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The Brother Thomas Fellows

Good news for a change
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  October 21, 2009

“Art is something seen about something unseen,” is one way Brother Thomas Bezanson described his calling. The celebrated potter, who was still a young 78 when he was taken from us two years ago, was not visible at Pucker Gallery on Newbury Street Monday evening, but his work — in the current Pucker show, “Continued Beginnings: Tenmoku Masterworks by Brother Thomas” — was on view, and his presence was very much felt as the first group of Brother Thomas Fellows was honored. Each of the eight local artists — filmmaker and playwright John Oluwole Adekoje, composer Kati Agócs, poet Richard Hoffman, poet Barbara Helfgott Hyett, videographer Brian Knep, filmmaker Alla Kovgan, documentary filmmaker Tracy Heather Strain, and jeweler Heather White — will receive “no strings attached” grants of $15,000. The purpose of the Brother Thomas Fund, which the artist, with the help of the Pucker and the Boston Foundation, established in 2007, is to help “struggling, not emerging, not famous” artists; the Foundation itself contributed discretionary grants from its Permanent Fund for Boston.

Originally from Nova Scotia, Brother Thomas spent 25 years as a Benedictine monk at the Weston Priory in Vermont. Starting in 1985, he had been artist-in-residence in the community of the Benedictine Sisters at Mount Saint Benedict in Erie, Pennsylvania. Every two years, the Pucker would mount a show of his work: vases, tea bowls, jars, flasks, and plates in a galaxy of glazes. And Brother Thomas himself would turn up, looking like a subversive Santa Claus with his twinkling eyes and self-depreciating smile.

Monday evening the Pucker was packed: six of the eight Fellows made it, and a number of the 60-odd original nominees, and their friends, and Brother Thomas’s friends. Indeed, you could scarcely turn around without making a new friend. As Brother Thomas wrote, “When good people meet, good things happen.”

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