BRUNSWICK — At Spindleworks, they like to say, “It’s about the art, not the disability.”
The Brunswick-based nonprofit art center that creates art-making opportunities for artists with disabilities celebrates its 35th anniversary with an exhibition featuring hundreds of works made by the art center’s 44 artists.
As Liz McGhee debated a name for the exhibition at Curtis Memorial Library, she kept coming back to the word “thrive.”
“At 35 years, Spindleworks is thriving,” said McGhee, Spindlework’s executive director. “In a fiscal and political climate that is depressing, our artists are making their way and our program continues to provide them with the opportunity to do so.”
Spindleworks marks its anniversary with a group art exhibition, “Thrive: Spindleworks at 35.” It is on view in the Morrell Meeting Room at the library through Nov. 30.
The exhibition includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, weavings and other pieces.
Spindleworks began as a place where people with disabilities could learn to weave. As it grew, it branched out to include all kinds of art, including wood-working, poetry, pottery, music, acting and jewelry-making. Most of the work in “Thrive” are pieces that hang on the wall, although there are a few three-dimensional creations better suited for pedestals, tables and stands.
Many of the artists in this exhibition have shown their work beyond Maine. One example is Thomas Ridlon, a sculptor who has shown around the country. For “Thrive,” Ridlon is showing a cardboard and paper model he made from memory of a Maine camp he attended when he was younger.
It’s a perfectly composed, well-proportioned model of a camp dear to his heart.
A few years ago, he was part of a summer art show at Deer Isle. The exhibition director of the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston saw Ridlon’s work, and invited him to submit it for a six-person show highlighting folk art in New England.
Others in this exhibition have shown around the country and internationally, McGhee said.
“Every artist in this exhibition has a really good story. They’re all amazing stories,” she said.
When Spindleworks began, there were no other programs in Maine providing similar services. Now, there are many.
“We’re the granddaddy of them all,” she said. “We represent the possibility. We’re not just doing arts and crafts. We’re giving artists the opportunity to express themselves. We have so many things happening right now, it’s a very exciting time.”
Spindleworks has scheduled two events in association with the exhibition. At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, it will show a collection of short films from the Spindleworks archive titled “Oldies & Goodies.” At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, it will host a reading and telling of favorite Spindleworks stories and memories, hosted by Maine writer and Brunswick business owner Gary Lawless. Both events will be in the Morrell Meeting Room at the Curtis Library.
McGhee hopes that people from beyond the Spindleworks community come out for the show. In recent years, Spindleworks has expanded its exhibition terrain to include Portland in attempt to grow its audience. But for this show, McGhee felt it was important to celebrate the milestone in Spindleworks’ hometown.
“For this one, it just seemed right to put it in a local space where local people can see it,” she said.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: [email protected]