restored and became the Maine Jewish Museum. The 1920’s construction and previous renovations meant locating studs was an ongoing struggle.

Murphy Challenge #2: Construction

The spackling, sanding and painting of the museum gallery walls took place the same week that construction began on the new bathrooms …There were moments of dueling drills and lurching ladders but we were able to share the space as well as extension cords – and of course, the donuts.IMG_2897

 IMG_2899EIGHT: Stenciling walls

Working around the daily operations of the museum, as well as respecting religious tenets, resulted in a type of shift work. The key to progress was FLEXIBILITY. (And a willingness to ‘couch surf’ after missing the last ferry.)

While attempting to wrestle a Journey Loom through a door way that was a smidgeon too small…. I noticed a helmet clad bicyclist chalking arrows on the road.

IMG_2905Noticing my plight, she helped maneuver the loom into the building. A painter in her own right, Ebyn Moss volunteers – at arts centers, community organizations and non profits. She is a Board member of the Hour Exchange. and lives her life adhering to its tenets.IMG_2925

The settling of the foundation of the building during the past 94 years created uneven walls. There was a 1” drop over 50’ making it difficult to determine level. Ebyn was undaunted. She had worked for MacKenzie Childs. Doing what? Stenciling.

(Another beshart moment – Bookmark this link for more beshart moments.

IMG_2921The word begat is sometimes interpreted as ‘to bring forth.” The stenciled ‘walls’ of Abraham’s tent are intended to remind us that we are all part of the same ‘family.’

Over 3 days, Ebyn stencilled the word ‘begat’ 2000+ times.

Murphy Challenge #3: Colliding Events

Stenciling the word begat on 2 – 50’ x 10’ walls while beautifully appointed young women and their families attend a previously scheduled Bat Mitzvah proved to be challenging – but not insurmountable. And, the work on the new bathrooms continued…

SEVEN: Engaging Press

For years, artists just sent their press releases to the local newspaper. They would include the 5 – W’s and a few photos. Today, vying for the attention of the press requires more than just notifying the newspaper. There are free papers, community papers, magazines, and social media to notify and continually update. Maintaining a presence in the public eye requires time and energy – both in short supply when installing a multi media exhibit.

Sometimes it is a matter of timing. For weeks prior to the exhibit opening, the plight of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants occupied local, national and world news. Amidst the spackling, sanding, stenciling, Press Herald and Portland Magazine reporters appeared with their photographers for an interview and pictures of the exhibit. (And some of my closest photographer friends did the same.)


Murphy Challenge # 4: No there there

We had ‘begats.’ There was no tent; there was no carpet; there were no community weavings. The exhibit was still in process – I had words and ideas but was STILL short on visible objects.

It is easier to talk on the radio where words and ideas ARE the medium. WMPG is a community radio station that broadcasts from a small house located on the campus of the University of Southern Maine (my alma mater.)IMG_2280

I arrived paint spattered, harried and sleep deprived. Chris White is the host of Tuesday Night Talk Radio Club. His interview framed Welcoming the Stranger within the context of the Portland community and the New Mainers. Articulating the thought and history behind my vision clarified for me – and hopefully the listeners – my hopes for the exhibition.

SIX: Creating QRs

For each aspect of the exhibit, there is a sound collage. I combined real life interviews with scripted histories, sound effects, ambient noise, and music to create a kind of sound track — but without pictures.

The sounds of children practicing Hebrew formed the basis of the sound collage for Abraham’s Tent. Laura Boenisch is the principal and director of B’nai Portland, an Independent Hebrew School. With a degree in music education, Laura taught herself to chant Torah tropes so that she could help prepare her son for Bar Mitzvah.

We met in the Sanctuary. When I attended synagogue as a young girl, I was excluded from the first floor and relegated to the balcony. Standing at the bimah, Laura chanted the story of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis.


FIVE:             Supporting History

I almost missed the meeting…I flew out of the Museum covered in paint. In a packed hearing room in Portland’s City Hall, I raised my hand to testify in support of the designation of India Street as a historic district:

(In my neighborhood…) there were those fortunate enough to have grandparents or great aunts and uncles to tell stories of how their families ended up in Portland, Maine.

There might have been photos of family members posed in of local stores and houses and churches and synagogues. There may have been photos taken on holidays, family events – graduations, weddings, funerals. You could take a walk. around the India St. neighborhood – past the old synagogues, St Peter’s, Micucci’s, Amato’s, Abysinnian Church, and North School – and experience history as seen through their eyes and the architecture that was still in existence.

Map 1914

And for those not so fortunate, the buildings, businesses, streets must remain. It is easier to imagine when waves of immigrants settled in what is comparable to the lower East Side of NYC when you can walk by historic structures that greeted those new arrivals. …when you can walk from the docks, along India Street, and experience the immigrant history of Portland.

In that moment, I was focused on immigrants of the past and how their story mirrored the underpinnings of my exhibit.

FOUR: Retrieving the ‘Carpet’

A 50’ x 8’ ‘Persian carpet’ made of roofing rubber and stenciled with images of seaweed and compass roses requires a 50’ floor on which to design, paint and polyurethane. This 200+ lb. piece of art needs a space in which to reside until delivered to the museum. The Colby College Art Department provided a space in which to work until the carpet was completed. (The room measured only 40’ long so requiring continuous rolling, folding, unrolling.)

