Introduced 30 years on

Reflections on Spindleworks in Brunswick
April 2, 2008 12:47:35 PM
Everything in Sight

Everything in Sight directed by Nikolai Fox | 6 & 8 pm April 4 | followed by discussion with Fox and Spindleworks founder Nan Ross | Spindleworks art exhibit Mon-Fri 9 am-4 pm | Frontier Café & Cinema, 14 Maine St, Brunswick | film $5, gallery free | 207.725.5222
I am an indirect recipient of the legacy of Spindleworks. The venerable non-profit supplies art studio and gallery space, supplies, and mentorship to artists with disabilities. We were both born about thirty years ago in Brunswick, grew up together and, although I was never directly involved with the organization or its artists, I grew up taking for granted the Spindleworks artists as part of the town’s fabric. I’ve heard many labels for the people working on their art and craft on Maine Street — retarded, special, mentallychallenged — but Spindleworks helped transform these artists into empowered individuals.

They were part of my town as much as the mail carrier, the town councilor, and the person behind the coffee-shop counter, often shining the brightest of all, engaged in creative expression and community integration

This initial transformation is where Nikolai Fox’s documentary Everything in Sight picks up. Footage from the first film about Spindleworks, Stretching Out, depicts distant footage of the old Pineland Center, at the moment of its deinstitutionalization. The atmosphere is joyous, colorful, and creative, with clown costumes, games, and art. Most importantly, we hear clips of poetry by Spindleworkers — their voices, their self-awareness.

Fox's documentary is brief, running 22 minutes, and benefits from a rapid editing pace with an exceptional soundtrack that adds both humor and drama to the story.

That story focuses on the filmic and musical explorations of Kevin Babine, Mitchel Pfeifle, and Angela Alderete, a creative powerhouse of ambition. Angela says, “I wanna do everything in sight. I wanna do a billion different colors. That’s all I do. Make movies.” The artists share both pride and irreverence with their counterparts in the commercialart world. Fox seamlessly weaves interviews with the artists and Spindleworks mentors with footage from their brooding horror films and psychedelic music videos.

Rather than existing as a dry, promotional piece, the film reflects the excitement of the subjects in their pursuit of happiness, a universal human endeavor unbound by whatever constrictions and labels a culturally relative society seeks to impose. The proof of that capacity is in the smiles of the Spindleworkers.

There is further evidence in the visual art on display at Frontier Café in Brunswick, where the film will be screened. There is the concerted craft of Jeanette Baribeau’s “Pink Wedding Dress” and matching pink pocket purses alongside beautifully woven scarves and rugs. Sam Eberhart’s “Chicken Pox” is raw and emotional: a shivering figure covered in red dots; speech bubbles say, “What? Mom Help!” Alderete’s “Frederick Douglass” is a unique painterly portrait of the historical figure and Carol Travis’s “Senorita” displays a stout woman with blue circles for eyes wearing a technicolor skirt built of wonderfully optic rectangles.

The social implications of Spindleworks’ humble but grand enterprise are difficult to ignore. Spindleworks is a type of cure for the societal tendency to sweep the undesirable or misunderstood under the rug. It is undeniable that the path of attention and kindness yields far more productive results. Beyond the specific nature of working with disabilities, there is a universal lesson taught by 30 years of Spindleworks, one that encourages creativity and expression in all people as a panacea for the sometimes stifling nature of our world. Again, the proof is in the smiles.

Ian Paige can be reached at .


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