My name is Pam Heemskerk, and I am the Executive Director at Riverworks Art Center, a nonprofit arts organization founded by Sandy Wright and David Therriault. Lauren G. Koch is our Creative Director and together with our Board of Directors and Associate Artist Group, we are the people behind Riverworks Art Center. The founders and I share a distinct vision, that art has the potential to inspire, heal and be a change maker in the lives of our patrons, community, and environment.
Cultivating community through art and belonging.
Support in finding your voice as an artist.
Harnessing the power of the creative act in healing self, community, and the environment.
We are the storytellers .....
Storytelling is an act of understanding our experiences. It helps us to make sense of the world. Artists of all kinds are storytellers, pulling from their awareness, processing it, and then sharing it with others. Artists hold up the beauty and the terror, often at the same time, moving the viewer through a transformative experience.
To tell you about Riverworks, and how it became a place for artists, I would like to start with my personal journey to becoming an artist and mentor.
I am an artist. My mediums are primarily photography, book arts, and writing. I weave these processes together to create a narrative body of work. From a feminine lens, I examine the role of domesticity and wildness, and the tension between the two. The duality of our nature as creature and tamed, provides lush ground for exploration in my work.
A place to begin.
Origin: inception, root, source Story: a dramatic narrative arc
My art making process has an origin. It begins with a desire to understand my inner world, a situation, or a state of being. A question will usually appear subconsciously, and I try to follow it wherever it might lead.
Much like the spider in the Walt Whitman Poem, A Noiseless Patient Spider, I spin around and around, weaving together an answer. Or get as close as I can get to one.
A noiseless patient spider
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly using, venturing, throwing,
seeking the spheres, to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till
the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere,
O my soul.
Five years ago, I decided to pursue my MFA in photography at Maine Media College and Workshops in Camden, Maine. Before this, I made pictures, but I didn't understand my process, what I was trying to communicate and why. I was stuck in my work and I wanted a deeper relationship with myself, the artist.
I wrote in my application essay,
“I am applying to Maine Media College because of the amazing community of
artist teachers and mentors. I would like the ability and support to experiment
and explore other areas of photography and to hone my personal style and
visual narrative. I would like to explore the places where psychology and art
touch, in that place of self-discovery and healing.”
The seeds of desire for a community of makers and teachers were taking root. But I had no idea how deep I would be asked to go in this program and how influential it would be in my life.
My beloved mentors Howard and Elizabeth Greenberg guided me through the process of clearly seeing and communicating my experience through the medium of photography and eventually writing.
But first, I had to fully engage with myself, how my experiences made me who I am and to acknowledge and release the blocks that kept me from fully inhabiting my experiences.
Through writing about my work, understanding my process, embracing my truths, I began to make my way back to my core being.
Howard taught me the importance of trust in the mentor relationship. He never wavered in his belief that I knew deep down who I was and to honor the ups and downs as part of the process of becoming. Making mistakes, having conversations, making more mistakes, and then happening onto something that lit a fire underneath me, would be what would set me free.
He fully believed that if I let go the old stories and trust myself, I could come into true freedom.
Elizabeth taught me how to really see and how to read my work as a unique language all of my own. To be honest about what I was doing and to claim it with both hands. The claiming of self and the authenticity of voice is the most important step an artist and human being can make. It is a lifelong process and never done.
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself sitting at Locals Market on a beautiful summer weekend, reconnecting with old friends, Dave Therriault and Sandy Wright. Catching up about our next steps, we all spoke about our dream of creating a place for artists to gather and find their people. Taken a step further, how could we bring into being a physical place for live music and arts?
The stars aligned in the Fall, and the process of forming a nonprofit arts organization was born.
Everyone has an origin story, perhaps many through a lifetime, and this is part of ours. In future posts you will hear more about Sydney Therriault, Sandy and Dave’s daughter and how she has inspired and infused this endeavor with her artist soul. Her story will continue to be told through the work of her beloved family and friends. Sydney continues her work through us.