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Artists in residence tell stories of protests, trauma and coping


December 7, 2020 : Cape Cod Times, by Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll


Three local artists are working as part of a four-week residency in downtown Hyannis to tell stories about their own and Cape Codders' experiences in these unusual times.

What they are creating includes a photographic look at racial-justic protests, fashion accessories created after one of them suffered traumatic brain injuries, and visual art that has been a balm for the soul during the pandemic.

COVID-19 concerns nixed plans to offer a public peek through a gallery stroll, but virtual options are in the works for the future, according to organizers.

Artists Rachael Devaney of Onset, Deanna Nagle of Hyannis, and Lily Olin of Brewster were chosen to use free studio space through a MassDevelopment program officials say “will add cultural vibrancy” to the area.

The projects, organizers say, “elicit dialogue, evoke emotion and inspire thought.”

Devaney, a freelance reporter and journalist who grew up in Centerville and who has written for the Cape Cod Times and Barnstable Patriot among other publications, chose to create life-sized versions of photos she took earlier this year.

“The photos were taken by me after the Cape exploded into protest after the murder of George Floyd,” she explains to the Times. “The photos will also be accompanied by written pieces that tell the subject of each photo's story — why they were protesting that day; what their experiences are as a person of color on Cape Cod; and their thoughts on social/political/economic justice in general.”

Those stories are an important part of the work for Devaney, who is working at The Studio on Center Street, a space that once served as a train maintenance building.

“Everybody has a story. Everybody has something to say,” Devaney said in the announcement of the residency. “The fact these people trusted me to tell their story is really special and really important. What I get out of it is that connection and passing these stories along and making sure people’s voices are heard.”

Mary-Ann Agresti, principal of The Design Initiative and owner of The Studio, said she was excited to offer the space to Devaney. “Where she works at home, she doesn’t have the space to do something like this,” Agresti says. “This is an opportunity for these artists to do something they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.”

Olin, a masters of fine arts graduate from SUNY University in Albany who is now a teaching assistant in the Nauset public schools system she attended, says she is grateful for the Hyannis residency time to focus on her art and art career. She's been working at 255 Main St., the former home of the Hyannis Board of Trade that was recently renovated into 10 apartments and retail space.

As a visual artist, she leans towards abstract expressionism with representational elements, and has found the chance to get “lost in the creative process” to be “a gift” in these troubled times.

“Art has been really meditative and a type of solace for me to lose myself in my work and put the news and all the negativity away and really be myself,” she said in the residency announcement. “Art has been kind of transformative, not just for my personal journey but my artistic one.”

Nagle, who recently moved to the Cape from South Carolina, began creating art after three separate traumatic brain injuries, starting with a car accident in 2017.

Since then, she has found expression through creating one-of-a-kind fashion accessories. “My ideas come from the inside,” she says. “Usually art is where you look at the world around you, take it in, and interpret it.”

The residency, at Studio 50 @ Pearl on the town's Hyannis HyArts Arts Campus, “to me means everything,” Nagle says. “It’s a way for me to tell my story. I tell it through my pieces versus my words. … I may have completely lost my purpose if I had not had art in my life. It has been therapy for me.”

Melissa Chartrand, the town’s arts and culture coordinator, sees the residency program as a win for the artists and the village — as “a tremendous opportunity for these three artists to immerse themselves in the fabric of our downtown community and discover the various layers and stories that follow, and how they will intertwine with each of the participant’s creative journeys.”

The program was developed by the Hyannis Transformative Development Initiative Partnership, part of a MassDevelopment program for Gateway Cities designed to accelerate economic growth within focused districts, according to information from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod.