Ghost River Opens
Guests at the Ghost River opening
Most of my previous posts have focused on the development process behind the graphic novel Ghost River: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga. I’ve written about the editorial process, the art, the digital edition, and even the teacher seminar that we organized to bolster the book’s educational materials. With so many other components moving ahead, I regret that I haven’t discussed a core component of the project, the Library Company of Philadelphia’s public art exhibition, since we selected an exhibition designer (Keith Ragone) in April 2019. With the opening of our exhibition, there is so much news to share.
Let’s begin with the big day. We got the band back together! Alongside our advisory board—Ron Nash (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History), Joel Nichols (Free Library of Philadelphia), Vilma Ortiz-Sanchez (National Museum of the American Indian), Daniel Richter (McNeil Center for Early American Studies), and Curtis Zunigha (Lenape Center), I was joined by our artist, Weshoyot Alvitre, and author/publisher, Lee Francis.
Artist Weshoyot Alvitre and Author Lee Francis 4 with Director of Scholarly Innovation Dr. Will Fenton and Edwin Wolf 2nd Director Dr. Michael Barsanti
November 15 was a whirlwind: Weshoyot, Lee, and I recorded an episode of Talking in the Library (available on December 1); we were interviewed by Peter Crimmins for WHYY (available here); we had lunch with the project team, advisory board, and Bill Adair from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage; and we welcomed our educational and native partners (from the teacher seminar and Circle Legacy Center) for a tour of the Library Company and pre-reception.
Finally, we arrived at the main event: the opening reception. Turnout was remarkable—we pushed our HVAC system to the brink—and it was an honor to celebrate the exhibition opening with friends, contributors, and partners. It was also heartening to see so many new faces at the Library Company, and to notice the attention and respect that patrons showed in the gallery. The remarks, of course, were the highlight of the evening: Curtis Zunigha delivered a moving invocation, which set the tone for the evening; Lee Francis spoke eloquently of the collaboration woven throughout the project; and Weshoyot Alvitre offered poignant, tearful and tear-inducing remarks on the artistic process. We even had delicious Indigenous dishes from Trinity Norwood (Lenape) and gorgeous wampum jewelry from Elizabeth James-Perry (Wampanoag). It was indeed a powerful evening and an auspicious launch for Ghost River.
In fact, the opening reception marked the launch of both the exhibition and the graphic novel. While the volume will not begin shipping until December 5, the Library Company of Philadelphia has launched a free, digital edition (ghostriver.org) and begun distributing printed copies of the graphic novel. (More about both in next month’s post.)
As importantly, however, the Ghost River exhibition – available through April 10, 2020 – provides patrons with an opportunity to see Weshoyot’s beautiful artwork first–hand, to watch a brilliant behind-the-scenes documentary, and to explore the Library Company’s rich historical collections, interspersed with contemporary materials that bring this exhibition to bear upon the present: Weshoyot’s notebook, palette, and pen; a newly-commissioned wampum belt from Elizabeth James-Perry; and the names of the Conestoga overlaid upon the statue of our institution’s founder, Benjamin Franklin.
I invite you to come see for yourself, pick up a copy of Ghost River, and join us on this journey.
Redrawing History: Indigenous Perspectives on Colonial America has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.