Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyBI-PARTISAN BRAINCHILD OF LIBERAL SENATORS UNTHINKABLE TODAY

  • Sun, 22 Jun 2014 11:14:28    Permalink

     Another excellent opening last night at Flatrocks Gallery. This one was called "Series" and it presented the work of three artists, each of whom explore a single subject from a single vantage point numerous times. I'll spare you the art history riff, but will tell you that we had a great party. And we got a nice writeup in the Boston Sunday Globe this morning. The show was particularly meaningful to me because it featured the work of Tim Harney, an artist I'd worked with 37 years ago.
    I don't know how many people remember the CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) program. It was launched in 1973 as a bi-partisan brainchild of liberal senators unthinkable today. Although it was intended to provide job training and work experience for young people, like a continuation of the WPA, it was widely considered to be a commie dole, an abuse of the already broken welfare system, and a free handout to hippies and other social undesirables. These timeless sentiments were as powerful then as they are now. CETA only lasted 9 years.
    Fortunately for me, the program came to Gloucester in 1977, as “The Gloucester Arts and Humanities Project.” They weren't training fishermen! I applied and, since I was sufficiently poor, had a good proposal, and was friends with the director, I was accepted. My proposal was to update and complete a bibliography of Cape Ann literature. There were about a dozen other artists, writers, and film makers in the Gloucester Arts and Humanities project, mostly novices and wannabes, all involved in similarly "cultural" activities. The fact that we received weekly paychecks did nothing to allay local suspicions that we were a bunch of hippies, social undesirables, and commies, pigging out at the government trough.
    We CETA workers, however, took ourselves seriously. I had just started out in the book business, and had read enough to know who Jacob Blankwas. I found an old wooden paint box, fitted it out to hold index cards (as I imagined Blanck had done when compiling his monumental Bibliography of American Literature) and started looking for Gloucester books.My search took me to all the excellent libraries in the areaand my efforts were rewarded. It turned out there were lots of books, maps and pamphlets about Cape Ann – hundreds and hundreds, to be imprecise - and I handled each and every one of them. I recorded on my index cards salient facts about the publication of each item, gave a physical description of it, and composed a brief narrative summary of its contents. The aspiring bibliographer and his boxThen I typed all my index cards in alpha lists arranged topically by the Dewey Decimal System and, several hundred pages and nine months later, out popped the Bibliography of Cape Ann Literature. (only the short title listing is shown in this link).
    The instructors at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar  are always telling their students, “Listen to the book!” And boy, did I ever listen to the book in 1977. In fact, since I didn't have the benefit of an apprenticeship or a learning experience like CABS, the way I learned the rudiments of my trade was by handling hundreds of books, maps and pamphlets about Cape Ann.
    The thing about meeting Tim Harney again was that he was one of the artists in the Gloucester Arts and Humanities project back in the day. He was a kid like me, and he'd wanted to be an artist as badly as I'd wanted to be a bookman. And now, here we were, 37 years later. An artist and a bookman.
    As we reminisced about that year we'd spent together, we realized that a good percentage – eight or nine out of that gang of wannabe writers, film makers, and artists – did, in fact, turn out to be professionals in their fields. The CETA program, in Gloucester anyway, had been a success. And Gloucester was a better place for it. My old pal Tim Harney Next week - Viva Las Vegas!

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