‘Seeking Shelter’ exhibit closes

Traveling to other venues
Fri, 10/13/2017 - 9:15am
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Daniel Berrigan and friends are leaving town and headed to Brown University.

“Seeking Shelter from the Storm,” an exhibit featuring the history of social activists Father Berrigan and theologian William Stringfellow has concluded its three-month run at the Island Free Library. The exhibit, which was the brainchild of island resident and activist Ann Tickner, and curated by Ken Yellis, began its run at the library on July 11, and was dismantled on Tuesday, Oct. 10. The exhibit will now move to venues at Brown and then Salve Regina Universities.

Yellis, along with the project’s stewards: Dennis O’Toole, and website designer Brian Jones, broke the exhibit down into pieces and packed them into boxes. While the group was sentimental about the exhibit’s conclusion at the library, and lauded Library Director Kristin Baumann for hosting it, plans were discussed regarding the project’s future.

“This has been an exceptional start to the Seeking Shelter odyssey,” O’Toole told The Block Island Times. “Moving it to Brown is going to be a different experience, a different audience. I’m optimistic that the story is going to have resonance there as well.”

Of the exhibit’s dismantling, Tickner said, “It’s not totally a sad moment. The exhibit will be traveling all over the place.” Tickner is notable for speaking about issues associated with feminism, championing human rights, and gender’s role in world politics.

“Even though the exhibit will be gone” from the library, “the momentum is still there,” she said. “Kristin and the library have been fantastic. It’s a great exhibit” that garnered “much interest from people,” and “succeeded expectations.”

“Kristin said that people came to the exhibit more than once,” said Yellis, “which is really gratifying. It was a great experience for all those involved. One of the great sorrows of curating an exhibit like this is that they are dismantled in about 90 minutes.”

Yellis said the exhibit would be moved into the J. Walter Wilson building at Brown University in Providence the next day — on Oct. 11, and run from Oct. 17 to Jan. 28. The J. Walter Wilson building is Brown University’s main student services building. The revised exhibit will be displayed in the building’s hallway.

The exhibit highlights the life and times of Berrigan and Stringfellow, as well as Anthony Towne, who sought refuge on Block Island during the turbulent 1960s when the Vietnam War was being protested. The “Rebel Priests,” as Berrigan’s followers came to be known, dedicated themselves to the church and to promoting nonviolence and antiwar sentiment.

After its term is concluded at Brown, the exhibit will be on display at Salve Regina’s McKillop Library in Newport from February to April. “Anybody can come and see the exhibit,” said Yellis.

Jones said the exhibit would be revised to appeal to new audiences in different venues. “The idea is it to make it more appealing to a broader audience,” he said.

Part of that transformation includes changing the title to “Seeking Shelter — A story of place, faith, and resistance.” Jones said the revisions include the addition of a “reflection room,” an “acoustically separate space,” where people can “sit and reflect.”   

“It will look different everywhere that it appears,” said Yellis.

Jones noted that the group agreed that they wanted an exhibit that could be changeable, portable, inexpensive, durable, movable and reconfigurable to any space. Yellis admitted that they learned a lot from displaying the exhibit at the library, things that they will incorporate moving forward.

“We learned from the audience” on the island, said Yellis, who wondered how it would be received. “We learned it was important to islanders — that it has resonance. Libraries are a natural environment for an exhibit like this.”

Baumann said that was the reason why she chose to work on the project, thinking it would be a good fit for the Island Free Library. “I think it was lovely and important,” she said. “This has been very important to me.”

“This is a piece of history that serves as a role model to our kids about what to do during turbulent times,” said Baumann. “I’m pleased about being able to provide this type of programming at the library.”  

Before departing, the group presented Baumann and the library with a parting gift of a thousand new bookmarks. In return, Baumann said an artist named Robert Valiente-Neighbours donated two paintings to the exhibit. The paintings, of Berrigan and Stringfellow, were on display with the exhibit at the library. 

After the exhibit was dismantled, Baumann said, “I will miss the Rebel Priests.” 

For more information about the Seeking Shelter exhibit go to: www.seekingshelterblockisland.org.