Feb 182018

While there are a lot of Do-It-Yourself books, videos and TV shows today to help you build your house, back in 1668 when sea captain John Turner was having the Turner Mansion constructed in Salem Ma, there was a lot of trial and error. With limited material resources at hand and no power tools, building a house in Colonial Massachusetts required skill, ingenuity and a lot more. Luckily, Turner’s team would even make the hosts of PBS’ “This Old House” happy, as the structure still stands. Today it is known as The House of Seven Gables. And you are invited to tour it during February School Vacation Week, Feb. 17-25.

Designated a National Historic Landmark District in 2007, The House of the Seven Gables is best known today as the setting of world-renowned American author Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1851 novel.

But, before that, it was to be a home and the question is what tools and designs worked best in 1668?  What failed? How did they learn from their mistakes?

Children and their families will find out. Tools, as you can well imagine, are part of the intrigue — some will look familiar 350 years later. Some won’t. Those attending will learn about the tools of the trade and which materials were used most often in Colonial Salem.

It gets even better. This is an interactive event. All in attendance will also get the chance to experiment with different construction techniques at each of The Gables’ workshop stations.

Plus, as an extra special treat for the kids (and perhaps adults) you’ll be able to fold and decorate your own paper house to take home!

Special interactive presentations— Why Do We Have Gables? — are scheduled at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. when Museum staff explore the construction of historic buildings and which parts of these structures are strongest.

School vacation programming is included with admission from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Check 7gables.org for hours, and rates. The program is free for Salem residents with valid identification and Museum members.

The House of Seven Gables is located at 115 Derby St., Salem. For more information, call 978-744-0991 or check out the Museum website.

Aug 092015

“The creative process is something where you sometimes limit yourself— but other times you let it grow. You have to let it do things that seem a little uncomfortable to find something new.”

Words and thought process from Diane Hoffman, owner of Diane Hoffman Textile Shop on Artists’ Row.

But make no mistake about it, she is in control of that entire creative process. Design, printing, and sewing.

Diane Hoffman Textiles is a one-woman textile business. All products are hand printed and made by hand with locally sourced and recycled material. Silkscreen and stamp printed woven (cotton and recycled feedbags) materials are sewn into tote bags, clutches and chic duffels. — many with interior designs! It’s that extra step which makes her work special and not easily comparable to items at department stores.

“If you want your cat on a bag, I can do it for you,” Diane explains. “I can turn orders around quickly because I am not ordering from far away places.”

She’s been here for three months focusing on hand printed textiles and knits, featuring rescued pets and farm animals from New England.

Diane HofShe tries to bring past and present together. She shows us a toile, (Toile de jouy is a fabric originated in France in the 1760s. The original patterns usually depicted pastoral scenes). It has a donkey within the pattern but she added a larger version donkey to bring it to the forefront as part of her creative process to find something new.

“The more things I can add, the more connections I can make between the ideal world and the real world, will help keep up the idea of rescue animals and farm animal that are in need of a lot of upkeep to raise. We need to bring this to the public’s attention so as to not let animals become something we humans use but not respect.”

Her current project on t-shirts and bags is doing road dogs and cats. If nothing else, Salem has plenty of cats, and you can’t go a day without crossing paths with several people walking their dogs.

Diane Hof -1“I am doing one right now of Slinky. He is a little dog that wears a pirate’s hat.”

Also in keeping with her thoughts about doing “things that seem a little uncomfortable to find something new,” she holds community print demo sessions on Thurs 4-6pm.

“We try to get people to come & do artwork. And I think the work they do is quite good.” But the materials are the interesting element. An upcoming session will use not paint but powdered graphite (which has an oily feel) and stencils.

Her unit is #24 New Derby Street. Asked why did she want to open shop on Artists’ Row, Diane responds…

“I love this community. Very lively. Greats arts community. Salem is very aware of its past, but also very progressive. And the Farmers’ Market is here. All these parts. The idea is that you get inspiration from other artists, there is so much energy here on Artists’ Row.”

A good portion of it provided by Diane.

Silk screens to put ink on canvas, fabrics with a vintage feel, bold images on material like the type used for hats of old-time train engineers. These and more are what you’ll find at Diane Hoffman Textiles, open daily 11am-6pm (except Monday) and open until 7pm on Thursday. For more info, go to her website.

Jul 172015

CULTURE: The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group — The Oxford Dictionaries

Salem Culture FestIf you want to not only see but experience those words being put into action, come to the Salem Common on July 18th and/or 19th for the 9th Annual Salem CultureFest!

This free admission festival invites, encourages and gives opportunity to the many cultures of the area (the Salem community alone has over 15 different cultures) to come together in celebration of their diversity and unity through drumming, dancing, crafts, art, food, and entertainment. Click here for the full schedule

Each year the Salem CultureFest, produced by A3D, Inc., a non-profit organization of musicians, volunteers, and activists, draws around 2,000 people from all over New England.

This year they will have one central location for stage performers by the Salem Common Gazebo, plus a family-friendly parade each day of the weekend. And, especially for the kids: moon bounce, face painting, pony rides, and more.

