Thursday, May 22, 2014

Remembering the Past, Building Our Future: Neighborhood Quilt Project

As some of you may know, Juni van Dyke (Arts Coordinator for the City of Gloucester) is the creative force behind "Gloucester: a Community of Neighborhoods Quilt." In May, she met with members of the Sargent House Museum community to discuss the design and sewing of a representation of the Sargent House for the Downtown Neighborhood quilt. The quilt will eventually include Middle and Main Street landmarks such as City Hall, Cape Ann Museum, Sawyer Free Library, the UU Church among others. It is truly a celebration of our community. You can see the fantastic quilt taking shape in the photo below.

Above: The Downtown Neighborhood quilt shows 2 vacant
white spaces where the Sargent House representation could go.
You can also see how wonderfully the Sargent House square is progressing in the next photo; who doesn't absolutely love the modillioned cornice, pediment and Ionic column capitals! Exquisite! 

Above: The Sargent House square is taking shape.  

Juni has asked that we simply baste pieces to the blue sky backing since she will attach to the quilt backing. A few details still remain to be designed and completed. For example, our SHM team will work to better-articulate the lawn and flowers with batting behind to make the slopes, and work up the iconic hollies and boxwoods that flank our stately entranceway.

We also need to figure out how to create details such as our magnificent catalpa tree on right side. Currently, there is talk of employing brown yarn for its distinctive "pods."

Our enormous catalpa tree providing an amazing show.
What a majestic tree! (Photo: June 27, 2013)

Other questions include: should we have a Sargent House sign anywhere? Should we embroider a Judith saying on the lawn slope like "Equal education and rights?" Perhaps even a portrait of Judith herself?

The goal is to complete the representation before the end of the summer. 

Any volunteers (on most Thursdays from 11A - 1P) will be welcome to sew a stitch in order to have their name listed as an artist for the SHM quilt block when it is displayed at the Cape Ann Museum.

Please contact SHM Board Member Jo-Ann Michalak with questions, suggestions, and certainly if you would like to participate.

Cannot wait to see the final product, telling our story to future generations in this timeless art form.

By Kimberlee Cloutier-Blazzard, Development Associate

Friday, May 16, 2014

Remembering the Past, Building Our Future: UPDATE-Growing the Garden

The Sargent House lawn continues to evolve; here's an update to our last blog post, "Growing the Garden."

On May 8th, Susan Kelly and Terese O'Connell of Generous Gardeners, together with G.G. volunteer Karen Petersen, and two hired men from Wolf Hill Nursery, began installation of the new garden beds on the Sargent House Museum lawn. This beautification project is funded by our wonderful donors: Generous Gardeners, William Taylor and Julie Sidon.


Generous Gardener's Susan Kelly donated labor and perennials from her own garden, and William Taylor funded Wolf Hill to cut the beds and add loam. Because much of the gardens are on the steep slope, the team covered the loam with necessary erosion control fabric and cut holes to plant under that fabric. (This is what you see in the photographs.) Corliss extended the soaker hoses to connect with the shrub borders, and Wolf Hill later returned and put down mulch that hides the fabric.

UPDATE Photo: May 23, 2014. Mulch now installed.

According to Susan, working on the slope was a very physically challenging gardening job for everyone. Moreover, the volunteers made special efforts to participate. One of the volunteers, Terese O’Connell, lives in Boston and came up for the day just to help with installation. Terese is Susan's close friend and mentor---not to mention a Master Gardener! She loves Gloucester and volunteers with Susan regularly. Karen Petersen is a local volunteer with Generous Gardeners who also pitched in and helped for the day. Thanks so much, ladies!

Susan, Terese and Karen have so far installed:

2 large pale pink peonies
2 large Caryopteris (blue mist shrub)
2 Large Daylily ‘Absolute Treasure’
12 Sedum Matrona
12 Leucanthemum ‘Becky’
14 Echinacea ‘Coneflower’ (white and purple)
2 Scabiosa ‘Pincushion flower’
12 Lavender ‘Phenomenal’
6 Nepeta ‘Walkers Low’
16 Alyssum ‘Snow Princess’
12 low pink Daylilies

Susan says, "It was a big project for all of us. We worked from 8 until 4. ... I will be putting in some annuals to fill in and brighten it up until the perennials can get established..."

BEFORE: 2013, with annuals thanks to Generous Gardeners.
AFTER: 2014, roses removed, annuals to come.

The overall theme is pink/lavender/white so the colors are fairly muted. As you see from the before-and-after photos above, there were some antique roses in the front that were potted up for other bare spots on the property, to be planted soon by Lester Stockman, longtime Sargent House garden volunteer.

The roses mentioned were planted a decade ago, as recounted by Peggy Flanagan, a garden designer and former SHM Board member, in the SHM's Summer 2004 "Dolphin" newsletter. Here's what was planted around that time, most of which continues to grow and thrive today:

Roses: "Old Blush," the ancient rose "Celestial," and "Celsiana"
Bulbs: pink and ivory Darwin tulips, "Pheasant's eye" daffodils
Shrubs: summersweet, fothergilla, mountain laurel, "Mrs. C.S. Sargent" rhododendron, & others

In closing, special thanks go to our donors William Taylor and Julie Sidon, and, of course, our deep gratitude to Generous Gardeners who focus on Philanthropy through gardening. Please check out their Generous Gardener Website – which allows gardeners to donate, swap and sell plants online for free - something gardeners do all of the time, but with a significantly larger circle on the website! And, if you're interested in doing some volunteer gardening at the Sargent House, please contact us.

