New Lives New England

“New Lives/New England” features the work of New American traditional artists in Maine, Connecticut, and Vermont—Bosnian rug weavers, Somali Bantu musicians, Karen Burmese textile weavers whose artistry is an emblem of identity that bridges state boundaries and links communities in diaspora.

Weaving is often used as a metaphor for life, each experience a thread, which added to others creates something greater than its parts. Weaving a rug, applying henna at a wedding, or playing a drum at a community celebration, these traditions and their longtime practitioners remind people of who they are and where they came from, helping to create new lives out of whole cloth.

“New Lives/New England” explores the role traditional arts play in helping newcomers create a new home in New England. Central to the exhibit is the idea that continuing to practice familiar artistic traditions, as well as sharing them with new neighbors, is an important part of the acculturation process, especially as people negotiate and shape new roles and identities.

The exhibit brings together text, handcrafted textiles and objects, video, and photographs to explore the stories of these artists and their communities through the lens of traditional arts. After its time at the Vermont Folklife Center, the exhibit also toured to Hartford, Connecticut, and Lewiston, Maine.

“New Lives/New England” is a collaboration among Cultural Resources in Rockport, Maine, the Vermont Folklife Center, and the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program at the Institute for Community Research. It is generously supported through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Aurora Foundation for Women and Girls, Connecticut Office of the Arts, Maine Community Foundation, and the Quimby Family Foundation.