Festival organizers indicate that they will also have “over 50 vendors participating with wares ranging from framed art and photos, several types of jewelry, pottery, balloons, toys, carvings, candles, hand-loomed scarves, food, shirts, hats, and more. Most of what you will find at this festival is handmade, available directly from the artists who crafted them.”

SCFSalem CultureFest proceeds support education & medical supplies in Senegal, West Africa; A3D has thus far raised over $30,000 to provide new sewing machines, desks, and computers to Senegalese women and school children. This year a special goal has been set to raise $3,000 to specifically address medical supply needs for early 2016.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Salem Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

Come to the Salem Common and let your five senses each experience the diversity that the Salem CultureFest has to offer, 10am – 8pm on July 18th and 10am – 6 pm on July 18th.

Jul 132015

hitchbotIf you’ve driven a vehicle for enough years or miles, then you’ve seen all kinds of hitchhikers. Young, old, attractive and scarey. One thing they had in common was that they were all human. But setting off across America soon will be hitch-Bot, a robot hitching its way across America (he made it through Canada last year). And the launch party will be on Thursday, July 16, 6-9pm at our own Peabody Essex Museum during PEM/PM, the museum’s monthly evening party series.

In celebration of the season, the theme for July is Take Back Summer, with an opportunity to rediscover classic and wild ways to have fun, while also taking advantage of after-hours access to museum exhibitions. And what better tie-in is a summer road-trip?

On Thursday, July 16, the party-going public will also hear from hitchBOT’s co-creators. The next day hitchBOT will bid them farewell on a nearby highway as it begins its adventure by putting up its thumb to ask for a ride. The final destination is the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

hitchBOT is an outgoing and charismatic robot that began hitchhiking in July 2014. In less than four weeks, hitchBOT charmed its way into rides across Canada, depending on the help of kind strangers. hitchBOT cannot move by itself — except for its hitchhiking thumb — but can converse thanks to Cleverscript speech technology, which allows it to answer questions about where it comes from or its favorite pastimes.

hitchBOT’s family consists of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of researchers from the fields of visual arts, engineering, computer science and communication. The project was originally co-designed by Dr. David Harris Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University (Hamilton), and Dr. Frauke Zeller, assistant professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University (Toronto), to see whether robots could trust humans.

People picked HB up and took it to bars, diners, concerts and then left it on the side of the road for someone else to take it further on down the road.

For example, hitchBOT hung out with the British Columbia rock band The Wild, which took it to their next performance. Another time it was taken to a wedding.

No one broke it, defaced it or stole it.

“hitchBOT was very well received as it made its way across Canada, Germany and the Netherlands – proving that robots can indeed trust humans,” said Dr. Zeller. “Given that hitchBOT is built out of a bucket, we thought it would be only natural if we let it have a bucket list for this exciting new adventure.”

hitchbot bucket listThe list includes Times Square in New York City, Millennium Park in Chicago, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

In the PEM blog Connected, the creators commented “In the case of hitchBOT, we have launched a type of robotic proxy, set forth not to explore the surface of Mars, but to explore a cultural terrain here on earth that is underwritten by evolved human curiosity, empathy and altruism. hitchBOT literally rides from place to place on a tide of goodwill, developing a personal history of face-to-face interpersonal interactions and a trail of social media participation. ”

Fans are encouraged to follow hitchBOT’s journey at hitchbot.me, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. hitchBOT also invites users to share their hitchhiking stories and pictures using #hitchbot on Twitter and Instagram.

PEM’s evening parties, with music and dance performances, lectures and art-making stations take place on the 3rd Thursday of the month. Admission is free to PEM members and Salem residents (with ID), while nonmembers pay $10 at the door. There will be a cash bar and special small plates menu items available courtesy of the Hawthorne Hotel.

(Cover photo courtesy David Harris Smith)

Jul 102015

Not only is Salem an entertaining daytrip destination, it also offers opportunities to further your own education. On any given weekend there are events that perform a double duty! Take these gatherings in July as an invitation.

Seventeenth Century Saturdays at Historic New England’s Gedney House

Salem shipwright Eleazer Gedney built the earliest portion of the Gedney House back in 1665! Follow-up and historically significant renovations to the structure in 1712 and 1800 resulted in dramatic changes to the house’s appearance.

GedneyWhen you visit the Gedney House during this month’s edition of Seventeenth Century Saturdays (July 11) and take the tours, you’ll see why it is not your typical historic house. You will gain insights & be directed to look more closely at the original post-and-beam timbers, brick nogging, and early decorative finishes in Salem’s second oldest historic house.

The Gedney House is located at 21 High Street, Salem, Mass.

The house is significant not only for its framing, but also for its evidence of early decorative finishes in the hall chamber and parlor. It has had three successive color schemes, the earliest of which is believed to date to the house’s construction.

In 1967, Historic New England acquired the house as it was being prepared for demolition. Historic New England is the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the nation. It endeavors to bring history to life while preserving the past for everyone interested in exploring the authentic New England experience from the seventeenth century to today.

