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Learning to Swim

Aug. 14, 2021 — Sept. 12, 2021

[Right] Elaine Wing, Niles Beach, 1995, oil on canvas, Gift of Robert L. and Elizabeth French, 2009 (2009.51.19). [Middle] Joy Halsted, Cold Water #1, 2010, acrylic on canvas, gift of the artist, 2016 (2016.051.1). [Left] Doris Prouty, Lanes Cove. 2017. Applique quilt. Lent by the Prouty Family.

Janet & William Ellery James Center

The landscape of Cape Ann is defined by granite and water. For many residents, one of their earliest memories is where they first learned to swim. Each cove, beach, quarry, and lake has its own name and history: Plum, Niles, Folly, Wingaersheek, Half Moon, Singing, Lobster, Crescent, Pavilion, Front, Long, Vernon, Nelson, Chebacco. Generations of people on Cape Ann have swum in these waters and generations of artists have depicted them.

This exhibition pairs an interactive map where locals can share their memories of learning to swim with artwork and archival photographs from the Museum’s collection that depicts these popular swimming spots. Paintings by Joy Halsted, Elaine Wing, Norma Cuneo, Jessica Tam, Bernard Chaet, Jeff Weaver, and Dorothy Arnold look at the water through the lens of an artist while photographs from our archives capture the joy of swimming through the ages.

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