Wren Pearson submitted “Black Lives Matter – Black Arts Matter” to a new book being published by Chocolate Church Arts Center. Courtesy / Chocolate Church Arts Center

BATH — Finding a way to spread art and foster a sense of community, The Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath is publishing “From Home in Bunny Slippers: Creations from a Community in the Weirdest Year Ever.” The book features work from a wide variety of folks, largely Maine natives, all exploring their worldview through art in a time of global and national crisis.

Executive Director William Lederer said the idea for the book was born out of a series of backyard meetings in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as staff members discussed ways to continue fulfilling the center’s mission of amplifying the voices of creative people.

Ann Tracy of Falmouth created this double exposure called “Two Tulips” for a new arts compilation that is soon to be published. Courtesy / Chocolate Church Arts Center

“What we decided early on was that we wanted it be inclusive both in terms of accepting as much work from as many people as we could, and including as many different kinds of work as possible,” said Lederer.

The book contains paintings, poems, essays, short stories, photography and puppet shows. In addition, provided in the book are QR codes that take the reader to an online extension of the art, where original songs, music videos, comedy skits and more are posted. 

A corresponding art show will open in the church’s gallery at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, and run through Jan. 6. Only four people will be allowed in the gallery at a time and masks will be required. 

Lederer had just picked up a copy of the book from Bath Printing Company and was flipping through it as he expressed his elation for the number of submissions received. The youngest artist featured is less than a year old, Lederer said, and the oldest is close to 90.

Robin Swennes’ submission to “At Home in Bunny Slippers” is titled “Ransom.” Courtesy / Chocolate Church Arts Center

When Wren Pearson of Pownal came across the call for submissions online, she knew what she had to offer the project. She created her piece “Black Lives Matter – Black Arts Matter” in light of the death of Breonna Taylor. Pearson’s installation is based on quilts made by a group of women from Gee’s Bend, Alabama who are descendants of slaves. She painted her rendition of the quilts on three separate sheets of 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets of plywood at her home studio. The project took her over 100 hours to complete.

“I’m a 55-year-old white woman living in a tiny rural town and it feels like there’s not a lot I can do to help, but this was my way to pay tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement,” Pearson said. She added that if it wasn’t for quarantine, she wouldn’t have had the time to dedicate to the piece.

For some, focusing on art was a way to shake a quarantine-induced funk.

“I didn’t realize how emotionally disjointed I had become during quarantine,” said Ann Tracy, of Falmouth. “I re-centered myself by putting energy into my art again. I needed to make something beautiful, yet strange to match the days we were living.” She photographed the tulips her husband grew in their front garden and used her iPod Touch to create a double exposure effect.

“From Home in Bunny Slippers” is on track to be officially published and available for purchase by the end of November, Lederer says, and is available now for pre-order.

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