How will you spend the holidays this year?
For many, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is filled with family, friends, gifts, and celebrations at home, church, and beyond. For others, it’s a difficult time: loneliness and loss are thrown into high relief when everyone around you seems so joyful. For some, it’s a time of crushingly hard work creating holiday experiences for others: clients, patrons, or family members who depend upon you. And for all of us this year, there may be a mixture of sadness, relief, and celebration that what’s been a difficult year all over the world is coming to an end.
Art is one thing that unifies us during the holiday season. From spectacular public light displays to paper snowflakes on school windows, from symphonies playing Handel to revelers singing “Auld Lang Syne,” art is interwoven into this time of year. Photography, of course, is also part of the everyday art of the holidays. We send, receive, and display photo cards; we Instagram our trees, our candles, our pies; we capture the surprise of a perfect gift on video. It’s inescapable: whether you’re actively celebrating or not, the moment you step out your door or open your Facebook feed, you’re participating, as a creator, an observer, or both. We all glean our own meanings, joyful or contemplative, from the art that surrounds us in late December.
Museums can provide a space—literally and figuratively—to find peace within these complexities. Losing yourself in the relatively quiet rooms of a gallery can be a blessed respite from the pressures of holiday obligations. For many, a work of art—whether it’s a lauded masterpiece or a hidden gem—may serve as the most powerful reminder, to them, of what the season is all about. Museums can be about celebration and togetherness, too. Many people this time of year have the gift of time off from work and loved ones in town, and there’s no better place to pass the time together—walking, talking, looking, and connecting in a way that no other kind of destination provides.
Here is the point, and this is true not just at the holidays but all year long: Museums are for everyone. Museums are for the revelers, the misanthropes, the gracious hosts and the appreciative guests, the religious, the secular, the expert, the novice, the lonely, the overworked, the sad, the joyful, the grateful, the old, the young, and everyone in between. You are welcome, and you will not be turned away. And if that’s not a timely message for this time of year—and this year in particular—I don’t know what is.
As 2015 comes to an end, so too does the Maine Photo Project, a statewide collaboration of 32 different museums, historical societies, libraries, and other nonprofit cultural organizations. We’ve described the project as a “celebration” of photography in Maine and it has been that, many times over—but the works on view in the 40+ Maine Photo Project exhibitions this year have given us as much to contemplate as to celebrate. This is evident in the nine Maine Photo Project exhibitions that remain on view through the winter holidays. Historical overviews extol the richness and depth of Maine’s photographic traditions while revealing and challenging the ways Mainers have pictured themselves—and who has traditionally been excluded. Contemporary works inspired by environmental science provide exciting intersections between art and technology while exposing the fallibility of both. And overall, this unprecedented intersection of artists and art venues has given us all much to think about how we can work together, now and in the future, to build and foster connections among and beyond ourselves.
Consider saving some time in your holiday schedule to visit a Maine Photo Project exhibition. Let art be part of how you observe the turn of the old year—and celebrate the beginning of a new one.
Jessica Skwire Routhier
Maine Photo Project Coordinator
Please note that exhibition dates are subject to change! Be sure to contact each exhibiting organization before your visit to verify hours, dates, and admission fees.
Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland
Pairings: Selections from the Bruce Brown Photography Collection, Part II
through December 20, 2015
L.C. Bates Museum, Hinckley
Focusing on Natural History
through December 30, 2015
Maine Museum of Photographic Arts, Portland
A Lensless Vision: Contemporary Camera-less Works by DM Witman
through December 29, 2015
Historic New England at Sarah Orne Jewett House, South Berwick
Capturing Maine: Photographs from the Collection of Historic New England
through January 2, 2016
University of Maine Museum of Art, Bangor
Celebrating Photography in Maine: Selections from the Bruce Brown Collection
through December 31, 2015
Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston
The View Out His Window (and in his mind’s eye): Photographs by Jeffery Becton
through March 26, 2016
Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland
PICTURING MAINE: Photographs from the Farnsworth
through March 27, 2016
Maine Historical Society, Portland
Early Maine Photography: Images of People and Places from 1840 to 1870
through January 16, 2015
Maine State Museum, Augusta
The Passionate Photographer: Kosti Ruohomaa’s Maine in Magazine Photojournalism
through July 16, 2016
Stanley Museum, Kingfield
Chansonetta’s Children–Work, Play, Learn, Grow: Selected Photographs by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons
through December 31, 2015