Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

Celebrating 60 Years of Service to Our Community

October 24th, 2014

By Lori Arguelles, AFF Executive Director

It was 60 years ago today that the pioneers of the Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) realized the first fruits of their labors. On October 24, 1954 the Articles of Incorporation for the Foundation were approved and AFF was “born.” This momentous act has had lasting impact during the last six decades including:

– Serving more than 300,000 students through our environmental education programs at our Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center and in national and state parks through our Bridging the Watershed Program.

alice henry – Engaging more than 130,000 volunteers in the annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup by removing more than 7 million pounds of debris over the past 26 years.

– Leading the way in energy efficient and green building design by embracing the Living Building Challenge © as we construct and renovate buildings on our educational campus. The net-zero energy, net-zero water, and zero-waste criteria, combined with carbon-neutral and non-toxic, non-polluting component requirements make this a ground-breaking and landscape-altering undertaking.

Throughout the decades, the Foundation has stayed true to its guiding principles of education, inspiration, and innovation. And the impact is both deep-rooted and widespread as evidenced by the experience of one 10-year old student from Heather Hills Elementary School:

“I couldn’t wait until my overnight trip to Hard Bargain Farm. My first activity was a hike through the woods. We learned about pollution and how it harms living organisms. That one hike changed my whole point of view about the environment. In the future I see myself stopping someone from littering to protect the animals and nature.”

Surely our namesake, Alice Ferguson, would appreciate how her vision of a special place in nature has been embraced by student and adult learners alike. And we are proud that Alice’s vision for Hard Bargain Farm has been recognized as nationally significant. Just in time for our Diamond Jubilee celebration the Farm was selected for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. This prestigious roster is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. As anniversary gifts go, this is definitely a gem!IMG_0486
But the greatest gift of all is the privilege of sharing the wonder and beauty of nature with a child for the first time. Nothing can match the eye-opening and often life-changing experiences that come from this connection. We couldn’t do any of this without the generous support of friends like you. Thank you for helping us to make a difference!
If you’d like to make a special gift in honor of our anniversary, please visit our donation page. Thank you for your support, and Happy Anniversary!

Getting To Know Alice – The Search Continues

August 19th, 2013

By Linda Crocker Simmons

Alice L.L. Ferguson (1880-1951) Ca. 1930s –1940s By Helen Sewell Rennie (1906-1989) Pen and Ink on Flesh -colored Paper Recto, pencil, l.r.:Alice L.L. Ferguson” 12″ x 18 “ Promised gift of Linda Crocker Simmons with the assistance of Rob Delamater of the LostArt Salon, San Francisco, California.

It has been more than a year since a significant discovery relating to Alice L.L. Ferguson and her life as an artist has been made, but last month the drawing illustrated here, was found. Discovered during a recent Internet search it has been acquired from the California dealer who was selling it in a group of drawings labeled “New Deal”.  All the drawings in that folder were created by Helen Sewell Rennie (1906-1989) sometime during the 1930s or 1040s. Not much has been yet learned about Rennie except that she like Alice had a career in the arts and was active during the 1930s and later in the Washington region.

Rennie was a native of Maryland and had, as Alice had done, studied art at the Corcoran School of Art (today the Corcoran College of Art and Design). It is conceivable they met there or at one of the regional arts groups to which both belonged. Very likely they had professional art connections or friendships with one or more other artists associated with the various Federal arts projects taking place in the Washington metropolitan region during the 1930s. An immediate candidate is Lenore Thomas (1909-1988), a tenant of Longview, the close by property which Alice had developed in hopes of selling.  But once occupied by Lenore and her fellows Alice found the arrangement too enjoyable to want it to end. Like Hard Bargain Farm the tenants at Longview had their “Gang” of guests whom Alice described in her book, Adventures in Southern Maryland (p.31) as compared to Hard Bargain Farm’s as “more artistic and more sure they are intellectual”.hbf Alice & unknown

Artists are kindred spirits and often share common characteristics and activities. Congregating to make art is one — just what Rennie has depicted in her spare line drawing of Alice. The easel which would have held the canvas or a tacked-up sheet of paper is not shown but rather suggested, just out of sight. Alice’s right hand is in midair holding either a stick of charcoal, or a pencil, maybe even a brush, reaching for that easel.

