Inspired by Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919) and taught by Courtney Clinton, Rokeby Artist in Residence
My name is Courtney Clinton, I am a Montreal-based artist whose practice focuses on art history and drawing. This summer, I am the artist in residence at Rokeby Museum.
In fall 2019, I visited the Rokeby Museum as part of the Contemporary Art at Rokeby Artist Lab organized by curator Ric Kasini Kadour. In the museum’s archive of the family’s letters and artifacts, I discovered the original letters (dated 1891–1893) from a correspondence drawing course that one of the daughters, Rachael Robinson Elmer (1878–1919), took as an adolescent.
Rachael was part of four generations of Robinsons that made Rokeby their home. Rachael would eventually move to New York to study at the Art Students League and go on to be an important book illustrator — an esteemed position for artists of the day. In 1914, Rachael designed and published a series of watercolour postcards, Art Lover’s New York. This work garnered her national acclaim and is now part of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., collection.
Catherine Brooks, the Rokeby Director, and I agreed that exploring this correspondence course now, during the COVID-19 crisis, is a way to start a timely conversation around remote education. Despite the American-Canadian border closure, the museum is generously making their archives available to me through a digital collaboration between myself and Rokeby’s Education and Interpretation Fellow, Allison Gregory.
Each week I will share with you an exercise from the 1890s drawing course and together we will work through it using pictures demonstrating the lesson and written steps. We will also explore Rokeby’s collection of Rachael’s drawings and paintings, and talk about her journey to become a recognized 20th century illustrator. My collaboration with the Rokeby Museum, and this adventure with you, presents an opportunity to test and expand upon the possibilities of remote learning and remote collaboration. So let’s get started!
Note: As you work your way through this course, share your work! Be sure to tag @clinton.courtney and @rokebymuseum on Instagram and use the hashtags #RokebyDistanceDrawing and #DrawingWithRachael. Got a question for Courtney? Let us know in the comment section below!Read More
by Priscilla Baker, Rokeby Museum Trustee
Vermont is home to over 1,200 Latinx farm workers, most from southern Mexico and Central America. Several hundred live and work in Addison County.
While some would call the labor of immigrant farm workers “unskilled,” this is an unfortunate misnomer according to Teresa Mares, UVM professor and author of the book, Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont.
When Dr. Mares spoke at Rokeby Museum in July, 2019, she made a strong point that the work these farmers do requires a variety of skills and is often dangerous. Further, the suffering and the daily challenges immigrant workers face remain invisible to mainstream Vermonters. Always vulnerable to the fluctuations of the dairy industry and the needs of each individual farm and farmer, immigrant farm workers live with the anxiety of job insecurity, the physical toll of hard work, and the fear of being picked up by ICE.Read More
by Richard Bernstein, M.D., Rokeby Museum Trustee
“A common danger unites even the bitterest of enemies,” said the philosopher Aristotle. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fault lines that separate people of color and whites, and it continues to shine a light on the terrible effect that white supremacy and structural racism have had historically in America.
COVID Emerges, and with It, Disparities
Although the first known case in the U.S. was January 20, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make it into national news until early February. Several weeks later, on March 27, five U.S. lawmakers (Sens. Harris, Brooker, Warren, Pressley, and Rep. Kelly) pressed the agency of Health and Human Services to release available data on the racial disparity of infection and death rates in the country. The American Medical Association followed with their demand for release of racial data on April 3. The data showed that 30% of COVID-19 cases occurred among African Americans, who make up about 13% of the population. In some places the incidence was even higher: In Louisiana, 70% of victims were African Americans; in Alabama, 44%; in Milwaukee, 39%.
This disparity shocked no one, especially Dr. Uché Blackstock, a physician working in Brooklyn. Speaking on Public Radio’s Science Friday, Dr. Blackstock noted that staff were being pulled from immediate-care health centers in the white sections of the New York borough, where they were underutilized, and transferred to the health centers in the black sections which were seeing a huge increase in the new illness.
Above: Protest against police brutality and racism; Montpelier, VT, June 7, 2020. Photo by Rokeby Trustee Missy Holland.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States in early February, many of us shuddered as we imagined myriad ways in which harm would come to our communities. Three months later the facts are clear that Americans of color, over represented in essential services and receiving inadequate health care, are disproportionately represented among those who have become sick with COVID-19 and those who have died.
The latest abuses perpetrated against African Americans are further evidence of systemic racism as we witness the killing of black men and women at the hands of present/former law enforcement officials and white vigilantes, including, in recent months: Ahmaud Arbery of Georgia, Breonna Taylor of Kentucky, George Floyd of Minnesota and Tony McDade of Florida.
These murders have raised voices of protest that are naming the wrongs and insisting on change.
Rokeby Museum is in full support of demonstrators
seeking racial justice.
In this Spring 2020 Newsletter, read about Rokeby’s unfortunate loss during the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic, virtual access, a new Education and Interpretation Fellow, newly digitized Civil War correspondence, new trustees, as well as our 2019 Annual Fund Donor and Member lists. View full-screen or download PDF above.