LEWISTON – An exhibition of delicate works on paper and handcrafted document boxes from the 18th and 19th centuries will open Saturday, June 7, at the Bates College Museum of Art.

“Flourishing Folk: New England Decorated Works on Paper and Document Boxes from the Deborah N. Isaacson Trust” represents Bates in the Maine Folk Art Trail, a collaborative effort among 11 museums and historical societies statewide. The goal: to guide visitors to the best of Maine folk art, work produced by ordinary people without professional training.

Maine is a repository for some of the nation’s best folk art, but much of this work is seldom seen. Maine collections represent virtually every form of folk art: portraiture, landscapes, still lifes, decorated furniture, schoolgirl art, trade signs, pottery, marine arts, weathervanes and other sculpture.

Thanks to the coordinated statewide exhibition, Mainers and visitors will be able to follow the Maine Folk Art Trail from York to Lewiston to Searsport to see samplings from these diverse collections. Participating institutions also include the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Colby College Museum of Art and the Maine State Museum.

A 144-page hardcover book will be published this month in conjunction with the exhibits and will be available for sale at each museum location and from Down East Books in Camden. For more about the Maine Folk Art Trail, visit mainefolkarttrail.org.

Bates’ “Flourishing Folk” exhibition highlights works from the Deborah N. Isaacson Trust. On display are beautifully decorated family records, memorials, presentation pieces and penmanship exercises, as well as ornate document boxes. The exhibition also includes “ream sheet prints,” rare and attractive woodblock prints that early New England paper companies used to label their products.

“These fine works on paper offer a glimpse into family and social practices in New England that have roots in European traditions,” said Bill Low, assistant curator at the Bates museum and organizer of the exhibition.

“The Isaacson Trust is an important privately owned collection of diverse and fascinating objects collected over the last 30 or 40 years,” Low said. “The works on paper in the collection have a regional focus and pieces in the exhibition are primarily from northern New England.”

He selected works on or relating to paper from the Isaacson Trust to emphasize a connection with the Bates museum, which focuses on artworks on paper, including the Marsden Hartley Memorial Collection of drawings and photographs by or related to the pioneering American artist.

On display during the same period is “Stairway to Heaven: From Chinese Streets to Monuments and Skyscrapers.” This exhibition showcases work by 17 Chinese artists who examine how economic reform, a new influx of personal wealth and rapid industrialization have changed the urban environment.

“Flourishing Folk” will run through Dec. 14 in the downstairs gallery in the Olin Arts Center, 75 Russell St. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The public is welcome free of charge. For more information, call 786-6158 or visit the museum Web site, www.bates.edu/museum.xml.

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