IMG_2767The maintenance staff monitored my progress and occasionally conducted a critique. They were mostly favorable. (Although they did wonder why the room smelled like the ocean. It was the bucket of seaweed I was using to make stencils.  I commuted back and forth to Waterville applying the final coat of polyurethane the night before the pick up.IMG_2957

Murphy Challenge #5: Elevator

The rolled carpet was too long to fit in the elevator. 200+ lbs. is very heavy. Two of us could not heft it. We tried. Several times. I set out to find some students. There were none to be found. I returned to find the maintenance women carrying the rolled carpet down 2 flights of stairs to the delivery truck. (I hope you are both reading this. Thank you, again.)

THREE: Installing the Tent

A year ago, the tent installation team designed a hanging system based on an idea in my head. The actual production and installation proved to be more challenging.IMG_2783

Murphy Challenge #6: No Tentmaker

Although I had received donated yarns, collaborated with volunteer spinners, and engaged citizen weavers, there were only 275 square feet of woven tent panels. The weaving was spearheaded by Jane Herbert     However, I needed 500 square feet. (Not to mention, that I had no idea how to make an actual tent.)

IMG_2659At the final Journey Loom weaving event,  I met Melodi Hackett. A weaver in her own right, she wove and warped looms throughout the 2 day event. and then she asked:

What kind of help do you still need?

I need a tent maker.

With a straight face, Melodi responded: I make tents. She had worked as an exhibit tent designer. (Yes – another beshart moment. I told you to bookmark that page.)


A week before the installation, the tent makers began production. Measure, cut, serge, sew. Measure, cut, serge, sew.

Melodie at machine





When I started kayak lessons 4 years ago, I did not ask my instructor if his mother was a weaver and if he knew the difference between warp and weft. As it turned out, the answer to both questions was ‘Yes.” (I know, I know – beshart.)

IMG_2840I envisioned the ‘tent’ as an ocean – ‘mirroring the movement of waves.’ And Gregg Bolton was able to translate my idiosyncratic aesthetic into a physical reality. After 12+ hours of balancing on ladders and planks, occasional invectives (mine not his) and of course, donuts, the tent was installed.IMG_2931

IMG_2944 IMG_2935 IMG_2947 





TWO: Installing the Journey Loom Weavings

Respite from the heat came as a result of hanging the community weavings in the air conditioned Community Room. IMG_2909

No Murphy Here. –

Well, OK. Murphy took up residence in this room for 8 weeks. Every time a community group needed to use the room for a meeting, Murphy re-arranged the furniture.IMG_3236 IMG_3235





ONE:             Hanging Aprons

Seven women, seven aprons, seven tallit bags, seven genealogies and a series of invented postcards that highlight their efforts on behalf of the immigrants of the 1920’s comprised Sarah’s GenerosityIMG_9697

Carefully arranged and meticulously measured, the aprons were installed outside the Sanctuary.IMG_9710




  • Set up reception
  • Set out guestbook
  • Create Artist Binder
  • Fold 250 brochures
  • Find somewhere to shower
  • Comb hair
  • Set up sound system
  • Check toilet paper in bathrooms
  • Prepare Artist Talk
  • Hope people come (They did. More than 150 at the opening. 100 at First Friday. And more.)

Murphy Challenge #7Seriously Hot

Neither Velcro nor double-sided tape adheres to plaster walls when the temperature exceeds 85.

  • Re – hang Aprons !!! Use nails.

Where’s the Cab?IMG_2769

 My ad hoc interviews with a taxi driver from Burundi and an Iraqi prisoner-of-war were intertwined with the story of Bela Gross read by a recent Russian asylum seeker and recorded for play back on the sound system of a Crown Vic cab donated by ASAP Cab. IMG_2988

Exhibit attenders would sit in the cab and listen to their stories. Upon ‘arrival,”they received a receipt with links to the current immigration, asylum, refugee laws and stats.


Exhibit – ING

 September 3 – October 25, 2015.






Abraham’s Tent, Sarah’s Generosity, Habeas Corpus QRs are posted on:


Connect – ING

Community Events were held during the month of October. IMG_3104


Weaving Workshop – Cheryl Holbert



Color of CommunityIMG_3142

Reading and Book Signing – I’m New Here http://www.annesibleyobrien.comIMG_3160

IMG_3180World Music – Casco Bay Tummlers and Burundi Batimbo Beats




‘When Jews were New Mainers’ symposium with Colby CollegeIMG_3211IMG_3202







14 days to install; 7 to remove. I realize the world only took 6 days and there was a day of rest at the end – but the resting will have to wait.

For now, there will be tear-filled goodbyes, sanding, spackling and painting, crating and storing of the exhibit, more tear-filled goodbyes and then a 14 hour drive back to Maryland.

There is no way to know if this exhibit will have any lasting impact within the community. But as I prepare to leave, the following editorial appeared written by Arthur Fink: A Real Community Has No Strangers

….Do see this exhibit, ask how we welcome strangers (or don’t) and let yourself be transformed…

 ..I left the exhibit asking myself, “Who are our ‘strangers’ today? And how can we welcome them with grace, acceptance, dignity and genuine openness?”

…We can open our hearts, connect with those who may appear to be “different” and forge a more inclusive, caring and compassionate community. I hope and pray that we will!


PS from Murphy:IMG_3237

The bathrooms are finally done.