Rennie’s drawing tells us further things about her subject: Alice was a smoker. In her left hand she holds one of those ubiquitous signifiers of the “new” woman of the 20th century.  The plume of smoke also serves as a sad foreshadower of one of the elements which likely contributed to Alice’s medical problems in the years before her death in 1951.

Rennie has captured her subject quite accurately; the angled profile of Alice’s face would have been known to other artists, friends and family. By the time this drawing was made Alice was well into her 50s.  She wore her hair close to her head, short above the ears. Comparisons with photographs of Alice from about the same time show the profile with a strong nose—somewhat exaggerated—and and short hair.

The outfit she wears could be either one of those stylish but comfortable dresses of the period, or a painter’s smock. Such accouterments of an artist’s trade as smocks, canvases, easels and brushes have vanished from Hard Bargain Farm. All evidence of Alice at work making the lovely paintings that hang in the Farmhouse is gone. But with the fortuitous discovery of this little drawing we can once again see Alice, the painter, as her image was captured by another artist and possible colleague during the last decade or so of her life in the act of creating a work of art.

The Blue Rhino—Symbol of Good Times at Hard Bargain Farm

June 18th, 2013

By Doris Sharp, Cultural Heritage Coordinator

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Visually memorable for visitors, especially school children, the Blue Rhinoceros is a hefty, humorous sentry to a creative legacy and is simply unforgettable and remains for many the image of their time at Hard Bargain. It is a physical reminder of the shared interests and impulses of Alice Ferguson and Lenore Thomas, two women artists who played significant roles in the creative life of Hard Bargain Farm. This work of art is one of the most interesting among the important pieces in the collection at Hard Bargain Farm.

Thomas came to the Washington region around 1935/6 and was one of the tenants who rented Longview, a house designed, built and owned by Alice Ferguson, and located in Accokeek. She was first employed by the “Special Skills Division” of the Resettlement Administration of the Department of Agriculture. Her work involved creating sculptures for various government housing projects then being developed across the country.

bluerhinoconstructionAlthough the workshop for the Special Skills Division was in Greenbelt, Maryland, Thomas recounted how her daily routine “was to go into Washington and check into the project, then go out to Greenbelt and work the remainder of the day.” The Greenbelt workshop is described in a contemporary newspaper article:

At the Greenbelt resettlement workshop where Miss Thomas and her co-workers model in clay designs to be used on school buildings on this and other projects partially finished models can be seen. …. Many new experiments are being conducted in the work shop: among them is a “tryout with wet brick.” Pointing to the unfinished outlines of a huge hippopotamus, various animals and birds… [Thomas explained]… [a]fter the designs are finished each brick is numbered, glazed and is then ready for use. It requires about 1,000 bricks to construct a large animal pattern.

This describes the design and materials as well as the manner of assembly for Blue Rhinoceros at Hard Bargain Farm.

StudentbluerhinoThe “Blue Rhino” as we call it has been on sentinel duty in front of the Farmhouse for more than 70 years. The environmental impact—heat, freezes, rain and snow—has become severe. Mortar cracked and bricks became loose so that we had to stop schoolchildren “riding” Blue Rhino, which is the first thing they want to do when they see it. We received a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities to conduct a professional assessment of its condition and needed treatment.  After receiving a complete report a private generous donor stepped in to foot the bill for the restoration of the Blue Rhino in memory of his wife who was teaching children at Hard Bargain Farm for more than twenty years. The work will start in mid-August and should not take more than a week assuring that the children can “ride” the Blue Rhino and have fun again when the new school year begins.

