Winslow Homer: American Passage – an evening with curator and author William R. Cross at the Sawyer Free Library

The Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library is pleased to welcome curator and local author William R. Cross for a discussion of his book Winslow Homer: American Passages on Thursday, May 26 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.  

Cross’ newly published book Winslow Homer: American Passage is a definitive biography of the painter. It studies Homer in the context of how his life as an artist was shaped by the turbulent, dramatic political times he lived through, from the Panic of 1837 to the Civil War and Reconstruction. Filmmaker Ken Burns (The Civil War) comments that curator/author William Cross “has done an admirable job bringing to life this most American of painters. Finally, Winslow Homer’s brilliant work and fascinating life are united in one volume.” 

During this special presentation, Cross will discuss Homer and his art, illustrated with slides of images and photos collected from his research.  

William R. Cross is an independent scholar and a consultant to art and history museums. He served as the curator of Homer at the Beach: A Marine Painter’s Journey, 1869–1880, a nationally renowned 2019 exhibition at the Cape Ann Museum on the formation of Winslow Homer as a marine painter. Bill is a graduate of Yale College, magna cum laude, and received an MBA at Harvard Business School.  He and his wife live on Cape Ann. 

Winslow Homer: American Passage will be available for sale at The Bookstore of Gloucester, located at 61 East Main Street in Gloucester, for those interested in having it autographed at the event. 

This event is free and open to the public at the Sawyer Free Library, located at 2 Dale Avenue in Gloucester. Registration is not required. For more information, visit sawyerfreelibrary.org

Saunders House WPA Mural Restoration Presentation with Lisa Mehlin Saturday, 2/26, 2pm at Library

As reported by the Gloucester Daily Times, the Saunders House’s grand WPA are currently being restored by the Sawyer Free Library.

Come learn more about the historic murals and the restoration process from the project’s professional conservator Lisa Mehlin this Saturday, February 26 from 2 to 4pm on the Main Floor of the Sawyer Free Library.

Registration not required. For details, go to: sawyerfreelibrary.org or 978-325-5500.

GLOUCESTER MEETINGHOUSE MLK DAY ANNUAL CELEBRATION JANUARY 17TH!

The Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation will host it 6th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration, live on Zoom, on Monday, January 17th at 2:00pm. Please preregister at http://www.gloucestermeetinghouse.org

The Racial Climate in Gloucester, What Lies Ahead will be the focus of the 2-hour program, including including findings of a new community survey. The keynote speaker will be Brian Saltsman, Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion at Alfred University in upstate New York. He is a leading advocate of addressing community issues between dominant and marginalized racial, ethnic or economic sectors as allies, a process known as “allyship.”

The invited presenting organizations are:

  • The Gloucester Racial Justice Team, reporting on a survey that assessed how much people of color “feel like they have a sense of community and belong in the city, including how race and ethnicity play a role in their daily lives,” according to GRJT spokesperson Gail Seavey.
  • The North Shore Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) which most recently has focused on racism issues within Danvers High School athletic teams. A branch leader will discuss the North Shore branch’s activities across a region stretching from Lynn to New Hampshire.
  • The Diversity and Equity Committee of the Gloucester 400th Anniversary Celebration, which is researching narrative stories that accurately depict racial and ethnic relationships since European settlement began displacing the native, indigenous Pennacook-Abenaki peoples. This will include years of slave ownership and maritime commerce in the global slave trade.

A video of this program with be available on the Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation’s YouTube channel afterwards. The Foundation is a nonsectarian, federally-recognized nonprofit, organized to promote the preservation and community programming of the historic 1806 Meetinghouse on Middle Street, home of the first Universalist Church in America. Tax-deductible donations are welcome and may be made on the website, or by check to “GMF” at 10 Church Street, Gloucester, MA 01930.

Sign up today for a tour of the Sawyer Free Library’s historic WPA Murals on Saturday, December 11!

As a part of the Middle Street Walk festivities, this Saturday, December 11th, professional Conservator, Lisa Mehlin, will be leading 15-minute tours of the Saunders House’s historic WPA Murals that are currently being restored at the Sawyer Free Library.  She will speak to both their history and the conservation process.

