Recently, in a fit of cabin fever, my husband and I decided to travel from the South Shore to the North Shore and visit the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester. Dedicated to the art and history of Cape Ann, the museum is a gem. It includes a collection of paintings by Fitz Henry Lane that are guaranteed to calm frazzled winter nerves, art and historical objects that capture the North Shore’s rich artistic tradition, and a maritime room that tells the story of the area’s fishing industry. But the exhibit I most wanted to see is the small room dedicated to the Folly Cove Designers, a group of 45 designers (mostly women) who were active between 1938 and 1969 and produced beautiful and distinctive designs which they cut into linoleum blocks and printed on fabric. Named for a Gloucester neighborhood, Folly Cove Designs was directed by Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios – the author and illustrator of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Little House.
As a child I was especially drawn to The Little House, and as I got older and learned about Folly Cove Designs, it all began to connect.
The exhibit is small, but well done and captures the group’s unique aesthetic sensibility. One of my favorite pieces is the diploma that Virginia Lee Burton created for the members of the Folly Cove Designers:
It’s a cloth-based graphic novel: you read it from left to right beginning with the woman putting on a thinking cap, getting an idea, and beginning to carve it into a block.
We also enjoyed the Museum’s special exhibit featuring a local artist, Roger Martin. Martin both paints and writes poetry and the two art forms complement each other beautifully. Martin, one of the founders of Montseratt College of Art, has clearly been inspired by the North Shore’s rocky landscape.
There are other treats in the Cape Ann Museum…..
This is a magnificent scene as you round a corner in the Museum – a Fresnel lens. Made in Paris for a lighthouse on Thacher Island off the coast of Rockport, the lens was installed in 1861. After the lighthouse was decommissioned, the lens was moved to the Coast Guard Academy Museum in Connecticut before returning to the North Shore.
I also loved this. The cell phone pic doesn’t do it justice, but it’s pretty huge. And the light shining over the top is kind of cool – I only noticed it when looking at my pictures. This is Our Lady of Good Voyage so naturally she’s carrying a ship model. The statue was on top of a Gloucester church for nearly 70 years, but after weathering too many storms, she was understandably beginning to show signs of deterioration. She is now safely in the Museum.
And we loved this – the Gorton Seafood man in Lego form!
If you’re in Gloucester, the Cape Ann Museum is definitely worth a visit.