Going Green for Easter

March 26th, 2013

by Liz Doblovosky

Springtime is fast approaching and soon the dull, brown colors of winter will be replaced with the rebirth of flowers and greenery for spring. As the beauty of the outdoors goes green, it seems only fitting that we follow suit. Whether spending time with family or taking a walk on a nice Spring day, there are many ways to enjoy Eastertime with minimal impact on the environment.

Here are a few great suggestions on how to go green this Easter:

Make your own chocolates, candy and treats. While many Easter candies come in brightly colored bags to catch the eye, most are individually wrapped and contain just as much waste as they do candy. A fun alternative to store-bought Easter candies is to make your own, home-made Easter treats. Egg or bunny-shaped chocolates or cookies can be a great way to reduce your environmental impact while also creating an opportunity to get creative with your kids.

Avoid plastic Easter grass. When putting together Easter baskets for your kids or just for decoration, plastic Easter grass markets itself as the perfect colorful addition to any Easter display. Let’s face it: plastic Easter grass is messy, wasteful, and will continue to be found in odd places around your house until the 4th of July. As much as it provides colorful filler for any Easter basket, there a few, if any, uses for Easter grass after the holiday. If you’re looking for a less wasteful alternative, try lining baskets with paper from your shredder and covering with a colorful cloth. Once Easter is over, compost the paper grass.

Make natural dyes for Easter eggs. One of my favorite parts of Easter time when I was a little girl was dying Easter eggs! I always tried to think of the most creative designs and colors to add to my Easter basket. There are many ways to be creative with your Easter egg dying without chemicals and additives. Not only will you be able to create a variety of colors to make your eggs stand out, you will avoid pesky Easter egg dying kits with more packaging than dye. Many of the ingredients for the colors shown here are natural foods and spices that you probably already have on hand.

Celebrate seasonal spring produce. Incorporating seasonal produce into your Easter meal is a great way to make a fresh and delicious dinner without breaking the bank. Check out the NRDC’s local foods database to find out what is in season in your state right now and visit Local Harvest to find farmers markets near you.

Even if you don’t celebrate the Easter holiday, spring is a great time to take after nature and incorporate some ‘green’ to your lifestyle. Get outdoors and focus your spring energy into starting a garden, cleaning up your home or neighborhood, using more natural ingredients, eating more local produce, and enjoying nature.

Getting to Know Alice

February 5th, 2013

By Libby Campbell

Working in the setting of Alice Ferguson’s home is delightful for the atmosphere and view, however, peeking into the heart and mind of our namesake through her letters is on an entirely new level of pleasure and discovery. Visitors to the farmhouse get a glimpse of her personality through her self-portrait “Tired”, where she lounges on the sofa, turquoise T-strap sandals on her elevated feet, and favorite dog Caligula sprawled next to her on the rug. But it is in the letters that the quirky and unique Alice emerges. To her sister-in-law Eleanor she writes:

I am in deep disgrace at my doctors. I went this morning the usual Friday interveinous(sic) injection. As usual they put me on one of those high narrow cots that they wheel all over the place and gave the injection with orders not to move until they came back. In time the floor and walls stopped reeling, I began to feel almost normal, completely forgotten and a little bored. I discovered that if I laid still by humped my middle, the cot moved. I humped and the cot moved very pleasantly until all of the sudden the darned thing got up speed, rolled across the floor, overturned a metal chair and crashed in to the wall. The doctor and all the nurses came on a run and found me lying obediently still. I hadn’t done a thing but I slunk home with all possible speed.

