Historically, photographers and artists have played a vital role in cultural shifts that change and improve our communities. Images, videos, paintings, graphics and sculpture highlighting the heroin, poverty and labor epidemics around Maine and New Hampshire have become more and more common, the images are growing in intensity and expanding in truth.
Maine photographer Jay York has been sharing one photo everyday day on social media that he tags 'Jay's Morning Walk'. Jay's Morning Walk leans a bit serious on most days, with snapshots of needles, homeless folks, discarded beer cans and police vans showing up more often than the fun dog walk, park and scenic images that you may be hoping for from a local photographer. York's photographs are following an important path, allowing us a glimpse into the ever increasing epidemics that are plaguing too many communities throughout Maine. His intense image of a lonely gurney in a driveway tells us a story in one snapshot and leaves us wondering how this will turn out while igniting the fear that this is someone we know that may have passed away. He is revealing, through his artistic eye, the truth of the demise that is creeping into his once thriving neighborhood.
JAY'S MORNING WALK
Anyone who follows the outspoken artists in Maine and New Hampshire can clearly see they have begun to activate in a big way...the images they are creating are a direct reflection and response to the needed change in our communities and a very important and truthful message worth listening to, and the social media "norm" of presenting only your best light is starting to fade.
Inspired by the recent mystery street art that appeared in Berwick, a growing number of artists are getting together to re-create and produce similar work on poster board to hang throughout the local area. HEROIN KILLS is the message, and a help line is shared.
With the outcry from the public for something to be done quickly, it's comfortable to applaud the efforts of these artists trying to reach out directly to those are suffering from addiction while avoiding the very bureaucracy that created the problem to begin with.
In a recent article in the Portland Press Herald York County Sheriff William King said “Maine is under siege, I would call it our No. 1 priority in law enforcement because so many other crimes stem from addiction”
Jeff Allison also recently stopped in town to speak with locals and tell his story of beating addiction. It's been reported that Allison lost a $1.85 Million signing bonus with The Marlins because of his addiction, and that it wasn't until he became a thief, lost everything, and alienated his family, that he was able to reach out for help and change his life. He still became addicted to the powerful drug even with his first try at it ending in the ER as an overdose.
Jeff Allison offers us hope, the Sheriff can highlight the law enforcement issues, but it still won't be enough. To reach the folks already in the throws of an addiction crisis, there has to be action that can reach the addict directly and with the hard truth.
Artists Bailey Lewton, Beth Wittenberg and Erika Carty from BAA are passionate about reaching, and potentially saving the lives of those suffering from heroin addiction.
A street level action could be the most powerful tool to compete with a street level drug.
Many addicts will not reach out to community groups that include law enforcement or public gatherings...fearing arrest, shaming or embarrassment.
over with white and covered by the next day. Throughout social media, the comments under these photos and article made it clear that a large portion of the community believed it should have been left up, even including pleas for the artist to return to town and put it up again because of the insight to share a phone number to an addiction resource center in Brunswick may save even one more life.
It is still unknown who the mystery artist is, and it's still unknown who covered the art.
Throughout history, artists have always told the real stories from a street level, even if through symbolism or subtle gesture. A more focused approach in all our communities, utilizing the artists and photographers as a truth resource to combat major problems is desperately needed, the power of an image seems vastly underappreciated at this moment, as demonstrated by the quick cover up of the HEROIN KILLS artwork. Many are feeling as if the town was sweeping the issue under the rug, hiding it, not willing to share the problem "publicly".
Art is the one resource that shouldn't be ignored, and could potentially re-route a bad tide in a community.
Rick Burns, a long time Berwick resident and leader in the local arts community has inspired many artists to tell societal and political truths through art, symbolism and art as a language. His large recycled sculpture, The Emaciated Farmer, stood in town for the last few years as an ongoing iconic symbol for the very man that works the hardest to create the food ending up the hungriest. The sculpture showed up on his property soon after the closure of the largest employer in town, Prime Tanning, the company that brought the town temporarily to it's knees economically and socially.
Burns art has been rejected on several occasions, only because of the nature of the message being that of a darker societal truth, an all too common problem with outspoken artists as many galleries and towns cater to guidelines that favor the wealthier populations or only will present pretty images of uncrowded shorelines and peaceful forests and beautiful faces.
The leaders in the community at large lean toward ignoring these truths, as well as continually pretending the neediest populations aren't a factor.
When we bend in the direction of hiding the worst as not to offend others, affect property values or break up business deals, we begin to stuff them in a corner, eventually it will overflow and come out stronger and larger.
It's time that the general population, not just the artist, begins to see the darker truth, and accept it.
Then the real work of social change can begin.
written by: Erin Duquette
Do you have a story or image related to the perils, or saviors, of addiction, labor or poverty that you would like to share with others?
Submit stories, images or ideas to: MODspoke at firstname.lastname@example.org subject: ACTIVATION
Art, Culture, Unity and Soul