Thursday, July 14, 2022

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Jen Ferry PHOTO: South County Arts Association

The foundation of the local art scene is the strong collection of community-oriented art centers dotted around Rhode Island. The South County Art Association is one such organization and has held exhibitions and classes for downstate residents for generations. Until July 16, the group is hosting a captivating exhibition called Diaspora and recently Jen Ferry took on the important role of Executive Director of SCAA. New exhibits and new management herald exciting times for this historic institution.

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The first exhibit presented during Jen Ferry’s tenure as Executive Director focuses on the important subject of the Diaspora. This competitive competition show highlights stories about the movement of people and their shared experiences. It fills the galleries of SCAA, located in a historic domestic space just steps from the front doors of the University of Rhode Island. Through July 16, the exhibition features forty-eight carefully selected works of art in a variety of media by artists working throughout the region.

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PHOTO: South County Art Association

When Ferry is asked what excites her most as she begins her new position, this show comes quickly. She says, “I’m excited about our current Diaspora exhibit which showcases artwork that speaks to cultural identity. This is an important exhibition that promotes social awareness on a topic that is relevant and timely at this time. On a lighter note, I’m excited about our night under the trees next month. It’s an event that brings our community together for a party and opens our members’ exhibition.

The group’s Evening Under the Trees event will take place on July 23 and kicks off its 95th annual member show, which will run from July 23 to August 13. Nearly a century old, SCAA is a landmark in South County and has become the centerpiece of its own creative enclave.

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PHOTO: South County Art Association

Speaking about what makes SCAA special, Ferry focuses on people and culture, saying, “Community spirit starts internally in how we interact with members and visitors. Every SCAA staff member is an artist and passionate about the arts. Our enthusiasm is palpable and it creates a welcoming atmosphere. This in turn extends to everyone who comes to SCAA. It forms a connection with others who have the same interest in art. It creates a special community.

A resident of South County for more than twenty years, Ferry has enjoyed a long career in graphic design and earned her master’s degree in artistic leadership and cultural management from the LEAP Institute for the Arts at Colorado State University. She also holds a degree

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PHOTO: South County Art Association

Certificate in Nonprofit Administration. An artist in her own right, she has exhibited widely, received awards for her personal work and first joined SCAA as an artist member in 2013. More information on Ferry’s work can be found as studio artist on his website, www.jenferry. com.

Ferry takes the reins from outgoing executive director Kathleen Carland, who has successfully led the organization since 2017. Her tenure included renovating the group’s exhibit spaces and leading the nonprofit through the pandemic. Carland will however continue to provide support to SCAA and will help the group with its development expertise. Carland and Ferry were close colleagues and both share a reputation for welcoming artists and visitors to the SCAA, creating connections to the arts that resonate beyond its home base in Kingston.

SCAA is already firmly rooted in the community and, as executive director, Ferry aims to deepen the group’s ties. Speaking of her goals, she says, “As the new Executive Director, I will continue to provide opportunities to learn, share and see the art that SCAA has been making for 95 years. Additionally, I want to increase community awareness and educate the public on how art can enrich their lives and bring benefits that lead to well-being.

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PHOTO: South County Art Association

Some of Ferry’s aspirations are apparent in SCAA’s Diaspora exhibit. It draws on the talents of a range of artists, focuses on a topic of social and political resonance, and connects the organization to a larger community. It also serves as a point of connection, conversation and education on issues of experience and identity. With this thought-provoking current exhibit, a promising new Executive Director, and other exciting shows and events around the corner, the SCAA is poised for another century of contributions to the arts in Rhode Island. It will be fun to follow what’s to come for this cultural and community center.

The South County Art Association is located at 2587 Kingstown Road in Kingston, Rhode Island. Its Diaspora exhibit runs through July 16 and will be followed by its Members’ exhibit, which opens July 23. The gallery’s current hours of operation are Wednesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Learn more and plan your visit at www.southcountyart.org.

Michael Rose is a multi-talented fine arts professional based in southern New England. Since 2014, he has been the gallery director of the historic Providence Art Club, one of the nation’s oldest arts organizations. In his current freelance work, he advises collectors and artists, provides appraisal services, teaches and carries out curatorial projects.

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