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Hudson Valley Press

March 8th, 2017

Howland Cultural Center Honors Women’s History

Jeweler Donna Blackwell of Staatsburg is one of 100 women artists who presently has her work on display at the “100 Women Artists Celebrating 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage” Exhibit.
BEACON - When it came time for curator Bibiana Huang-Matheis to put together this year’s Women’s History Month Group Artist Show, she wanted to make it extra memorable. After all, it marks the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Immediately, Huang-Matheis brainstormed an idea: Why not have 100 artists contribute one piece each to the show? As it turned out, 20 percent of that impressive lot in this year’s show are immigrants, hailing from such countries as; Poland, England, Italy, Germany, India, China, Japan, Argentina, Brazil and a host of other places around the globe. Huang-Matheis was not done yet delivering added flavor to the program. The well-known fine arts painter and Hudson Valley photographer, wanted to pay tribute to a very dear friend and pivotal woman in the Show’s long-standing tenure as well as its forum, the Howland Cultural Center. Beacon’s Florence Northcutt has been a 30 year plus volunteer fixture at the Center. Recently, she stepped down from her role as the Center’s Board President. That departure has deeply been felt by the Center as well as the entire community.

“This place just would not be the same without her,” said an emotional Huang-Matheis at Saturday’s opening of the “100 Women Artists Celebrating 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage.” “This show is a way of honoring her and all she has done for this Center as well as the community; the women artists in this show are all able to express their appreciation for her through this show.”

That gratitude and love could be seen throughout the Center Saturday afternoon, into the early evening, as an impressive crowd turned out to view the 100 exhibits, as well as interact with many of the artists themselves, kicking off what is sure to be a popular and exciting month of art viewing. Art of all genres; photography, mixed media, jewelry, oil paintings and even a large fixture “Totem” exhibit, containing 100 hands (mittens, gloves, and other hand symbols) representing the 100 women in the show, creatively displayed on a large stand, filled the Center, capturing the interest of the visitors.

One of those artists was Beacon’s own Susanne Moss, a digital photographer, whose piece “MAMA Peanut Vending,” revealing a peanut vendor woman breastfeeding her child in front of one of Havana’s most exclusive hotels, drew continuous attention.

“I thought this was an important piece to include in this show because of all the controversy over breastfeeding in public, and the contrast between this woman trying to simply make a living and doing what she has to to get by in front of a very expensive hotel really struck me,” pointed out Moss. “I really like all of the variety of art and artists that exist in this show; the energy of the women is very inspiring here with such a great theme of women, as there are so many female artists who are ignored, underpaid, or not even paid at all.”
Another local artist on hand was jeweler, Donna Blackwell of Staatsburg.

“This show is a privilege to participate in because the level of artistry is great, a wonderful tribute to women and American history,” said Blackwell. “All too often women artists have been overlooked, and thanks to Florence Northcutt and the Howland Cultural Center, we are being recognized and appreciated.

Yet another female artist, special guest Dutchess County Poet “Gold,” read some of her poems, specifically designed for the female celebration month. Energizing the crowd, “Gold” was able to get them to join in with her on emphatically uttering emotionally-charged lyrics empowering women and all that they contribute.

And it was Northcutt, an artist in her own right as a critical piece in the development of the Center, who was on the minds and in the hearts of most all on hand Saturday. Relocating to Beacon back in 1984, she began her unforgetable Howland Cultural Center journey in 1986, joining the Board in 1990. Referring to the experience as “extraordinary,” Northcutt cited the incredible amount of talented and interesting people in the arts, music field and community she has had the pleasure of meeting over the years. Northcutt further pointed to the true, and lesser known appeal the Center has.

“The wonderful position Howland holds in the community is so significant because it existed even before Beacon became a mecca for the arts,” said Northcutt. “It has provided so many wonderful events to enrich the quality of life in the community.

As far as how the Center has affected Northcutt herself?

“For a senior citizen, who has retired from education, there has never been a dull moment,” reflected a smiling Northcutt. “It has enriched my life, and I feel so fortunate to be involved with it.”

For those who weren’t able to attend the Opening Reception of the Women’s History Month Show, it will run through Sunday, April 2, with viewing hours every Friday - Monday, from 1-5pm, excluding March 19, when the facility will be used for another venue. For more information, call (845) 831-4988.

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