More photos coming soon, showing off the final product. We hope you'll stop by this season and smell the flowers!

By Kimberlee Cloutier-Blazzard, Development Associate

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Remembering the Past, Building the Future: Growing the Garden

Sargent House garden "before" photo, 5/2014

Thinking green after the long winter? At Sargent House we are all excited for the greening of our stately lawn, and the stirrings of life in our many cultivated flower beds. These precious garden spaces are a welcome place to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of downtown Gloucester while picnicking or soaking in some rays.  And, this year, we have something else in store for visitors... In order to create some more "pop" and splendor on the Main Street side of the House, a brand-new donor-funded flower garden will be installed this Spring. Perennial flower beds and a retaining wall will enliven the lowest tier of our natural amphitheater, further enhancing the historic garden along Main Street. A huge thank you to our donors! The Sargent House garden will be a jewel shared with all.

Keep an eye out for the groundbreaking, and we'll be sure to post more images and news as the work gets underway!

By Kimberlee Cloutier-Blazzard, Development Associate

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Remembering the Past, Building the Future: Judith Speaks to Us Still

The first couple of weeks in our blog series "Remembering the Past, Building the Future" we have rotated between the themes of "Collections," and "Construction." Now, this week we turn to "Women’s History/Judith Sargent Murray," and consider why we celebrate Judith Sargent Murray's own words each year at our annual "Judith Speaks" event on the lawn in May. (See more on this year's event below.)

"Judith Speaks" is a great way to kick off the Museum's season because it commemorates our mission (to engage the public in the life, times, work and home of Judith, pioneering advocate of women's education and equality), and in the month of Judith's birth no less!  In fact, this entry is actually being composed on what would have been Judith's 263rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Judith! She was born on May 1, 1751--a long time ago, in an America quite different from today's.

Although the future Commonwealth of Massachusetts would be one of the first colonies to mandate that children be taught to read and write, passing legislation on April 14, 1642 (the first law of its kind in the New World), this was not universal education: " practice the law was generally applied only to free, male, white children."1 Indeed, Judith Sargent Murray was still fighting for equal girls' education a full 150 years later. As a girl, Judith had been denied the same education given to her brothers. Precocious, she was simply prompted to self-learn as much as she could using her family's library and beyond. After seeing how difficult focusing in school was for her baby brother FitzWilliam and later her brothers' sons whom she tutored---though every provision had been made for them---is it any surprise that this autodidact would later write, "the common Father of the universe manifests himself more readily to females than to males"?2 Judith was never one to accept the status quo.

Once she had her own daughter, Julia Maria (b.1791), Judith began planning a much different path for her. As early as her fifth year, she was pre-planning a formal education for her at William Payne's Federal Street Academy. This was a prestigious Boston grammar school not unlike those that Judith had fostered and sponsored both in Gloucester (the Saunders School) and later Dorchester (the Saunders Beach Academy). At the time Judith wistfully wrote: "The attention requisite to the fashioning the mind of my daughter gives me *still more feeling to regret,* the custom which, barring the cultivation of the female intellect, during my childhood has, in many respects unqualified me for the pleasing employment of her mind."3 About a decade earlier, Judith had published an essay under the pen name "Constantia" in Gentleman and Lady's Town & Country Magazine (October 1784) which went further than many had dared, calling for all parents to treat the education of their sons and daughters with equal intentionality. It is a testament to the radical nature of her views that Judith later confided in a personal letter that the editors of the magazine never invited her to submit another article.

We'll close with part of that 1784 essay, a tease for the upcoming "Judith Speaks" event (on 5/15 at 5:30P) where local volunteers will read excerpts from Judith Sargent Murray’s writings that are brilliant, profound & hilarious---words on marriage, parenting, equality and justice that still ring true today. We hope you'll join us!

Desultory Thoughts upon the Utility of Encouraging a Degree of Self-Complacency, especially in Female Bosoms 
I THINK, to teach young minds to aspire, ought to be the ground work of education: many a laudable achievement is lost, from a persuasion that our efforts are unequal to the arduous attainment. Ambition is a noble principle, which properly directed, may be productive of the most valuable consequences. It is amazing to what heights the mind by exertion may tow'r: I would, therefore, have my pupils believe, that every thing in the compass of mortality, was placed within their grasp, and that, the avidity of application, the intenseness of study, were only requisite to endow them with every external grace, and mental accomplishment. That I should impel them to progress on, if I could not lead them to the heights I would wish them to attain. 
By Kimberlee Cloutier-Blazzard, Development Associate

2 Judith Sargent Murray, The Gleaner (1798), 707-709.
3 Sheila Skemp, First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence (Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 345-346.