-ING Part 3 (a)

1st Law of Motion – Law of Inertia

Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

There’s no stopping us now… Supremes

Weav – ING

I thought continuously changing designs and altering plans were endemic only to site-specific installation artists.

However, writers change their story lines, musicians re-write their compositions, dancers revise their choreography; the second mark on a canvas may change the trajectory of the work and a crack in the stone releases a new image.

Eighteen months ago, I proposed the Welcoming the Stranger exhibition. Based on the mandate in the Quran, the Bible, and the Torah to ‘welcome the stranger’ – the exhibit would compare the treatment of immigrants of the 1920’s in Portland, Maine with that of “New Mainers” today.  There would be 3 components of the show: Abraham’s Tent, Sarah’s Generosity, Habeas Corpus.

The community would participate in a dialogue about immigration – past and present. The form of that community involvement was still to be determined*.

Twelve months passed in which I conducted research into the lives of the National Council of Women who assisted immigrants arriving in the 1920’s at the House Island Quarantine and Immigration station.

I initiated the campaign to prevent the development of House Island. The City of Portland designated House Island, the “Ellis Island of the North,” as an historic district. The remaining structures from the quarantine and immigration station would be retained.

Six months ago, I arrived in the city of my birth – a stranger – and was welcomed and supported and encouraged by the city of today. Creating community involvement – with organizations, religious institutions, schools, artists, individuals, and businesses – became the focus of my work for 3 months.

IMG_2573Anyone and everyone can weave – over and under, under and over.

(Think paper placemats in school or potholders at camp.)IMG_2523

I loaded and unloaded the Journey Loom onto my truck, attached a banner to the tailgate, and set up weavings throughout the city.
Using donated fabric, “citizen weavers” at First Friday Art Walks, World Refugee Day, Portland High School, The Children’s Museum, Levey Day School, Anderson Street Mosque, Tandem Coffee, Running With Scissors, Peaks Island, Root Cellar, Kennedy Park, Trinity Episcopal church and others created weavings.
2 girls

IMG_2872At each event, participants recorded ideas of how to ‘welcome a stranger.’ Their responses were posted on the welcoming the stranger art Facebook page and served as a way to continue the dialogue.



The Journey Loom weavings – created a powerful visual symbol that captured the underlying theme of weaving together a community – a city – a country – a world. They became the 4th component of the exhibit.IMG_2659




Journey – ING

Simultaneously, the panels for Abraham’s Tent were being woven on traditional looms using donated and hand spun yarn from around the country. Donations arrived from readers.IMG_2225 The PortFiber Thursday spinning group spun, warped, wove. IMG_2292

Between weaving events, planning with community groups, materials collection, and ‘commuting’ via the ferry from Peaks Island, I created the remaining components of the installation:

At Running with Scissors: artist studios and community


My studio space was headquarters for the project, storage for the looms and materials, apron design and genealogy research lab. I used RWS woodworking tools and the biggest light table I had ever seen for creating stencils. Kate Anker, founder, was the go to person for everything art. The resident artists provided their expertise, words of encouragement – and of course, coffee.

At Gathering of Stitches: A Making Space for Fiber and Textile People

Samantha Hoyt Lindgren created a maker space for fiber and textile artists. You can rent a full time studio, attend classes and workshops, or arrange for time on the various machines.IMG_2801

Samantha is the most flexible person I know. I popped in weekly to revise the calendar. She would calmly erase the blocked out dates and write in the next. Eventually, we didn’t even bother writing in a date. She assured me there would be a space and place when needed.

At MECA: Maine College of Art

Elizabeth Jabar and I appeared on a panel at the Migrations Conference sponsored by Colby College in April. She is the Associate Professor of Printmaking and Foundation at MECA.IMG_2778

Her work is socially conscious and frequently community based. Over coffee, I admitted I was terrified to print for the following reason:

I had never done ANY print making. (OK. Potato printing with my first graders.)

Elizabeth offered her studio and her expertise. On the hottest, most humid day of the summer, we mixed ink colors, printed test strips and practiced a paper lithography transfer process using gum Arabic, reversed photocopies of the 1924 map of Portland and lots of patience.IMG_2776

I now know I couldn’t be a printmaker; too many variables to analyze when it doesn’t come out the way you hoped.



At the “The Nest:” Peaks IslandIMG_0402

I have a small studio space in a boathouse called ” The Nest.”  At night, I researched Hebrew and Muslim prayers, adhesives, immigration law, transport companies, photographers, inks. I wrote scripts for audio collages, listened to hours of sound effects, conducted interviews, and produced recordings.

I photocopied and photocopied; signage; labels; brochures, letters, images.

And, I continued to meet with anyone and everyone who wanted to ‘welcome the stranger.’


Within the whirling dervish of my life, the underlying theme behind Welcoming the Stranger remained constant: To tell the story of the House Island Quarantine and Immigration station, the role of the National Council of Jewish Women, create an Abraham’s tent and compare the present day treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees to their welcome in the 1920’s.

The Welcoming the Stranger exhibit requires a 10-day installation. (A day defined as 14+ hours.) Lack of funding means relying on the generous spirit and labor of friends and volunteers. Everyone would be paid in donuts, lots and lots of coffee and heart felt appreciation.IMG_2930

And, naturally, ‘Murphy’ would make an appearance in ways I could never have predicted.