 

That same year she writes about a frustration that seems to be as timely today to anyone dealing with government permits and processes:

I am so mad tonight I can’t think. To register a truck they sent you a 37 page pamphlet written in lawyers jargon. No one could understand it all and they finally implored people not to mail it as they had said you had to but to wait until today and take the stuff to a high school and get help in making out the application. I went this afternoon. The first thing they asked was how many trips the truck had made down into the farm fields in 1941, how many miles and what tonnage had been carried. How many trips away from the farm, with the load going and returning and how many trips specially for things. All that in 1941. Then you had to repeat it up to the present and estimate for a year in advance. I said I had no records for 41 and just couldn’t estimate. They refused to register the trucks and now I will have to travel all the way to Marlboro to appeal.

 

Alice, the gently raised debutante dived eagerly into running Hard Bargain Farm. This letter from the war time of 1942 shows how her farm animals were very distinct personalities to her:

My pigs have decided to join the allies. A sow gave me 14 babies last night and two more ladies due very soon. The hens have given up their strike and are doing 3 dozen a day. It is not good but a darned sight better than they have been doing. The cows are the sticking point now and there are three more weeks of drought ahead. I fixed up a warm loafing shed for them and now they do nothing but loaf and it is all we can do to get them out to take a walk. They refuse to drink enough water so they are getting a dose of salt in their food and the pesky critters still won’t drink. You are lucky to have a vegetable farm.

 


Alice’s letters and journals are a wonderful window on Southern Maryland rural life in the early 20th century. AFF’s Cultural Heritage staff and volunteers are greatly enjoying recreating the trials, triumphs and fun times of the Fergusons’ life here at Hard Bargain Farm.

The Strudel Queen

September 28th, 2012
Please join the Alice Ferguson Foundation for its 32nd annual Oktoberfest on October 6th from 1-6pm at Hard Bargain Farm.  For the past 25 years our Cultural Heritage Coordinator, Doris Sharp, has been an integral part in shepherding this beloved festival. We recently sat down with Doris to learn more about the history of Oktoberfest at Hard Bargain Farm and how she makes this event so special every year. Read our interview with the “Strudel Queen” below.

Tell us about yourself and what you do at the Foundation.

I started to work part time at the Foundation in 1987.  The first assignment was cataloguing the books in the Ferguson collection, then I was working as a naturalist, publications specialist, head gardener of the formal gardens, coordinating Theater in the Woods and Concert in the Woods and many other tasks—in essence I was wearing many hats (sometimes the hat rack was too short!).

What do you know about the history of Oktoberfest at the Foundation?

Our Oktoberfestmeister, Stafford Allison, a Moyaone community member, presented the idea of Oktoberfest as a fundraiser to then Executive Director Kay Powell. That was thirty-two years ago. In the same community some neighbors were members of the Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattlers and that group performed at the first Oktoberfest and ever since. I’ve been involved with the event for 25 of those years.

How has the annual Oktoberfest grown over the years you’ve been involved?

When I started it was a relatively small community event.  With more and better advertising and reaching out to the DC metro area, the audience grew over the years. The record number was close to 1500 visitors.

What kinds of things will guests find at Oktoberfest and what makes it so special?

Oktoberfest means beer, bratwurst, potato salad and sauerkraut. And that is what we offer at Hard Bargain Farm.  All homemade! And not to forget the ‘real’ strudel now! (For the last few years we have been offering vegetarian chili as an alternative food.) We have a “Country Store” where people can buy all kinds of goodies—homemade jams, cookies, brownies and breads etc.

Oktoberfest is a lot of fun. Besides wonderful food and imported beer (Spaten from Munich), the Alt Washintonia Schuhplattlers are sporting original Bavarian costumes and perform Bavarian and Austrian dances and music (accordion, guitars, dulcimer, tuba, alphorns, even a saw!).

One of the favorite features of Oktoberfest is your homemade strudel.  How did you become the Strudel Queen?

At the 35th anniversary of the Alice Ferguson Foundation Stafford Allison approached me and said, “You know, we serve all that excellent and delicious food and then there is that stuff they call apple strudel…”  (It was a kind of apple cake).  He didn’t say any more and just looked at me.  I simply said, “Okay.” Well, I have been baking apple strudels for the Oktoberfest ever since! Stafford generously provides his space and professional ovens to do that and I have an outstanding crew of helpers. Each year we bake about 75 strudels using four bushels of apples that need to be peeled and cut into pieces.  The strudel filling is made totally from scratch. From year to year our visitors are looking forward to it.