Registration for a time slot is required at sawyerfreelibrary.org

The grand murals located in the Saunders House, completed in 1934 by Fredrick L. Stoddard and Howard Curtis as a part of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, are currently being restored by the Sawyer Free Library. Titled “Scenes of the Region,” the murals depict maritime culture against a backdrop of the agrarian life that supported the early settlement of Gloucester, capturing the activity of the busy working harbor with views of the distant rocky shoreline, the city, Rocky Neck, Ten Pound Island and also a simplified representation of Dogtown Common and old “Whale’s Jaw.”  

Learn more about the murals from conservator Lisa Mehlin. Fifteen-minute tours will be available from 10:00-12:00 pm.  Registration for a time slot is required at sawyefreelibrary.org.

Sawyer Free Library to host presentation “Gloucester Urban Renewal” by historian Beth Welin

The Sawyer Free Library will be hosting the first two-part series: “Urban Renewal in Gloucester,” presented by Beth Welin, local historian and director of Manchester Historical Museum, on Saturday, October 23 at 2 pm.

See images of old Gloucester and learn about the city’s history and redevelopment. Attendees are encouraged to share personal memories throughout the presentation.

Part two of the series will be Saturday, November 6 at 2pm. Registration is not required but mask are for all that attend.

For more details, go sawyerfreelibrary.org

Dan Connell, Author Talk and Book Signing at the Sawyer Free Library on 9/23 at 6pm

The Sawyer Free Library is pleased to welcome local author, Dan Connell for an author talk and book signing on Thursday, September 23 from 6-7pm at the Library, located at 2 Dale Avenue in Gloucester.

The author will be discussing his book, Against All Odds, which has just been re-released with a new update and a reappraisal. First published in 1993, Against All Odds: A Chronicle of the Eritrean Revolution  is a firsthand account of Eritrea’s 30-year fight for independence from Ethiopia.  Copies of the new edition of his book will be available.

The East Gloucester resident, Dan Connell, a former journalist and aid professional, has reported on Eritrea for five decades for numerous print and broadcast media. He is a two-time MacArthur Foundation grantee, the author of five books on Eritrea, including Against All Odds: A Chronicle of the Eritrean Revolution (1997); Rethinking Revolution (2002); and a two-volume Collected Articles on the Eritrean Revolution (2003, 2004). His reports and commentary have been carried by the BBC, Voice of America, AP, Reuters, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, Le Monde, Foreign Affairs, The Nation and others, and he has consulted for numerous aid agencies and human rights organizations. He is currently a lecturer in journalism and African politics at Simmons College, Boston.

This program is co-hosted by the Global Book Forum and the Gloucester Lyceum.

Click here to Register

Author Dan Connell

Against All Odds is a firsthand account of Eritrea’s 30\-year struggle for independence from Ethiopia, which it won in 1991 with little outside support after defeating successive U.S.\- and Soviet\-backed regimes and overcoming drought and famine while working to unify and reform the society from which it derived its strength. A 1997 Afterword captures the optimism generated by these achievements. But a New Reappraisal recounts its slide into despotism after renewed conflict with Ethiopia and the dark years of isolation and repression that followed, the hopes raised by a 2018 peace pact and then dashed by another round of war. It concludes with reflections on how to break this cycle and begin the democratic transition for which so many fought and died.

Murals to be Given New Life at Sawyer Free Library’s Historic Saunders House

The Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library is pleased to announce the restoration and conservation of its grand murals by renowned artist Frederick L. Stoddard (1861-1940) with the assistance of Howard Curtis (1906-1989). Located in the Library’s historic Saunders House, the murals were painted in 1934 as part of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. Along with Gloucester’s City Hall, the Sawyer Free Library was a local beneficiary of the federal government program designed to create jobs for artists and bring art to public places and communities across the country.

“Restoring these significant WPA murals depicting Gloucester’s origins is not only our responsibility but our great privilege. They are community artistic treasures and historically significant features of the Saunders House,” said Mern Sibley, the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library’s Board of Trustees’ President. “This project will preserve these unique works for historic study and enjoyment by residents and visitors.”

Saunders House WPA Murals

The artists’ work, completed over 80 years ago, was done entirely in oil paint on the bare plaster wall, giving the murals an antique appearance, harmonizing with the age of the Saunders House constructed in 1764.  Built by Thomas Saunders, a prosperous merchant and a Representative to the Massachusetts General Court, at the time, it was one of the grandest houses in Gloucester and Boston’s North Shore. It became the permanent home of the Sawyer Free Library in 1884 when Samuel Sawyer generously deeded it for a public Library.