*Welcoming the Stranger (WTS): building understanding through community based art is a forum for community and arts related organizations to explore the theme of immigration, belonging and “building bridges” of appreciation and understanding with people of all backgrounds. 

 Goals include:

 To promote a sense of commonality among diverse communities;

 To provide forums to discuss how the historic issues surrounding immigration are reflected in a contemporary context;

 To honor the contributions that diverse groups of immigrants provide to the American experience.






-ING Part 2

Newton’s Second Law: Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass. The greater the mass (of the object being accelerated) the greater the amount of force needed (to accelerate the object).

Travel – INGIMG_1967

This is the itinerary from March through October. This is not an exhaustive list and does not include all the #weavethetent events. I would say, however, it is an “exhaust-ING list.”

From the Firehouse Studio in Maryland to Colby College in Waterville, Maine (intermittent stop to eat some hot out of the oven bread prepared by Cheryl Hobart – a weaver and owner of Nomad Breads) )

IMG_1897From Waterville to Portland, Maine (intermittent stop – Biddeford to see Mom – coffee at Elements)

From Portland to Peaks Island and back for 5 months on the ferry (DAILY stop for coffee at the Peaks Cafe) IMG_2401

From Peaks Island back to Waterville (intermittent stop – Maine Sheep and Wool Festival  ( Coffee at Dunkin Donuts

From Peaks Island to Union Bridge, Maryland (intermittent stop – Northfield Conference  Not sure where I will find coffee…

From Union Bridge to Kennebunkport for a Kayak Self Rescue refresher class at Coastal Maine Kayak  (Usually drink tea there due to being near frozen after the class.)

Kennebunkport to Peaks Island in time for July 4th!!

Keeping a community-based art project that involves many people and many events moving forward requires lots of energy and of course, lots of coffee.

Consum – ING

Global consumption of caffeine has been estimated at 120,000 tons per year, making it the world’s most popular psychoactive substance. (This amounts to one serving of a caffeinated beverage for every person every day. YIKES)

‘The first coffeehouses established in Oxford, England were known as penny universities. The coffeehouses would charge a penny admission, which would include access to newspapers and conversation. In a society that placed such a high importance on class and economic status, the coffeehouses were unique because the patrons were people from all levels of society. ”

Following the Boston Tea Party, Congress passed a resolution against tea consumption and coffee became part of the economic development of the country. Some historians believe that the introduction of coffee contributed to the overall advancement of Western society – since caffeine is a stimulant vs the consumption of alcohol – a depressant.

It seems that most of my discussions and meetings about Welcoming the Stranger (not to mention caffeine consumption) have taken place in coffee shops. It seems appropriate since the journey that coffee beans take to the U.S. often mirrors the countries represented by many of the new immigrants arriving in Maine including El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Honduras, Guatamala, Colombia, Brazil , Ethiopia , Zimbabwe, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda Sumatra, Sulawesi, Papua New Guinea, Timor, Java.

Like the early ‘penny universities’, my coffee shop conversations were educational – political – and critical to creating my artwork. (Tho’ no longer costing a penny for a cup.) Over a cup of coffee, I discussed with Alain Nahimana the issues confronting the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition.

Our conversation was the first of many in which I became more educated about the ongoing needs of New Mainers and the politics of changing minds and hearts of Old Mainers.

I learned about how the arrival of Somali refugees (some from villages in which she had worked in 1987-8) transformed the cities of Lewiston and Auburn when I met with Catherine Besteman, Colby College Professor of Anthropology.

In a meeting held at Arabica, Jen Hutchins and Jess Lauren Lipton, Creative Portland invited me to hold the first Weave the Tent event as part of their series: “Integrating New Mainers into the Art Community.”

IMG_1912The event took place on First Friday at the Portland Public Library where I learned of ethnic-based places of worship in Portland from a Serbian security guard who learned to weave from his grandmother.

Art in a Cup

My mom is a coffee connoisseur (or maybe she just likes the ambience – conversation and news.)

Before moving to her assisted living facility, she walked from her apartment to Hilltop where she poured a ½ cup of ‘regular’ coffee and mixed in half and half and a package of sugar. She chatted with the baristas; knew their names and listened to surrounding conversations.

After moving her to a Biddeford assisted living facility, I discovered Elements. It is my place of respite and a go-to place of entertainment for Mom: books, music, coffee (and beer…. )

IMG_1920 Like coffee houses of old, Elements seems to be a place to learn about local happenings. Like my mom, I talk with the baristas, learn their names and listen to surrounding conversations.


That was how I met Tammy Ackerman of Engine, heard about Heart of Biddeford, and learned about the first mosque in Maine.


Art in Mills

To artists, empty brick buildings signify affordable studio space; to economic development officials, artists mean the introduction of the “creative economy.”

The textile history of Maine is reflected in the abandoned mills of Biddeford. Located along the Saco River, the York and Pepperell Mills took advantage of the hydro power. By the late 1800’s, the boom in textile manufacturing required an influx of much needed workers. By 1880 almost 50% of Biddeford’s residents were foreign-born. When the mills needed fabric dye experts, they brought in Muslim Albanians. It is now believed that a room in the Pepperell Mill housed the first Mosque in America. The workers died during the 1918 flu epidemic. Their graves face east and are marked with the crescent.

