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Fourth of July – Family Fun Day

July 4 @ 9:00 am 2:00 pm

Join the First Amendment Museum for their annual Family Fun Day at the Gannet House at 184 State Street. Grab a spot to watch Augusta’s Fourth of July parade and enjoy the outdoor games, face painting, arts and crafts, and refreshments.

Darling’s Ice Cream For A Cause will be parked outside the museum from 10 AM to 1 PM.

Free tours will be offered throughout the day!

Free

Brown Belongings: A Dialogue about the Politics of Color and Class

April 14 @ 7:00 pm 8:30 pm

Free Free

Join artist Linda Vallejo as she describes her new exhibit “Brown Belongings”, which represents ten years of concentrated work on visualizing what it means to be a person of color in the United States. These works reflect what she calls her “brown intellectual property”—the experiences, knowledge, and feelings she has gathered over more than four decades of study in Chicano/a and American indigenous communities.

Since 2010 Vallejo has produced hundreds of sculptures, paintings, and works on paper entitled “Make ‘Em All Mexican.” She purchases pricey antiques (plaster and porcelain figures, magazines, and postcards) and paint their skin brown. There is a “brown” Elvis Presley, Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble, Marie Antoinette & Louis Auguste, the Rose Parade Queen, Queen Mother, Greek and Roman gods. In 2015 she produced “The Brown Dot Project,” a series of “data pictographs,” images on gridded architectural vellum where brown dots represented actual data. The works portrayed various data sets including US Latino populations; professional numbers in health, education, and business sectors; and Latino contribution to the US Gross National Product.

“Brown Belongings” will lead participants down an ironic path to find yourself confronted by some of the most difficult questions of our time, “Do race, color, and class define our status in the world?” “Is it possible to be a part of and earnestly contribute to multiple cultures simultaneously?”  “Does color and class define our understanding and appreciation of culture?”

Learn more about Linda’s work at www.lindavallejo.com

Register for the Zoom Event

About Linda Vallejo

Vallejo creates work that visualizes what it means to be a person of color in the United States. She states that these works reflect what she calls her “brown intellectual property”—the experiences,  knowledge, and feelings gathered over more than four decades of study of Latino, Chicano, and American indigenous culture and communities.  

Solo exhibitions include LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes (2019-2020); Kean University, Karl & Helen  Burger Gallery, Union, New Jersey and Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA (2018); bG  Gallery, Santa Monica (2017); Texas A&M University Reynolds Gallery (2016); Bert Green Fine Art,  Chicago Ill, UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Los Angeles CA (2015); Lancaster Museum of  Art and History in Lancaster CA (2017 & 2014) and the Soto Clemente Velez Cultural Center in New  York (2014), George Lawson Gallery in Los Angeles and the University Art Gallery of New Mexico  State University (2013), as well as Arte Americas in collaboration with the Fresno Art Museum and  Central California Museum of Art Advisory Committee and California State University, San  Bernardino, Fullerton Museum (2012).  

Her most recent solo exhibition Brown Belongings was featured in the NY Times “Visualizing Latino  Populations Through Art” by Jill Cowan, New York, NY (November 26, 2019) and in LA Times “Linda  Vallejo and a decade of art that unapologetically embraces brownness” by Matt Stromberg (June 20,  2019). 

Vallejo’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long  Beach, CA, the Museum of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, CA, Museo del Barrio, New York, NY, East  Los Angeles College Vincent Price Museum, Los Angeles CA, National Museum of Mexican Art,  Chicago Ill, Carnegie Art Museum, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, CA, UC Santa  Barbara, California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA), Santa Barbara, CA, UCLA Chicano  Study Research Center (CSRC), Los Angeles, CA, California Digital Library, Arizona State University  Library Archives.

Free Free

First Amendment Museum

207-557-2290

www.firstamendmentmuseum.org

The Augusta museum’s annual event culminated with a Suffrage March, celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment.

4th of July Parade
Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Visitors to the First Amendment Museum on Thursday got more than a good seat for the Fourth of July parade in Augusta, they got a sneak peek into the not-yet-open museum.

The First Amendment Museum, which is going through a “soft opening” before crucial construction projects begin, held their second annual Family Fun Day at the Gannett House at 184 State St. The museum, true to its name, has been described as a “concept museum” about the First Amendment and the freedoms it protects, freedoms of religion, speech and the press and the rights of people to peaceably assemble and petition their government.

The celebration also included light refreshments and outdoor games, as well as tours of the museum. The museum’s front lawn was decorated with American flag-colored lawn chairs while children did arts and crafts and adorned themselves with U.S.-themed temporary tattoos. A number of visitors set up their chairs for the parade before taking a walk through the museum.

After the tours and open house, a handful of attendees and museum officials joined Augusta’s parade holding signs and wearing sashes encouraging women to vote to re-enact a suffrage march.

Co-founder Terry Gannett Hopkins said the women’s suffrage movement is tied to the first amendment because women petitioned their government. She said the women’s suffrage movement began in the 1840s.  The suffrage movement resulted in the 19th Amendment, which was passed in 1919, but not ratified by every state until 1920. It prohibits state and federal governments from denying the right to vote to citizens of the U.S. on the basis of sex. Maine was the 19th state to ratify the amendment on Nov. 5, 1919.

Museum Director and co-founder Genie Gannett said the event’s turnout was better than last year’s but a few people pulled out of the march due to weather, which hovered around 90 degrees for most of the day.

Exhibits in the museum may seem like the home’s natural decor, but have powerful symbolism. During a tour, Gannett motioned to a dining room table and explained that the table is where people most often practice their First Amendment rights. She also hearkened back to suffragettes who didn’t think it was “lady-like” to hold signs, so they would hold tea parties to bolster the movement.

Other exhibits explained in simple terms how countries with stricter limitations on speech go about spreading information. Genie Gannett opened up a drawer that appeared to be full of rice, but it also contained flash drives. She said shopkeepers in North Korea would keep stored information inside of rice and provide it to customers after they use a code word. A large Jenga game with a number of precarious blocks is used in a kid’s room to illustrate the risk of speaking out in a country with strict speech laws.

Gannett said the exhibits, which use relatable themes from everyday life, are designed to be “sticky,” or easily retained by visitors. She said, citing a Newseum poll, that 40% of Americans could not name a single freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, so the museum exists for people to live and practice their freedoms.

“It’s about how you feel and we know that learning (should be) sticky,” she said. “If you want to remember and know, making and doing … solidifies that.”

Gannett said that some future exhibits could target school-aged children and attempt to clarify the differences between their normal freedoms and their freedoms in a school setting. She said the museum is “fiercely non-partisan.”

Steve Cushman, who attended the event with his five children, said his children enjoyed the hands-on exhibits explaining the freedoms and seeing the suffragette costumes. He said it was “absolutely” important to teach children about their First Amendment freedoms, but admitted the learning for more for them and he was more interested in the historical architecture inside the Gannett House, which was built in 1911.

Organizers said they will hold a suffrage march re-enactment in 2020 to commemorate the full ratification of the amendment.

This article was originally published in the Kennebec Journal by Sam Shepard.

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The event at the First Amendment Museum at the Gannett House included discussions of political, student and online speech.

Participants at Free Speech Week
People chatting at the museum. Photo credit Joe Phelan.

As Free Speech Week gets underway across the nation, people came to Augusta on Tuesday evening for a special event to educate them about the various ways that the First Amendment has a bearing on their lives.

The group gathered at the First Amendment Museum at the Gannett House, where legal experts, professors, journalists and others led discussions on questions of free speech that can arise in three arenas: politics, education and the internet.

Under portraits of figures who have championed various manners of free speech — including whistleblower Edward Snowden, former U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and civil rights activist Barbara Johns — attendees were given written prompts with ideas to guide their discussions. They included numerous questions, such as whether social media platforms should monitor users’ activity or whether a school can punish a student who didn’t make an explicit threat but posted an online video depicting violence.

One organizer of the open house was the New England First Amendment Coalition, a Massachusetts-based organization that promotes transparency in government.

“We advocate for all aspects of the First Amendment,” said Justin Silverman, the group’s executive director, who drove the Augusta for the open house. “But ultimately underpinning everything we do, it’s about education and letting the public know why we’re working so hard to protect, in this case, your right to free speech, and the right to free speech of that person you don’t like and you don’t want to hear speaking.”

Another organizer was the group that runs the museum, the First Amendment Museum at the Gannett House. The yellow stucco building at 184 State St. used to be the home of newspaper publisher Guy P. Gannett. Now Gannett’s relatives are leading the effort to create a museum focused on free speech.

The museum hasn’t opened to the public fully yet, but organizers hope it will by 2020, said Rebecca Lazure, executive director of the First Amendment Museum at the Gannett House. Until then, the group plans to make it available for events periodically.

People who came to the museum on Tuesday night did so for various reasons.

One of them, Toni Richardson, is an educational technician in the Augusta School Department. Last year, she filed a complaint alleging that the school district discriminated against her when she told a fellow employee she would pray for him. The district eventually agreed to withdraw a directive that Richardson not make those statements and replace it with an affirmation that she can do so outside the hearing of students.

Richardson’s case now is highlighted in the exhibits that are being developed at the First Amendment Museum.

Another attendee, Keith Ludden, of Augusta, used to work as a journalist in his home state of Nebraska. Now he runs a nonprofit organization that produces oral histories and folklife research.

Ludden came to the open house, he said, to help affirm the protections of the press and political protest that are contained in the First Amendment.

He referred to President Donald Trump, who frequently berates the press and recently praised a Montana congressman who pleaded guilty to assaulting a newspaper reporter. He also mentioned the case of deceased Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. On Tuesday, Turkey’s president accused Saudi officials of murdering Khashoggi following their assertion that he was killed accidentally during an altercation.

The First Amendment “is critical, especially now when we’ve got these vicious attacks on the media and the press” Ludden said. “It’s really, really critical that we defend the First Amendment and make people understand why the press is important and not the enemy.”

The Portland Media Center and Gorham radio station WMPG also organized the event.

Article originally written by Charles Eichacker for Central Maine.

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