Reis Education Canoe

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The boundless impact that the Reis Education Canoe has had on Abbe Museum educational programs is one that will continue to strengthen the quality of our programs, enhance the visitor experience, and heighten awareness of Wabanaki history and culture for years to come. From the moment construction began in the courtyard of the Abbe, built by our good friends David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy, and Steve Cayard, visitors were captivated by its artistry, craftsmanship, and tradition. With several visitors returning daily, some had the chance to participate in construction while others were delighted to monitor its progress, and the mesmerizing qualities of this almost lost art form continue to dazzle Abbe visitors today.

The Reis Education Canoe is permanently displayed in the Orientation Gallery, making it a part of the Museum experience for each individual visitor. Regardless of whether or not a visitor decides to enter the Museum, the canoe catches their attention and provides a tangible, engaging interaction with a piece of Wabanaki culture and history. In this way, the Reis Education Canoe helps the Abbe communicate a very simple but critical message: there are Wabanaki people in Maine today, and their cultures and traditions are alive and well.

The canoe appeals to our visitors’ curiosities, making it a natural highlight within tours of our downtown location. The educational nature of this piece allows visitors to have a hands-on experience with it, which activates different styles of learning among visitors of all ages. Each school group that has visited the Abbe since the canoe was constructed has had a chance to learn about the canoe, the process and labor involved in building it, and its cultural and historical significance to Wabanaki people. Each summer, the Reis Education Canoe is featured in our Cultural Connections in the Park program series and has dazzled visitors from our Sieur de Monts location to Jordan Pond. This popular program series continually reaches between 1,500 and 3,000 people each summer. 

As much as one can say about the construction process and history of birchbark canoes, nothing truly compares to paddling one on the water. During the summer of 2014, then Abbe Educator George Neptune brought the Reis Education Canoe to Echo Lake to provide campers with a hands-on learning experience that can only be found on Mount Desert Island. After discussing the history, cultural significance, and construction process, visitors were not only able to ride in the canoe but also experience the ease of paddling it for themselves, creating a cherished memory that can never be replicated.

In 2015, Good Morning America’s Ginger Zee featured the canoe as one of her “clues” when Acadia National Park was named America’s favorite place, putting the Abbe Museum and the Reis Education Canoe at the forefront of Mount Desert Island’s most attractive features.

The canoe is currently in Portland for the 2018 Portland Museum of Art Biennial exhibit and will be on view through early June 2018.

Friends of the Collection

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A few years ago, with the help of a generous donor, the Abbe Museum launched the Friends of the Collection Fund to help us make purchases for our permanent collection. With this support, we've been able to buy baskets by important Wabanaki Master Basketmakers like Sarah Sockbeson, Jeremy Frey, and Molly Neptune Parker. And sometimes, we've also been able to respond when interesting objects are made available by auction or by an individual seller, and we've added some of these unique items to our collections from Decontie & Brown, Gina Brooks, and James Eric Francis, Sr. In all honesty, though, our biggest hope for this fund is to be able to buy art and objects that have significance to Wabanaki people and the Abbe. So often, significant pieces are difficult to buy when they are on the open market or a collector makes the purchase before we are able to raise the funds. We are in this challenging position now. 

Passamaquoddy artist, father, husband, friend, culture-keeper, and Abbe trustee David Moses Bridges passed away earlier this year. As with any creative soul, he was working until his last days. Thanks to his widow, Patricia, we have the opportunity to purchase three pieces of birchbark art for the Abbe's permanent collection. And, with the support of David's extended family, Patricia has offered this opportunity to us first as we have the largest collection of David's work in the world and it means a great deal to hold his work in the Wabanaki homeland. Considering the Abbe Museum as their first choice, David's family wants to honor his strong commitment to this institution and its process of decolonization. We have the first right of refusal on these gorgeous pieces of art and history and we would like to exercise this right with your help. 

By making a gift today, you can help us reach our fundraising goal of $9,100 before the end of 2017. You can donate by clicking the button at the bottom below and making a gift or sending a check to the Abbe with the notation "DMB purchase" in the memo. Images and detailed descriptions of these pieces are listed below.

Update
Thanks to your generosity, we have raised half of our goal of $9,100, which means we are able to purchase one of the three pieces that David's widow, Patricia, offered! Specifically, the birchbark box that David was working on at the time of his death in January 2017 (featured first below). Thank you for making this opportunity a possibility. We couldn't have done it without you!

The Friends of the Collection is an ongoing campaign, so anyone can donate at any time. Thank you for being a friend of the collection!  
 

Donate today

BIRCHBARK BOX, 2016
Birchbark, spruce root
14" diameter x 11" high
Purchase price: $4,800

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This box is the last one created by David before his death in January 2017. It remains unfinished on the lashings on the top, and yet is still so beautiful. David chose to leave the bark on this piece undecorated so that people could more fully appreciate the natural beauty of the bark.


BOX, 2014
Birchbark, spruce root
10" diameter x 8 1/2" high
Purchase price: $4,000

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This etched box so vividly reflects David's artistic hand. The double-curves are distinctive, David's own interpretation of this traditional Wabanaki symbol. It is fully decorated inside and out, with the inside of the cover and both the inside and outside of the bottom of the piece elaborately etched. This piece was included in the Peabody Essex Museum exhibit Branching Out: Trees as Art from September 2014 to September 2015.