Walk – ING

Since returning to Portland, I walk more. Most of my forays are along the same streets that immigrants have walked since the first ships landed at the Portland docks: Map 1914 I walk from the cottage on Peaks to the ferry; from the Casco Bay Lines terminal to my studio space. On the way, I walk along India St. past the synagogue that my great grandfather built and where I will install Welcoming the Stranger.

I continue onto Smith St. past Union Bagels (organic) and down Anderson St. towards the heart of Bayside. During the 1960’s, there was an urban renewal effort to eradicate the “slums” of Portland thereby creating a need for low-income housing. (This need is once again exacerbated – due to the gentrification currently taking place.)

My mother worked on housing issues as well as civil rights issues. Many mornings we would wake up to find neighborhood activists strategizing at our kitchen table – drinking coffee. One hard hit area was Bayside. Bayside



“Most of Bayside today was in a section of Back Cove filled with debris from the Great Fire of 1866 — which burned most of the Old Port. “Over the decades, Bayside established two identities. It was an industrial center of Maine — connected to immigrant labor and a relatively large and active rail line and seaport. It was also a burgeoning melting pot of new Americans — a diversity that is still reflected there today.

Bayside, which has also become known as West Bayside, was the industrial zone, with foundries, lumber companies, soldering shops and junkyards. East Bayside was a lower middle class neighborhood where immigrants settled. It spans from Franklin Street to Washington Avenue. The Irish were among the first to settle there, followed by Scandinavians in the 1880s, Eastern Europeans in the 1890s and more recently African and Middle East refugees.” Blog?

 I walk pass multi-family dwellings, children waiting for school buses, men repairing cars, young girls in hajibs. The past feels very present to me and the present feels a great deal like the past.

This once nearly abandoned area is now considered to be thriving with co-operatives, collaborative, and creatives. Euphemistically referred to as Brewside or Yeastside, Bayside is now headquarters for Welcoming the Stranger.


Since Casey Ryder took over PortFiber, “the focus of the shop remains the same–to support and inspire the fiberarts community with quality supplies and amazing classes taught by local instructors.  Fiberarts is in our collective blood.  It’s a connection to our past, to our ancestors, to the earth and it’s fiber producing creatures.  It is the aim of PortFiber to embrace those connections and make new ones with those who share the love of wool!  “

Casey took less than a minute to agree to be the collection site for Welcoming the Stranger yarn donations. Her weekly spinning group is weaving a panel for the exhibit using the yarn they spin at PortFiber.

Running with Scissors IMG_2330 …is a diverse artist studio collective thriving in the industrial and eclectic East Bayside neighborhood of Portland, ME.  A dedicated work space, it serves over 50 artists working in various mediums sharing equipment, space, community, ideas, support and tools. … It is also the home of The Bayside Clay Center, a branch of RWS dedicated to clay with 11 resident members and 12 associate members.

After my first Creative Portland #weavethetent event, Kate Aker invited me to establish a studio at RWS . Everyone there has been supportive and best of all – my Journey Looms can fit through the doorways.IMG_2336

Gathering of Stitches

“A Gathering of Stitches is a maker space for fiber and textile artists. Its a place for those of you who like to work with your hands, with fabric and yarn, to use shared equipment and resources, learn new skills, or hone old ones, and join in a community of folks who love fiber.”

After speaking at a 2 Degrees event held at A Gathering of Stitches, I met with Samantha Hoyt Lindgren and reserved a sewing machine and a table in July and August to create the installation work.IMG_2458

Bayside is also a ‘caffeine corridor.’

Coffee By Design Coffee By Design Headquarters is located in Bayside just off the bike trail. They purchase from more than 30 growers around the world. They give back to the local community through their Rebel Blend Fund. Tadim makes great “art in a cup.”

IMG_2515 Tandem Coffee Tandem is not only is located between Port Fiber and Running with Scissors but shares a parking lot with a local mosque. Owner Will Platt has okayed a #weavethetent event there.



John Adams wrote: “I am a revolutionary so my son can be a farmer so his son can be a poet.

Sometimes it takes years for the disparate pieces of an idea to weave themselves into a full-fledged cohesive work of art.

Some artists are disciplined and labor daily to practice their craft – improve their skills, develop a style, master a material.

Others are driven by deadlines, available materials or a competition. Environments influence their output – large studios, large work; etc. Alma Thomas created works all the same size due to the size of her kitchen table…

Some of us wait for the Flash – the aha moment.

Welcoming the Stranger appeared whole cloth – a conversation in a taxi cab, a tour of a former synagogue and kayaking around an island formed the nucleus of an exhibition and a community-based art work. But I have lots of work to do….

I have materials.

I have a space.

I have community.

I have a deadline.

And I have gratitude for all those helping me along the way.

I will continue on the stone path….as long as there is enough coffee.


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-ING Part 1

– ing suffix: -ing

denoting a verbal action, an instance of this, or its result. “welcoming

Mov – ING

An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

I seem to be in a perpetual state of motion as I prepare to move to Maine temporarily. Over the next several months, I will be living the life of a nomad. (It does not seem accidental that a Bedouin tent features prominently in my artwork.)


Leaving my Maryland studio, job and friends to create         Welcoming the Stranger feels both overwhelming and exhilarating (and sometimes terrifying…)

It took more than a year to plan the 2-month long exhibit – to conduct the research, locate an exhibition space, find employment, procure housing, create relationships in the community, identify resources – all this before making the art.

Three months from today, I begin the installation of the exhibit. It will take 10 days.