The museum will be open from 11am – 3pm with tours available on the hour. The last tour leaves at 3pm. Space on tours is limited due to the structure of the Gedney House. The fee is $5 for the general public and free for Salem residents and Historic New England members.

For more details call 978-744-0440 or visit www.historicnewengland.org .

PEM Lecture Series Provides Behind-The-Scenes Look at Historic Ropes Mansion

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents a special 3-part lecture series on the Ropes Mansion this month which offers unique opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the historic house and the family that called it home. The “One House, Many Stories” series offers an inside look at rarely seen areas of the 18th-century house, a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the hobbies enjoyed by the Ropes family and a greater understanding of the culinary tastes of the day.

Ropes MansionBuilt in (or close to) 1727 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Ropes Mansion was home to four generations of the Ropes family and is recognized as one of New England’s most significant and thoroughly documented historic houses. Filled with original furnishings, the house contains superb examples of 18th- and 19th-century furniture, ceramics and glass, silver, kitchenwares, textiles and personal objects.

The Ropes Mansion is located at 318 Essex Street, Salem Mass.

Each lecture session is led by curatorial staff from PEM or Historic New England and is followed by a free drop-in art-making activity from noon to 2pm in the Ropes Mansion Garden, which is open to the public. Cold lemonade will be served and gardener Robin Pydynkowski will be on hand to answer questions. All garden activities are weather permitting.

The current information we have is that the July 11th lecture “Behind-the-Scenes Architecture Tour” is sold out, but if you are really interested, give PEM a call, you never know when there is a cancellation.

(Dean Lahikainen, PEM’s Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Art, is scheduled to speak about the extensive renovation work completed at the historic house through the years. Guests are to be escorted to areas rarely open to the public. From noon – 2pm attendees can enjoy drop-in design activities in the garden.)

The 2nd lecture takes place on July 18th: “Pastimes and Pursuits.” Paula Richter, PEM’s curator for exhibitions and research, will explore the many interests of the family members. These included botany, sewing and needlework, books and literature, travel, collecting art and interesting objects, social activities and more. From noon – 2pm botanical illustrator and author Doreen Bolnick will lead drop-in sketching and watercolor painting in the garden.

The 3rd lecture is set for July 25th: “Kitchens and Cooking.” Nancy Carlisle, senior curator of collections at Historic New England and author of America’s Kitchens, will discuss the history of the kitchen from the early 18th century to the present. Then visitors will spend some time in the Ropes kitchen to examine how it reflects the standards of the day. From noon – 2pm you can sample a treat in the garden that was typically served during the 19th century. Tasting created by chef Rhiannon Nowak of the Hawthorne Hotel.

Tickets are $12 for members, $15 for nonmembers (per session). Reservations required, please call 978-542-1511 or go to pem.org/calendar.

Summer Salon Series at Salem Athenæum: Informal and Informational

Return to the back porch for the Salem Athenæum’s Summer Salons–informal and informational gatherings on Friday evenings at 5:30pm in July and August. Each week will feature a discussion or presentation by members and friends of the Athenæum. The conversations will be diverse–past salon topics have included travel, writing, beekeeping, Spanish pilgrimages, and astrophysics.

The concept of the salon emerged in 17th-century France and quickly became popular throughout Europe. These gatherings of like-minded people were meant to refine tastes and knowledge through the exchange of talents, news, and ideas. (And, we are advised, more than a few were rife with irony, romance, and black humor!)

Salem Athenaeum SmallerJuly 10, Joe McGuire: “Birding Stories, Tips and Tools”
A lifelong birder and nature lover, Joe’s presentation will include bird-watching tips (including information about phone apps and online alerts), fun facts, and stories from his bird watching excursions in all kinds of weather. This is aimed at the amateur nature lover.

July 17, Price Grisham: “Serious Subjects
In May, independent Jane Austen scholar, Price Grisham, participated in a symposium on religion and literature at Chawton House Library in Chawton, Hampshire, England, where Jane Austen lived the last eight years of her life. Price will speak about his experience at Chawton House and the paper he presented: “Serious Subjects”: Jane Austen’s Barometric Readings of the Georgian Church.

July 24, Lynn Murray: ‘Travels in Patagonia
The natural wonders of Patagonia including Cape Horn, glaciers, volcanoes, penguins and more will be brought to life through photos and discussion. This region is part of both Chile and Argentina and is located just 600 miles from Antarctica.  Visits to Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Valparaiso will also be highlighted.

July 31, Norman Gaudrault: “Two Years in America: The Discoveries of a French Family
Norman became an author after his career as a pediatrician, when he and long-time friend Georges Idier collaborated and wrote Two Years in America. Norman and Georges met in Tunisia in 1965 while Norman was volunteering with the Peace Corps. Over the years, they stayed in touch. More human and sensitive than a tourist guide, more vibrant than a simple cultural report, their novel explores the experience of a French family spending 2 years in the United States.

Do your part to keep cultural discourse alive and well in the twenty-first century!

No tickets or reservations are required.

For more information about this series, see www.salemathenaeum.net or contact Jean Marie Procious at 978-744-2540 or info@salemathenaeum.net.

Come for the entertainment, stay for the information.