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Coming of Age

Photography courtesy of 21 in Truro

Twenty-one creative and artistic women have spent one week together every September for twenty-one years

The natural notions of nostalgia often include a yearning for the things that made memories and left their mark on our psyche. More often than not, they are scraps of memory that seem to be small nuggets, but the power and emotion they spark can be as powerful as a tsunami breaking overhead. That collective of experience, sharing, and comity is at the core of an annual gathering of women who are simplistically classified as artists, and elaborately defined as agents of afflatus. Each year, in September, and since 1999, 21 women, who share their love and challenges of professionally creating art, gather together in Truro, and for one week they become “21 in Truro.”

As they gathered last September, they came full circle, and symmetrically marked not only their number, but also their anniversary as they met for the 21st time. “For the first three years, we were at the cottages at Corn Hill,” reflects Michele Dangelo, an oil painter who creates architectural renditions of structures from the collage of memories she has collected throughout her life. “The Corn Hill cabins were fun and funky and a beautiful view. But after a few years, one of the gals discovered Sladeville just down the hill, which has a series of five or six cabins and then we could each have our own room. Now it has been the week we all look forward to throughout the year.” Dangelo refers to the “gentle environment” of a modest cottage colony perched on the banks of the Pamet River that allows each member to comfortably enjoy their week in a private room, and where the group has met since 2002. Each cottage has a spacious living area, functional kitchens and several bathrooms. In addition, there is a large studio space, grassy areas for socialization and a common deck for group yoga sessions.

The getaway was never intended to be a creative immersion with a goal to make and create art across a variety of mediums; instead, the original focus was more akin to a retreat. “We were young 21 years ago, and we were chasing everything—kids, business, relationships, you name it,” explains Rosalie Nadeau, an accomplished oil painter who has painted, taught and been recognized for her talents across the Northeast for five decades. “We jumped at the idea of a week away. But over the years it really has become whatever each individual needs.” Those needs run the gamut including: indulging in cooking delicious meals to be shared with the group, introspective activities such as reading, journaling and meditation, knitting, and for some just the social charge from getting together with friends. And for those that are inspired, creating their own art or learning from their peers; the surroundings, the relaxation and the lack of pressure to produce invariably culminates in notable work.

The original inspiration for the event shares credit between Mid-Cape artist Christie Velesig, whose marine and landscape art can be found in collections worldwide, and Anne Boucher whose charming West Barnstable gallery is the kind of place one imagines when discovering art that illustrates a quintessential life lived on the Cape and Islands. Velesig explains, “Anne and I had planned to get away and go to Corn Hill. I went to the art store to pick up supplies and ran into another fellow artist. I explained what we were planning, and she asked if she could come along. That night, I called Anne and in fact she had also run into an artist who wanted to join us. So we sat down, and, limited only by the number of beds available in the cottages, we created a list of 19 other professional artists, who also happened to be women, and that is how 21 in Truro was born.” 

Through the years, members have left and new ones have joined. The process of adding to the roster has always been more of a conversation among the group and less of a process of recruitment. “We have always been a democracy,” Dangelo notes and mentions that the group has never had formal officers or leaders, other than the few members who have performed treasurer functions over the years. “We have a moderator,” explains Nadeau, who says she filled that function for a time since she had a loud enough voice. The evolution of the get-together has seen the group mature, both in years counted on the earth, but also in their impact upon the art world of the Cape and Islands. The women talk about making their mark 20 years ago as well as today, particularly in a still male-dominated industry. “I have never considered myself as a female artist,” asserts Carol Odell, who along with her husband has been creating and selling art in their Chatham gallery for over 30 years. Maryalice Eizenberg, an oil painter whose keen eye for light is akin to that of Edward Hopper’s, confirms when she says, “It is other people that make that determination.” Dangelo adds that the organization has given her opportunities she would not have had otherwise. “One of the things 21 in Truro has offered me is the opportunity to create on another level—not just art, but the collection boxes, shows, friendships. We’ve created a lot of things that we’ve acknowledged and noted in our archives, that have been other than making a piece of art.” The collection boxes Dangelo refers to are custom-crafted linen boxes that house collections of 21 eight-by-eight-inch themed paintings the group has created for the permanent collections of the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Provincetown Art Association Museum and the Cahoon Museum to recognize milestone events for each of the institutions.

21 in truro recipe for success – By Kate Nelson

5 cups of heart-to-heart conversation

1/3 cup solitude

2 to 3 perfectly ripe sunsets over the Pamet River

5 to 6 cloves of mid-day yoga on the deck

1 very juicy threat of an approaching hurricane

Just a pinch of nostalgia

All combined in a generous bowl of loving acceptance

When asked how they account for the longevity of the group, Eizenberg quickly credits Sladeville, “I strongly believe Sladeville owns a piece of success in keeping us together,” she states. But truly, it must be more than the landscape, a conviction the group clings to in this unprecedented year when the annual retreat is threatened by the pandemic. Rosalie Nadeau says that it is the “community of women,” that holds the group together, “It is a way to be yourself and make your voice in your art heard, and still be there to nurture the others. These are my friends on the Cape.” Carol Odell goes on to say, “I think it is the art that holds us together, really. We all come from a great variety of backgrounds and influences, and family dynamics. But we all share what it is like to try to be an artist, and create, and all the tribulations that go along with that. All of these people understand all of those things collectively, yet we all respect each other, even though we are all different.”

21 in Truro are:
Heather Blume, Laverne Christopher*, Michele Dangelo*, Jane Eccles, Maryalice Eizenberg, Sarah Fielding-Gunn*, Susan Hollis*, Martine Jore, Jane Lincoln*, Jerre Moriarity, Rosalie Nadeau*, Kate Nelson, Carol Odell, Julie Olander*, Suzanne Packer McGarr*, JoAnn Ritter*, M’lou Sorrin*, Lorraine Trenholm, Christie Velesig*, Linda Young*, Joyce Zavorskas*
* original member

Kate Nelson, an abstract artist credits most of the inspiration for her lyrical and colorful work to her ability to connect with the natural world. Her mastery for distilling the nuances of Mother Nature as well as human nature is reflected in her recipe (above) for what has kept the group together as they venture into their third decade.

Overall, it is clear, 21 women, each fall, gather together and feed the artistic landscape of the Cape with their recipe for success.

Julie Craven Wagner is the editor of Cape Cod ART.



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