How could the time have gone by so fast?


I never studied physics. I struggled with math and was convinced I would not be able to comprehend physics. For those who did take the course, here is an animated refresher:

I thought I would never have a use for the information. (I thought the same about algebra but revised my opinion as a result of tiling a bathroom floor.)

Stone carvers – especially – need to understand the basic principles of physics. If you neglect to pay attention to those ‘rules,’ you risk injury and sometimes, death.

Mark Di Suvero

In Einstein’s Dreams, the author Alan Lightman …”fictionalizes Albert Einstein as a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity in 1905. The book consists of 30 chapters, each exploring one dream about time that Einstein had during this period. “

Because it is a series of dreams, I can enter or leave each chapter at will. And in the moment, I understand the principles. But their application in the real world eludes me.

The author of Art and Physics, Leonard Shlain, believes art is precognitive: “artists conjure up revolutionary images and metaphors comprising preverbal expressions of the novel concepts later formulated by physicists….”

(He) proposes that the visionary artist is the first member of a culture to see the world in a new way. Then, nearly simultaneously, a revolutionary physicist discovers a new way to think about the world. Escorting the reader through the classical, medieval, Renaissance and modern eras, Shlain shows how the artists’ images when superimposed on the physicists’ concepts create a compelling fit.  images

When I read about the application of theoretical physics to various breakthrough moments in art history,  I understand at an intuitive level some other event may evolve from my artwork – one I could not have predicted. It is really the only hope an artist has – to create change.

Yet, none of this explains why time seems to contract rapidly when you are preparing for 5 months on the road.

Pack – ING:

I feel like someone embarking on a round the world trip – attempting to plan for multiple seasons, multiple settings, multiple scenarios …

  1. Packing clothing for 5 months in Maine – March to October*
  2. Packing to live in a suburban ranch home and then a loft in a boat house
  3. Packing supplies to make art
  4. Packing materials to teach
  5. Packing technology for everything else I will have to do
  6. Packing for contingencies. (I have to remind myself that I will still be in America and there is always Goodwill nearby.)

*I did consult the Farmer’s Almanac. It was not comforting.

When I was a child, my friends carried their patent leather Easter shoes to wear in church and walked to church in their boots.

Mainers always say: If you don’t like the weather in Maine, wait a minute and it will change.

Mark Twain is credited with saying: There are 2 seasons in Maine – winter and the 4th of July.

My upcountry friends say: Spring isn’t here til the snow comes off the mountain.

My island friends warn: Don’t plant anything until Memorial Day.



Colby College is a liberal arts college of about 1800 students located at the northern edge of the City of Waterville. It is the home of the Colby Art Museum IMG_1902The Lunder and Alfond families are representative of the Waterville philanthropic Jewish community. The former founders and long time owners of Dexter Shoes donated to both secular and religious causes. The “glass box” museum houses the Lunder Art Collection – more than 500 works.


Teachers can arrange for artworks to be available for classroom instruction. I had requested a display of Artist Books.

As a result of a random telephone call to David Freidenreich, Colby’s Maine Jewish History Project, I was given a tour of the sculpture classroom, 6 weeks as an artist in residence, a set of keys, a studio space and instructions for the staff room coffee maker (Only hazelnut goes in the green rimmed carafe).

Collaborating on anything is difficult for most of us. (Try coordinating window washing with a stranger for proof of my premise.) Over the past year, Bradley Borthwick, Assistant Professor of Art and I have had an ongoing dialogue about expectations for an artist in residence in the Sculpture Department.

When I learned that the 2015 theme for the Colby Arts and Humanities Department was Migrations, I proposed the following:

Create teams composed of a Jewish Studies student and a Sculpture 3 student. They would collaborate on the design and production of Artist Books to be shown at the Maine Jewish Museum as part of the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit.

The Jewish Studies students would conduct research on a variety of topics related to the history of Jewish migration to Maine. The Art students would learn book arts techniques and create Artist Books based on their partner’s research.

There were 6 males and 1 female in the Artist Book class.

There were 6 females and 1 male in the Jewish Studies class.

“Speed Dating” seemed the most efficacious approach to pairing up. (Interestingly, speed dating was a modern day Jewish approach to replace the matchmaker of old.

Every 2 minutes, the students shared the answers to these questions with a different potential partner:

Who is your favorite artist?IMG_1907

What is your work style (early bird vs procrastinator?)

What are your skills as a team member ?

What are your deficits as a team member ?

**Coincidentally, everyone was paired with their first choice.

Six weeks later, their books and papers are close to completion and we were preparing for the Migrations Conference. IMG_2262_2

Learn – ING

As part of my Artist Residency, I attended the Jewish Studies seminar facilitated by David Friedenreich. I learned a great deal about the history and lives of the earliest Jews in Maine. His students researched the following topics:

  • The first Jewish community in Maine (Bangor, 1849-1856)
  • 19th-century German-Jewish peddlers and merchants
  • Why Maine attracted Eastern European Jews in the early 20th century, and how it shaped their Jewishness
  • Anti Semitic discrimination against Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century
  • The children of Holocaust survivors raised in Maine

More importantly, I learned that my own struggle – to define myself as either a Mainer first or as a Jew first – has been a struggle for other Maine Jews. I wonder still whether it was the cultural, ancestral or religious aspects of my upbringing that define me as Jewish.

