Stronger Together: Dock Street Foundation, Feeling Hopeful
The sign located on Harrison Street in Easton. The mixed-media work incorporates marquee style lighting into a retro-inspired sign illuminated in colorful hues.
BY AMELIA BLADES STEWARD AND MANNING LEE
What makes us hopeful? Acts of kindness, a friend’s smile (no hugs for now), seeing our younger generation making a difference, a loving and caring community — all these things give us hope as we face new challenges. With the added stressors of COVID-19, some people are losing hope, but thanks to the efforts of Dock Street Foundation, the message of hope is glowing on the streets of Easton to remind us not to give up, to care for our neighbors, and to believe in ourselves, our community and our country.
When Richard Marks of Dock Street Foundation saw the Hopeful creation on top of a non-profit artist-run studio and gallery in Portland, Maine, he and his wife, Amy Haines, discussed possibly installing such an art sculpture in a highly visible area in Easton. They contacted the artist, Charlie Hewitt, through the Kempner Art Gallery in NYC. Charlie’s mixed-media work incorporates marquee-style lighting into a retro-inspired sign illuminated in colorful hues. His work has been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, the Whitney, the Brooklyn Museum, New York Public Library, and Library of Congress. In 2012, his sculpture “Urban Rattle” was installed along NYC’s now-famous High Line walkway.
Wanting the sculpture to do more than just uplift that town they love, the Dock Street Foundation team talked with the Mid-Shore Community Foundation about a collaboration in support of their COVID-19 Response Fund that awards grants to non-profit organizations in the five-county area. The goal through Project Hopeful is to raise at least $100,000 with all proceeds going to part of the fund addressing the areas of health, homelessness, and hunger during the pandemic. Donors are encouraged to donate online or text their donations to the fund. There are also masks and bumper stickers available for purchase.
With the support of a few very generous and “Hopeful” citizens of Talbot County, four of Hewitt’s signs were procured — three five-foot-long and one eight-foot-long — and are now installed in four prominent locations in Easton. Two of the signs are located at the corner of Washington and Dover Streets on the building housing Kiln-Born, one is on Harrison Street by the public parking lot, and the largest one is on South Washington Street on the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy complex facing Easton Hospital.
Top: Thompson Park celebration featured Maine artist Charlie Hewitt who created the Hopeful art sculpture, with Richard Marks of Dock Street Foundation, which helped to purchase the sculptures. Bottom: Volunteer Madeline Langfitt unveils the Hopeful art sculpture at the corner of Washington and Dover Streets with help from her dad Dr. Mark Langfitt.
Charlie Hewitt drove down from his home in Portland, Maine, to assist with the installations and to speak at the unveiling ceremony in July, in Thompson Park in Easton. He shared with the audience that his creation a year ago came out of a dark place. He was feeling sad at the time about politics, about addiction in his community, and life in general. He said that he awakened to the idea as soon as he said to himself, “I am not going to accept that” and the word “hopeful” came to mind. He sketched a concept and took it to a sign company. He further explained, “There was a time when I was a boy and the great American highway was open to us. We would get in our cars and take these adventures down highways and roads to see parks, motels, food places, and these marquee signs would advertise their generosity, invitation, and their spirit. I became enamored with that time in America when I had access to the world.”
“Hopeful is not a gift — it’s a challenge. To be hopeful requires action, it requires commitment, it requires opening your eyes, it requires making decisions. It requires being part of something. It requires being passionately in love with your country, passionately in love with your family, and passionately in love with everyone in your community. That passion and that love I want back. I want a resurgence in my soul for that kind of life,” he added. “The sign is a piece of public art that I hope expresses faith, commitment, and love in our community. I hope that people will see this as some signal to carry on a dialogue or have a narrative with each other that says we care.”
A crowd of over 100 people joined Hewitt at the unveiling, along with representatives of Dock Street Foundation, Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Avalon Foundation, Talbot County Arts Council, and Discover Easton to kick-off the celebration of Hopeful 2020 in Thompson Park. The event included the unveiling of two of the art sculptures and was accompanied by the music of Robbie Schaefer, a musician, songwriter, and playwright devoted to service through the arts. The Talbot Arts Council also announced their participation in the Hopeful 2020 campaign by encouraging arts groups to consider new projects in music, fine arts, craft, poetry, and writing related to the theme of “hope” over the coming months.
Marks commented about the pandemic and how hopeful he feels personally, “I have great hope in people that they will figure things out. This pandemic has forced us to look at things differently and to appreciate life more. I am incredibly optimistic that we will come out the other side of this smarter, wiser, and closer as a community.”
“It is so wonderful to be talking about the place of art in our lives and to have a demonstration of that. Art will change us. Art does change us. It is something to inspire us. We need more of that now,” stated Talbot County Councilman Pete Lesher.
Resident Brenda Wooden commented, “I think that there is hope for the community because we now see what we need to be for others. That there is help for people out there. This campaign can bring hope to them.”
Tori Gomez, a local student and Hopeful volunteer, added, “The title, ‘Hopeful,’ brings us together and shows how we can work together.”
The largest Hopeful sign hangs on the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy building on Washington Street.
At the Hopeful kick-off, Amy Haines read a poem, “To Be of Use,” by poet Marge Piercy, which had a stanza in it which seems to sum up the community efforts taking place across America:
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
(“Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy,” Alfred A. Knopf, 1982)
To date, Mid-Shore Community Foundation has raised over $800,000 for the COVID-19 Response Fund. They are pleased to invite Dock Street Foundation as a partner in their ongoing efforts so the fund continues to encourage donations and support.
Hopeful signs will remain in high visibility areas in Easton until the end of the year.
HOW TO DONATE
Those interested in taking an action step can do so by donating to Mid-Shore Community Foundation’s Covid-19 Response Fund at www.dockstreetfoundation.org or by donating through your phone bill by texting Hope15, Hope25 or Hope50 for a $15, $25 or $50 donation to 80100* or by donating by credit card by texting Hopeful to 56512.
Bumper stickers and masks are for sale to support the fund at the Hopeful Headquarters: Vintage Books and Fine Art in Easton at 4 North Washington St. and at Sprout in Easton at 335 North Aurora St., and in St. Michael’s at 114 South Talbot St.