The Museums of the Bethel Historical Society will host a special preview reception of this season’s newest displays, “White Mountain National Forest: A Centennial Exhibition” and “The White Mountains: Alps of New England” (an art exhibition and sale of paintings by Erik Koeppel and Lauren Sansaricq), on Sunday, May 27, from 2 to 5 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and the event —at the Society’s Robinson House on Broad Street — is free and open to all.

Visitors to the White Mountain National Forest exhibit will learn how the forested highlands of northern New Hampshire and western Maine came to be appreciated by millions for their scenic and health-giving qualities during the 1800s, only to be devastated by uncontrolled commercial logging and widespread fires in the final decades of that century. The story of how a large portion of the White Mountain region of New Hampshire and Maine was eventually saved and set aside in 1918 for the public’s benefit is told in the exhibit through paintings, historical photos, artifacts and moving images.

“The Balancing Act: The Story and Legacy of the Weeks Act” will be shown continually in the newly-renovated theater space at Robinson House; the ten-minute-long video describes how one of America’s earliest environmental disasters sparked a nationwide movement to purchase, protect and manage threatened and damaged forest lands for the public good. The forest conservation legislation forged by Congress under the leadership of John Wingate Weeks struck a balanced approach that addressed both environmental and economic issues. The video explores how successful that balancing act has proven to be in the White Mountain National Forest and other eastern national forests established under the Weeks Act.

Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the White Mountain National Forest, “The White Mountains: Alps of New England” art exhibition and sale will feature the return of award-winning landscapes by nationally-recognized plein air artists Lauren Sansaricq and Erik Koeppel of Jackson, N.H. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, numerous artists — including many from the Hudson River School — captured the awe-inspiring summits and verdant glens in the White Mountain region of northern New Hampshire and western Maine. Today, Erik Koeppel and Lauren Sansaricq create masterful works in the Hudson River style based on their love for the expressive potentials of traditional representation. Their extraordinary paintings recapture the lost techniques of the Hudson River School painters, whose works were characterized by a sense of air, dramatic light, distance and luminosity.

The White Mountain paintings in the art exhibition will be available for purchase over the duration of the show (paintings will be added on a regular basis), with a portion of each sale helping to support public programming at MBHS.

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