This struggle of “definition” continues for the most recent immigrants to Maine. They are currently referred to as: “New Mainers.” They also struggle to maintain their heritage, their religion and their ancestry while integrating into a new culture.

At the Colby Migrations Conference, one woman told this story:

She immigrated from Somalia almost 10 years ago. Her children were born here. Yet, she wanted to be sure they had a sense of their heritage and culture. So they attended the annual Somali Day parade.

Everyone had small Somali flags to wave.

While they were waiting along the parade route, her youngest child looked up at her and asked:

Where is my flag?

She answered: Here it is. And gave her a miniature flag.

A few moments later, Her daughter asks again:

But, where is MY flag?

She explained the meaning of the design of the Somali flag thinking her daughter did not understand.

Again, her daughter states more insistently:

I want MY flag.

And pointed to the U.S. flag being carried in the parade.

And at that moment, she realized …

that the American flag was her daughter’s flag;

that America was her daughter’s country; and

Maine was now the place called home – for both of them.

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Help to create Abraham’s Tent: Be sure to read the Call for Handspun at the end of this blog entry. Please share the Call with friends, on Facebook, Twitter.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” Goethe (MAYBE)

Let’s do it. –

Home Depot

Strand 1: Welcoming the Stranger


         – No

I repeat for the third time:   I-S-R-A-E-L-S-O-N


 – No. (Again with more vehemence and enunciation.


S as in Sam


A before the E



S as in Stranger



Much of my life I have had to spell my name whenever I am ordering something or making an appointment. (Sometimes both first and last.)

In the 1960’s at Portland High School, names called out during attendance check were Irish and Italian, northern European with a smattering of Greek. Eastern European names frequently belonged to students of Jewish descent.

Today, students come from 41 countries and speak 26 languages. (I attended a graduation a few years ago. The principal should have received a special cophsmmendation for pronouncing all of the 300 + graduates’ names correctly.)

Strand 2: #Je Suis …

As part of the lead up to the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit, I wanted to blog about the history of Maine immigration. I wanted to compare the efforts of current day organizations serving asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants coming to Portland, Maine with those efforts of the Portland Council of Jewish Women from the 1920’s.

Then there was Charlie Hebdo. Then other executions. Then mass kidnappings. Then other hash tags. Everyday, the news heralded more examples of ever increasing xenophobia around the world. Everyday, there were calls for revenge. I question what the impact of artwork would be in comparison to the horrors of the news.

Laura Blumenfeld’s father was shot in Jerusalem in 1986 by a member of a rebel faction of the PLO that was responsible for attacks on several tourists. Her father survived, but Blumenfeld’s ‘desire for revenge’ haunted her. Blumenthal book: Revenge a Story of Hope

In her book, she travels the world learning about revenge in different cultures – and the dynamics of hate. I always return to her premise: that the willingness to listen to the other side helps to discover a third way [to resolve differences]- a choice beyond ‘turn the other cheek” or “an eye for an eye.”

In 1993, Seeds of Peace began as an idea of the American journalist John Wallach. At a state dinner with politicians from Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority, Wallach toasted them, then inspired them to pledge to bring 15 youngsters from each of their respective countries to a new camp he was founding in Maine. These 48, including 3 Americans, ranging in age from 13 to 18, comprised the first session of the Seeds of Peace International Camp. Over the past 20 years, the program expanded to include campers from other countries in conflict.

I attended the premiere of the Seeds of Peace documentary film. I was deeply touched by the willingness of these young people to share their personal experiences and to examine their misconceptions of each other’s cultures. They learned to listen. Wallach believed that these ‘seeds’ are the future leaders of their countries and will resolve conflict in peaceful ways.

Strand 3: Year of the Sheep

2015 is the Year of the Sheep according to Chinese zodiac.

For me, it is also the year of the sheep – more specifically wool.

Welcoming the Stranger: Building Understanding through Community Based Art will be an exploration of the stories of two distinct immigrant groups: the Jews of a century ago and immigrants and asylum seekers of today. As part of the exhibit, I am creating a large weaving – a kind of Abraham’s Tent.*

After researching ancient tents generally and Bedouin tent design specifically, it became obvious that I needed to learn to weave. Mary Klotz is my go-to person for fiber-related artwork (actually anything related to making stuff.) She is owner of Forestheart Studio and an artist in her own right.

Ten years ago, the sounds of her loom were the soundtrack to my film: Warp and Weft.

HeddleCrossed weaving

After my day–long weaving immersion and 3 hours of warping, here are my new vocabulary words: warping mill-umbrella-lease sticks-swords-shuttles-heddle-reed hooks-pick per inchFH Warped

FH Umbrella


I can’t speak weaving quite yet, but at least I know more of what I am getting into – physically, fiscally and spiritually. And what I still need to learn. And how much help I will need.

Maine has a large number of fiber artists and spinners and weavers. Even my Kayak Guide’s mom is a weaver. (Seriously…YUP it’s true. Hard to believe, huh?)

So….it’s another road trip to Maine. In the winter.

Strand 4: Warp

Kraemer Yarns, Nazareth, PA is located in a large brick structure that echoes the closed mills of Biddeford, Maine. K bldg

Kraemers is still manufacturing yarn instead of converting the space into loft apartments or offices. 


In the early 1900’s, Muslim dye workers were brought from Albania to Biddeford, Maine to the textile mills. It is believed that the first U.S. mosque was created within the walls of Pepperell Mill.

