News Column

Racial Controversy on Malaga Island Explored at COA Talk

August 14, 2014

BAR HARBOR, Maine, Aug. 14 -- College of the Atlantic issued the following news release:

A College of the Atlantic arts professor will join a Maine State Museum curator to discuss a highly acclaimed exhibit addressing a sensitive racial controversy in Maine's past.

The compelling "Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives" exhibit tells the story of how the state evicted a mixed-race community of fishermen and laborers in 1912 to clear a small coastal island of "its shiftless population of half-breed blacks and whites," as a 1911 newspaper article described it. Many people saw the island as an ugly mark on the pristine beauty of Maine's coast.

After years of well-publicized legal battles, the state succeeded in removing the community of around 40 people, committing eight to the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. By the end of 1912, all visible traces of the community disappeared; houses were moved and the cemetery was exhumed.

In the final of the weekly "Coffee & Conversation" summer cultural talks on campus, COA Professor in the Visual Arts Dru Colbert and Maine State Museum Curator Katherine McBrien will share their experience of developing the exhibit. The event will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26 at the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History on the College of the Atlantic campus in Bar Harbor.

Artwork by a College of the Atlantic student was subsequently selected for a traveling version of the exhibition and will be on display at the talk.

The work by Hiyasmin Saturay '15, of Utrecht, The Netherlands, was chosen by museum staff for its "visual interest and accessible organization of information." The series of five posters will be among those distributed by the Maine State Museum to schools, libraries, museums and other cultural institutions throughout Maine and beyond to create further awareness of "Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives."

As a course assignment in "Graphic Attack" -- an intermediate/advanced course in visual communication focusing on social responsibility and media issues taught by Colbert -- students were asked to treat educators and curators of the Maine State Museum as clients to design a poster for the traveling exhibition.

"The Maine State Museum was thrilled to collaborate with College of the Atlantic students on the educational posters for the Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives exhibit," McBrien said. "Hiyasmin's design was clever, professional, and most closely matched the design of the overall exhibit. It also clearly articulated the content to the thousands of Maine students who will use the posters. Hiyasmin and Dru were both a joy to work with."

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Source: Targeted News Service

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