KNIFE SHEATH, 2016
irchbark, spruce root, ash
12" long
Purchase price: $300

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In his last years, David was exploring new shapes and designs for his art pieces. In this context, he made this sheath to carry his knife, a wonderful example of how art and function come together in David's work and in Wabanaki use of birchbark. The sturdy bark is a full 1/8" thick.

Thank you for being a friend of the collection!

Birchbark Wikuwam Demo with David Moses Bridges

David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy, has spent the past three days out at Sieur de Monts in Acadia National Park reconstructing a traditional wikuwam. David is an award winning birchbark artist who has received national recognition for his work. From splitting spruce root to collecting birchbark, David has spent the past few days demonstrating his craft to more than 750 visitors, sharing stories of his childhood and career as an artist, and answering questions about this labor intensive process.

This program is part of the Cultural Connections in the Park series, which

happen throughout the summer

in and around Acadia National Park. All of these programs are sponsored by Dawnland, LLC, are offered in partnership with Acadia National Park, and are free and open to the public.

Wabanaki Antiques Expo


During the Wabanaki Antiques Expo held on Saturday, May 9th, four Master artists from the Wabanaki communities assembled to allow Abbe visitors to pick their brains for knowledge on pieces that wereor in some cases, were notmade by Wabanaki people. The panel included Master Basketmaker and beadworker Jennifer Neptune, Penobscot; Master Basketmaker Richard Silliboy, Micmac; Master Birchbark worker David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy; and Master Basketmaker and Museum Educator George Neptune, Passamaquoddy.

A wide range of objects were brought before the panel in hopes of having them identified. Tucked among several beaded "flapper" adornments and a few pieces of southwestern pottery were a few objects that piqued the panels' interest: the first object being a seal-skin belt, likely dating back to the Indian Encampments of Bar Harbor, making it easily one hundred years old.















While other objects were identified as "non-Wabanaki," including a shaker-style basket and several pieces of Southwestern pottery, many Wabanaki basketsboth utility and fancy styleswere brought in to be identified. While it's difficult to identify work by specific artists, the panelists were able to identify which tribes the baskets came from based on aesthetic trends from each community. The basket that brought up the most discussion: a red "sweetgrass flat" style purse with woven ash handles. A Potawatomi flute that dates back to the early 1800s also garnered a lot of discussion, and even some playing!












Hawk Henries, a member of the Nipmuck tribe, brought the flute in for the panelists to inspect. Hawk has a lot of experience enchanting audiences with flutes; he also crafts his own eastern woodlands flutes (out of a single piece of wood!). 


The final object discussed by the panel was a beaded leather jacket. According to the oral histories around the item, it was constructed nearly two-hundred years ago, with the beadwork eventually being added by an Ojibwe beadworker. Jennifer Neptune confirmed that the beadwork was in the Ojibwe style, however, the presence of thread in the seams and use of trade-cloth and "greased" beads led panelists to believe that the jacket was made after the Civil War when thread became much more accessible for Native peoples.









Wabanaki Artists Take Top Spots at Prestigious Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market

Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy), a basket artist from Indian Township, won the 2015 Best of Show Award at the 57th annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market, which draws nearly 15,000 visitors and more than 600 of the nation’s most outstanding and successful American Indian artists. David Moses Bridges (Passamaquoddy), a basket artist from Bar Harbor, won first place in Traditional Basketry. Of the 645 artists who participated in the world-acclaimed cultural event, five were Wabanaki artists from the state of Maine.

Image courtesy of Heard Museum.

Frey, who comes from a long line of Native weavers, was honored at the fair’s March 6 awards reception for his winning “Loon” basket. In 2011, Frey won Best of Show at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market and the Sante Fe Indian Market, the largest Native American Indian arts market. It is only the second time that someone has won both shows in the same year, and it was the first time in the Sante Fe Indian Market’s 90+ year history that a basket achieved the highest honor. Frey specializes in fancy ash baskets, a traditional form of Wabanaki weaving, and his work has been featured at the Smithsonian, Museum of Art and Design in New York City, and in many other prominent museums around the country.
"This is an exciting time for Wabanaki artists working on a national stage, and these wins tell us that northeastern basketry is the one to watch!” exclaimed Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, Abbe Museum’s president and CEO. “The competition at juried shows is serious, and to place requires extraordinary talent and execution. Congratulations to all of the Wabanaki artists who participated and placed."
Bridges, a birch bark basketmaker and Abbe Museum Trustee, won first place for his Etched Winterbark Basket. His work has been exhibited at the Abbe, Eiteljorg Museum of Indians and Western Art, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, and internationally. He is renowned for etching traditional double curl patterns in bark, and his stitching with spruce roots along basket seams distinguishes his work from other birch bark artists.




Other Wabanaki artists invited to attend the fair were Abbe Museum Educator George Neptune (Passamaquoddy), Abbe Museum Trustee Jennifer Neptune (Penobscot), and Theresa Secord (Penobscot). A complete list of winners can be found at http://heard.org/event/fair-2015/.

The Abbe Museum shop features artwork by each of these Wabanaki artists. Winter hours are Thursday through Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm, and admission is free through April thanks to the generosity of Machias Savings Bank.