At its heyday, Kraemer employed 2000 people. Now there are around 50 employees. Dave Schmidt jr. meets and greets. He is 5th generation Kraemer and so loves his work that his family left him behind as they headed for a Disney vacation. (He will eventually join them.)

Kraemer’s is now a kind of artisanal yarn factory. It specializes in custom blended – U.S. only – wool. Their wool was used in the XXll U.S. Olympic team uniform.K Olympic

My 30-minute tour extended to 2 hours. (Did I say that Dave LOVES his job.)

We walk a kind of ‘process labyrinth.’

There are rooms filled with raw wool and rooms with cones of yarn.k cones



K woolIn    between, the work happens. Some rooms house leviathan-sized machines. (I am not sure where the spare parts come from but they do the repairs themselves.) The noise is deafening.k machines


He asked me questions about the yarn for the project that I could not answer – what size, gauge, ply, origin and type of wool? (If I had enough friends with sheep, Kraemer’s could spin their wool into warp.)

Strand 5: Weft

I learned of Peace Fleece in a conversation with Mary Walker, a Navajo rug restoration person in Arizona.

The Peace Fleece offices are in an old barn on a sheep farm in the small, rural town of Porter in the foothills of southwestern Maine.

PF House

PL barnPF horsesPeter Hagerty and Mary Tracy operate their farm using 19c equipment, VERY large horses, and produce Peace Fleece yarn. After many twists and turns along a somewhat plowed road, I arrive at their door.

Peter and Marty started buying wool from the Soviet Union back in 1985 in ‘ hopes that through trade they could help diffuse the threat of nuclear war. Since then, Peter has journeyed through eastern Europe, central Asia and the Middle East in search of farmers and shepherds who are willing to set aside historic enmities in exchange for opportunities leading to mutual understanding and economic interdependence.’


In 1926, Eldar Markson (Jennie’s husband) to support Jewish Polish weavers, established a cooperative in which their products would be sold in the U.S.

The final design of Abraham’s Tent and its emphasis on community involvement evolved as a result of my ‘kitchen table’ conversations with Peter and Marty. They have invited me to speak about the Welcoming the Stranger project at their Spring Retreat. (They assure me that the road will be plowed.)

Strand 6: Twist

Finding volunteers is a necessity of community-based art. Although I have written more than 20 grants, WTS has (to date) received no funding.

Located in Topsham, Maine, Maine Fiberarts is a statewide arts nonprofit formed to support Maine fiber. Christine Macchi, Director, graciously hosted a meet and greet for me at their Center/Gallery. (I brought donuts from Frosty’s Donuts where I met ANOTHER person who loves their job. )

Frosty'sWhen it became painfully obvious to all that I did not speak weaving, three weavers volunteered to create samples using a variety of yarns for the weft and warps, various weaving techniques and to create various “hands.” (They definitely speak weaving.)

They are my first volunteers:

Susan Perrine

Sybil Shiland

Emi Ito


A Greater Portland Landmark member bought one of Emi’s scarves after the City Council voted and passed historic districting for House Island.

Strand 7: Yarn

We have estimated that I will need 30,000 pieces of yarn (GASP!), each piece 42” in length, to create Abraham’s Tent. My neighbor and grant writer is a self-professed “knitting geek.” She believes that we can “crowd source” on Ravelry to obtain the yarn. is an “on-line place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration. The content here is all user-driven; we as a community make the site what it is.” (It is rumored there are 5,000,000 members.)

There are blogs and podcasts and forums and groups. I am to be interviewed by AbbyKnitz on the west coast and Kathy and Steve Elkins, owners of WEBS – on Ready, Set, Knit – on the east coast.

So the Call for Handspun** has begun. Our first 4 donations arrived. Only 29,996 pieces to go. Sam2

Strand 8: Weaving Hope

How do we weave together hope and reality?

Still reeling from the reports of Charlie Hebdo, I went to talk with S____ from whom I have been learning about Islam in an ad hoc classroom known as the lobby of a building.

I asked:

It is all so terrible. It is all so frightening. What can we do? Is there any hope?

He answered:

We are safe in this lobby.  At this moment, we are safe. We talk with each other. We learn from each other. We respect each other. At this moment, we are safe.

I respond:

– Inshallah.


** Become part of Abraham’s tent—

Hebrews 13:2

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Abraham’s Tent will be installed on the ceiling of the entrance hallway of the Maine Jewish Museum. The tent-like form will be composed of 3 woven panels – each 50’ x 4’. The middle panel will be created by members of the community. The loom will be set up in various locations around Portland throughout the spring and summer. Members of the community will be encouraged to weave on the loom. Other panels will be created by members of the local weaving community.

I am seeking donations of hand spun yarn – any gauge, any color, something meaningful to you. Non-traditional fiber materials will be accepted. Your yarn and a tag with your family’s country of origin will be “woven” into the panels of  “Abraham’s Tent.”

When: February 14 – April 30, 2015

What: Yarn – 42” lengths of hand spun yarn – any gauge, any color, non traditional materials accepted. Other yarn also accepted but prefer wool.

Please include your name, email address and your family’s country of origin. $1.00 bill or check made to Welcoming the Stranger Fund a 501 (c)(3). Funds will used to defray costs of processing yarn and name tags. Mail to:

Welcoming the Stranger Art

PO Box 10419

Portland Maine 04104