What do you enjoy most about Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest brings people and cultures together and it gives a glimpse of the original Oktoberfest in Munich on a very small scale. (six  million people descend on Munich over the course of two weeks.)

At the end of the day, the Schuhplattlers invite the guests onto the stage to dance with them, which is very popular with everyone, especially with the children.

What is your favorite memory of an Oktoberfest?

My favorite memory is when my kids went on stage to dance with the Schuhplatters.  They were too shy so I had to coax them.  But then they had lots of fun.

What do you look forward to this year? 

First, of course, I hope the weather will be on our side.  Then everything will fall into place and a good time will be had by all—Hard Bargain style.

AFF’s New Website Shines Spotlight on Mission and Programs

July 17th, 2012

By Lori Arguelles, Executive Director

Welcome to AFF’s newly revitalized website! We hope you enjoy the new look and feel of the site, which has been designed to be more user-friendly, interactive and informative. Enjoy reading our blog posts, keeping track of news and events at the Foundation, and staying connected with our work. As you explore the site, we hope you will take advantage some of the new features that will allow you to stay connected with our work. For example, you can use the RSS feed to subscribe to our weekly blog posts and keep track of news and events.

In our continued efforts to gear our site towards you, the user, we value your feedback about your experience. Please take a minute to fill out this short survey. If you only want to leave a comment, scroll down to the last question and write your comment there.

Thank you for being a supporter and friend of AFF and we hope that you enjoy our new site as much as we do!

Cultural Heritage: A Legacy Worth Preserving

July 13th, 2012

By Betsy Reid, Cultural Heritage Committee, Chair

The Alice Ferguson Foundation has a long and rich history and we have recently undertaken efforts to better preserve the legacy of Alice and Henry Ferguson by focusing on creating a Cultural Heritage Initiative that encompasses the preservation of historical buildings and landscapes, conservation of the Ferguson collections (historical photographs, works of art, books, archival material) and the development of programs that interpret and share our heritage with the public.

One of our goals is to increase visitation and strengthen our connections with professionals in the preservation and gardening communities as we feature our creative and rich cultural heritage, through house and garden tours, theater and concerts, and lectures. Alice Ferguson’s legacy is much broader than Hard Bargain Farm, as evidenced by her restoration of Chimney House, a historic property in Port Tobacco. Linda Simmons, Curator emerita of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Cultural Heritage Advisor to AFF, was recently invited by the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco to give a lecture titled “Who Was Alice Ferguson?” at the Port Tobacco Courthouse in June. You can read a nice write-up about the lecture in the Southern Maryland News. After the lecture Kay Volman invited the guests to tour the Chimney House.

Fergie’s Gardeners sponsored programs that attracted many visitors to the Foundation. Several evening lectures included popular conversation on diverse topics ranging from mushroom hunting, to how to improve your garden soils, to local women artists and their studios. We also hosted house and garden tours for garden clubs and parents of home school students that proved informative and entertaining for our guests and lucrative for our garden club. Another fundraising effort was undertaken by producing note cards from historical photographs in the Ferguson archives and we welcomed generous donations to the “Pay Dirt Fund.” These funds allow us to hire needed help for maintaining the historical formal gardens.

Alice’s Scribes, a newly formed group, is enthusiastically transcribing letters and journals from the Ferguson archives to unlock stories, events, and relationships that marked their life and adventures at Hard Bargain Farm. Please contact Doris Sharp at [email protected] if you would like to be trained to participate in this effort.

The Cultural Heritage Committee and Fergie’s Gardeners wish to express their thanks to the dedicated volunteers and donors who work with staff at the Foundation to advance the goals of this program.