The Library’s murals titled “Scenes of the Region,” depict maritime culture against a backdrop of the agrarian life that supported the early settlement of Gloucester. Filling the great space throughout the main stairway of the Saunders House, the murals capture  the activity of the busy working harbor with views of the distant rocky shoreline, the city, Rocky Neck, and Ten Pound Island. They also feature a simplified representation of Dogtown Common and old “Whale’s Jaw,” along with other colorful scenes offering unique glimpses of what life was like in Gloucester’s early days.

“As stewards of our city’s library, we are committed to the Saunders House’s preservation, as it is still the anchor of the Sawyer Free Library, rich with history and purpose,” added Sibley. “It is appropriate that this mural restoration project is the first of many as we move forward in realizing a reimagined, renovated, and expanded Sawyer Free Library, one that is worthy of our heritage and our future.”  

The Stoddard mural restoration will be done by local conservator Lisa Mehlin of Essex, MA, who holds a Master of Art Conservation, and has seventeen years of experience in the conservation of oil paintings for government agencies, private institutions, and individual clients in the U.S. and Canada.  She most recently completed work on the murals in The Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens for the Trustees of the Reservations in North Andover. 

The project will be completed in two phases with the first being consolidation, ensuring that all original mural pigment is still attached to the plaster.  Phase two is the visual restoration process. After securing the pigment to the plaster, paints will be used to carefully tone back any white gaps where the paint flaked away, allowing the original design to shine through once again.  The project is funded through Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library corporate funds.

The next phase in preserving and restoring Saunders House is anticipated to begin in early 2022, planned under the guidance of the Saunders House Stewardship Committee of the Library Board. The work will include, but not be limited to, stabilization of the building structure and restoration of the murals in the Anderson Room. Further renovation is planned to improve accessibility and upgrade building systems to support contemporary use by Library staff and the public. 

For more information about the Saunders House’s mural project and the concept design for the 2025 Sawyer Free Library and Saunders House, visit sawyerfreelibrary.org.


Backyard Growers hosts online Lunch & Learn, “Frontyard Growers: Algonquian Farmers of Cape Ann”

Join Backyard Growers and local historian & anthropologist Mary Ellen Lepionka on April 8 at 12 pm for a FREE online Lunch & Learn, Frontyard Growers: Algonquian Farmers of Cape Ann, comparing the practices of indigenous and colonial farmers on Cape Ann during the 17th century. Click here to register for this event and discover:

Who were the indigenous and colonial farmers of Cape Ann? How and where did they plant? What did they grow? How did land pass from Algonquians to colonists on Cape Ann? What role did enslaved people and freed slaves play in the Cape Ann farm economy? Was Dogtown farmed? What can we learn from indigenous growers about conserving land, managing trees, using our soil and water, cultivating crops for food and medicine, preserving harvests, and saving seed? What inspiration can we draw from Algonquian garden designs and community feasting?

Mary Ellen Lepionka of Gloucester is a retired anthropologist, college instructor, author, and textbook editor who embarked on a study of the archaeology and early history of Cape Ann and Essex County from the last Ice Age to around 1700. Her articles on indigenous history here appear in the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society and at www.capeannhistory.orgwww.enduringgloucester.com, and www.historicipswich.org. When not researching and writing, Mary Ellen enjoys gardening and is continually inspired by her amazing daughter Lara (Backyard Growers’ founder & executive director) and Backyard Growers.

Thanks to Backyard Growers’ Cultivator & Harvester Sponsors for making this programming possible:

Don’t forget to register for GLOUCESTER TRIVIA NIGHT this Thursday, March 11 at 6:30pm

How much do you really know about Gloucester? Join the Sawyer Free Library’s Local History Librarian as she hosts a fun competitive evening of GLOUCESTER TRIVIA, this Thursday, March 11 from 6:30-7:30pm and find out!

Register here as a team or by yourself, all are welcomed.  Zoom link will be provided. Community teams are encouraged. Winners are entitled to indefinite bragging rights!

For more information visit: sawyerfreelibrary.org or call 978-325-5500.

Register TODAY for Gloucester Trivia Night hosted by the Sawyer Free Library