Art goes underground
The Maine landscape has inspired artists for generations to reflect the natural beauty of the outdoors in their work. One Midcoast artist wants to put that art into the landscape — literally.
“It’s just an idea I had,” said David Scriven Crowley of the Museum Underground, whose Kickstarter campaign runs through April 12.
Crowley, who has a gallery on Rockland’s Main Street, spent most of his life on Massachusetts’ Cape Ann; the Cape Ann Art Museum in Gloucester, Mass., mounted a major retrospective of his landscapes, portraits and non-representational work in 2004. He “retired” to Cushing a couple of years later and has been exploring Maine’s outdoors ever since.
“I never feel better than when I hike,” he said.
Crowley’s grandparents lived in Jonesport and he spent a lot of time there growing up. He said it has been wonderful to return to Maine.
“My partner and I have explored so many places, hiking and kayaking. [Rockport’s] Spruce Mountain is a favorite — it’s such a short hike with such a big payoff! The state just keeps giving, it’s never ending,” he said.
In some ways, his concept of the Museum Underground is a way to recognize Maine’s natural riches. Crowley envisions it showing local work with a focus on land conservation and the glory of nature. And he is well aware of the contradiction of planting a building into the landscape he reveres. The artist’s rendering — which lives up to that moniker more than usual, as it is a painting — offers an inkling to how the Museum Underground might look after the bulldozers are gone.
“I’ve always thought an underground space would be great for an art gallery — easy to heat, easy to cool, and they have the technology now to keep things dry,” he said.
Another advantage has been highlighted recently via the negotiations between the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and the Rockland Planning Board. Art museums need few windows and maximum wall space, Crowley said, adding that architects have already shown interest in his idea. Built nearly entirely underground, with solar panels providing energy necessary for its daily operation, the museum would be an example to visitors of earth-friendly architecture, according to Crowley’s Kickstarter description.
The Kickstarter campaign goal is a big one: $900,000 big. Crowley has been trying to present the idea to those in the area with serious pocket depth, but “they’re protected; you can’t get at them!” So he has reached into his own pocket to buy a small, designed-to-intrigue ad in the next issue of “Down East” that he hopes will spark some interest.
“I started late, wish I had another month,” he said.
For those unfamiliar with the popular crowdsourcing site, it is an all-or-nothing way to fund creative projects — projects must reach their funding goals in 60 days to receive any money pledged. The website is filled with all kinds of projects including the arts, technology and design, all looking to go from concept to reality. Visitors are enticed to become backers via various thank-you rewards. While Crowley is courting the larger donation set, one can back Museum Underground for as little as a dollar.
“You know, if everyone who stopped in my gallery put in a dollar, it would work for me! So many things go into this, I’m just putting the idea out there to see who’s willing to do it,” he said.
The goal is for Museum Underground to be a year-round institution run by a board of directors. Finding a location will be key; while the Midcoast museum itself will be mostly out of sight, there has to be parking for the people who visit it and a road to the site.
“There are so many ways this could go,” Crowley said.
Right now, pledges are coming in slowly to the Kickstarter campaign but there are still several weeks before it ends. Crowley hopes the world, or at least this part of it, will embrace the idea … and he knows if it does, he will have a lot of work to do since several of the pledge levels’ rewards are small works by him on paper.
If it comes to that, he said, “I guess I’d have to hire an assistant!” He referred to a painting currently hanging in his gallery that appears with his project ID on the site. “Andrew with Faith and Reason,” an 8-foot canvas in Rockland that appears postage-sized on the Kickstarter page, depicts a local fisherman struggling to hold onto the reins of two lively horses. Crowley likens the effort to one he has waged his whole life. Certainly both qualities will be needed for the Museum Underground to see the light of day … if only through its front lobby.
To see the Museum Underground proposal and to pledge, visit Kickstarter.com and search for David Scriven Crowley.