Left to right: “Give the World a Hand,” Melissa Pasanen; “Women for Peace and Equality,” Ann Joppe-Mercure; “Glasgow Rose,” Penne Tompkins

One Hundred Hands

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Thursday March 29, 2018

The concept of lend a hand generally means to help out, pitch in, or assist in some manner. But today at Penny Cluse Café, one could say lending a hand is not only literal, but likely to make a difference in a larger, more impactful way. This evening, March 29, 6 to 8 p.m., the café hosts the sixth annual A Show of HANDS, a benefit to help provide food to older adults in Vermont. The café’s exhibit features 100 artistically designed wooden hands, which will be sold via auction. According to the founder of the nonprofit, Megan Humphrey, “This show is a really heartwarming connection of artists and bidders so that we can provide more food to low-income seniors in Chittenden County.”

The HANDS artwork on display has been crafted expressly for this fundraiser by both amateur and professional artists. Each worked on similar hand-shaped wooden templates, expressing themselves in unique and thoughtful ways. The creativity among the 100 submissions is stunning. From wood carvings to collage, paint to yarn, the pieces evoke everything from whimsy to political sentiments. It is as much a show of self-expression, as it is of beauty. Ninety-eight of the hands will be sold via silent auction and two of the hands will be sold by live auction. One of the two is designed by Vermont artist Warren Kimble, touted as “America’s Best-Known Living Folk Artist.” The other is by Brian Merrill who made his hand artwork a beautiful fully-functioning flute. Also represented in the Show of HANDS are South Burlington residents Ann Joppe-Mercure, Melissa Pasanen, and Penne Tompkins.

This is Joppe-Mercure’s fourth year exhibiting with HANDS. Her submission is titled, “Women for Peace and Equality.” In striking blue letters that seem to rise out of the hand, the message reads, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” Joppe Mecure explains, “The quote is from Majority Leader McConnell about Senator Warren,” and notes the symbol in her artwork, “was designed for the United Nations International Woman’s Year 1975.”

“Give the World a Hand” is the title of Pasanen’s submission, a brightly colored collage of maps and stamps, it causes the viewer to lean in and not only see where we are, but to focus on the intricate details of each stamp, from a dove with olive branch to hands clasping. Pasanen, who has lived in South Burlington since 1996, says, “I was cleaning out some drawers in my house and found these old aerogrammes, stamps, and maps. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the world is at once both so huge and so small these days. We are all connected - whether we like it or not.”
A well-known writer, Pasanen is currently the food editor for Vermont Life magazine. It was through her writing she first met the HANDS founder, when she interviewed her for an article she wrote about Humphrey’s croquet tea party tradition. Pasanen says of Humphrey, “Her work to support seniors in our community is legendary.” She adds, “I think this is the fourth year I’ve made a HAND. Honestly, I’m a writer not a visual artist, so I always feel like a bit of an interloper, but I like to help and it’s a fun way to contribute.”

Tompkins sympathizes with Pasanen as she too expresses, “I am actually a journalist/writer and am not an artist - I just play one when I help with the HANDS show.” Tompkins’ hand, titled “Glasgow Rose,” was crafted with acrylic, pen, paper, and gouache. It was inspired by a workshop Tompkins took in New York City with an Australian calligraphy teacher. “She taught us an art deco lettering style and an abstract flower shape called the Glasgow rose, which I fell in love with making, so it became the theme of the piece.”

An active member in the community, Tompkins may be well known through her work with the Rotary Club of South Burlington. A resident since 2001, Tompkins shares that she came to the area to be closer to family in Montreal. “And because my husband loves Vermont. I do too now,” she says, expressing, “I really enjoy living in South Burlington and being a part of this vibrant community.”

This is the third submission Tompkins has made to the HANDS show over the years. “I enjoy the challenge of creating an original work,” and, echoing other participants, she adds, “I was happy it could help raise funds for Megan’s organization.”

Though the visual arts are a compelling way to draw the public in, the real mission of each artistic hand in the show is to help seniors in the community. Humphrey states, “Money raised from this art auction will go directly toward our summer gardening programs at long-term nursing centers, senior housing, and community garden sites.” Beyond summer, the nonprofit serves seniors year-round including serving a non-denominational holiday meal throughout Chittenden County, as well as a shared sit-down dinner on Christmas Day. In addition, the HANDS organization provides nutritional education and gardening sites for veterans. After all, the nonprofit’s moniker is an acronym for “Helping and Nurturing Diverse Seniors.”
Pasanen says, “HANDS makes such a difference in our community and this project generates some really amazing art for a great cause. Go down to Penny Cluse and check them out!”

If you miss the show at Penny Cluse Café, 169 Cherry Street in Burlington, make sure to visit handsvt.org, where you can find a link to the nonprofit’s Facebook page and see images of the artwork, and, while there, make a donation to help seniors in Chittenden County.


SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper