2015-03-20 / Front Page

Tale of the town: Illustrations tell all

New exhibits now open at Kennebunk’s Brick Store Museum
By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer


Three of 50 objects featured in a historical retrospective of Kennebunk, from the first Indian settlements down through the present day, highlight the town’s boatbuilding industry. They include, from left, a ship’s ballast, found last year in the Kennebunk River, a sailmaker’s palm, used to protect the hand when sewing a ship’s giant sail, and a portrait of local merchant Charles Barry, lost at sea, who left a cache of love letters to and from his wife. The exhibit, “Kennebunk History in 50 Objects,” will be staged through October at the Brick Store Museum, located at 117 Main St. (Duke Harrington photo) Three of 50 objects featured in a historical retrospective of Kennebunk, from the first Indian settlements down through the present day, highlight the town’s boatbuilding industry. They include, from left, a ship’s ballast, found last year in the Kennebunk River, a sailmaker’s palm, used to protect the hand when sewing a ship’s giant sail, and a portrait of local merchant Charles Barry, lost at sea, who left a cache of love letters to and from his wife. The exhibit, “Kennebunk History in 50 Objects,” will be staged through October at the Brick Store Museum, located at 117 Main St. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUNK — Two new exhibits at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk illustrate the history of the town, while also celebrating the works of local illustrators.

The show, “Visual Storytelling: Celebrating Maine Illustrators,” opened March 20. Running though September, it features works by 17 Maine artists, including children’s book author Dahlov Ipcar and comic book artist Steve Lavigne, of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fame. Featured in the show are professional illustrators Nancy Cooper Funk of Arundel and Steve Hrehovcik of Kennebunk.


Cynthia Walker, center, executive director of the Brick Store Museum, located at 117 Main St. in Kennebunk, is flanked by two local artists, Nancy Cooper Funk of Arundel, and Steve Hrehovcik of Kennebunk. Cooper Funk and Hrehovcik are among 17 Maine illustrators featured in the museum’s new exhibit, “Visual Storytelling,” running through September. 
(Duke Harrington photo) Cynthia Walker, center, executive director of the Brick Store Museum, located at 117 Main St. in Kennebunk, is flanked by two local artists, Nancy Cooper Funk of Arundel, and Steve Hrehovcik of Kennebunk. Cooper Funk and Hrehovcik are among 17 Maine illustrators featured in the museum’s new exhibit, “Visual Storytelling,” running through September. (Duke Harrington photo) Also recently opened and running through October is, “Kennebunk History in 50 Objects.” Based on the hugely success British Museum show, “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” the exhibit will rotate items from the Brick Store Museum’s collection of more than 17,000 objects to tell the story of the town from the first Indian settlements through the present day.

Illustrating a point

The idea for the “Visual Storytelling” exhibit came from Hrehovcik, a self-professed “theater guy” who ended up living in Kennebunk “by accident.” Hrehovcik was drawn from his native New Jersey to work at the Kennebunkport Playhouse. When it closed in 1970, Hrehovcik, by then in love with the area’s natural beauty, decided to keep his young family here and found work in advertising, first running a newspaper ad department, then his own agency.

While he’s done many things during his half-century in Maine, Hrehovcik never strayed too far from a love of art, particularly illustration in pen and ink, pastels and acrylics.

About a year ago, shortly after Cynthia Walker began her tenure as executive director of the Brick Store Museum, Hrehovcik suggested a show featuring cartoon art. That didn’t come off, but Walker had no trouble finding enough Maine and local artists for an exhibit on illustrators, with enough waiting in the wings for a potential second show.

“The more we brainstormed about doing a specific exhibit about illustration, the more directions it went in, to encompass all different styles and mediums,” Walker said. “Most of it is cartooning and children’s book illustration, but what really sets it apart from a fine art show is that this is a medium all its own, with pictures that go with words, or are specifically intended to get an idea across.”

“Everywhere I look I see stories around me and I think one can capture that feeling in an illustration,” said Cooper Funk, who has drawn often whimsical pictures based on her love of nature to illustrate everything from books, menus and brochures, to invitations, labels, and cards since moving to Maine from her native Connecticut in 1979.

“This can be fine art or illustration,” said Cooper Funk. “There’s such a fine line between the two. It’s really for the viewer to decide.”

Fifty objects

Some of the items in the “50 Objects” exhibit have a unique provenance. One appears to be a simple oil painting of Captain James Fairfield, for whom the nearby Captain Fairfield Inn is named. As the story goes, while in Europe, Fairfield took what amounted to the 18th century equivalent of a “selfie” and sent it back home to his wife. But the ship it was on sank halfway across the Atlantic. A passing vessel then found the painting, safely sealed in a waterproof tube, bobbing in the water. Fortunately, the letter Fairfield is depicted holding has the word “Kennebunk” on it and, because then, as now, there are not many places in the world named Kennebunk, the rescuing captain knew where to send the find.

Other objects in the collection are more mundane, workaday items. There’s a sailmaker’s palm, essentially a giant thimble used to protect the hand when sewing the oversized sails used on the giant rigged ships that dominated the oceans before the Industrial Revolution. There’s also what looks like a bottle filed with sand, because that’s exactly what it is.

“That was used as ballast for a ship. It was found in the Kennebunk River by the Cape Arundel golf course just about a year ago,” said town historian Stephen Spofford. “It could be from any time from the 1760s to the early 1900s.”

Both items are representative as Kennebunk’s history as a major shipbuilding port.

But there also are more recent items, such as a plastic shopping basket from the Garden Street Market, a downtown grocery story that closed in 2010.

“The idea of this exhibit is to show how history is all around us every day,” said Walker. “Something that happened two seconds ago is now history. It’s nice to be able to bring that to light. Most of these objects are things people would have interacted with everyday without ever thinking of them as items that might be considered historic one day.”

To see and do

The Brick Store Museum, 117 Main St. in Kennebunk, will hold an opening reception for its newest exhibit, “Visual Storytelling: Celebrating Maine Illustrators,” at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 27. The show, now open, runs through September.

Also now on display at the museum is an exhibit called, “Kennebunk History in 50 Objects.” It runs through October.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $3 for children ages 6-16, while on Saturdays the entire family can visit for $10.

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