ANDOVER — The large banner hanging on the side of the Addison Gallery of American Art facing Route 28, which features a photo of a man embracing a younger member of his Innu tribe, is enough to grab your attention.
But it is words printed across the bottom that gets one thinking.
“If I were to tell you to forget everything you have ever been taught since birth, wouldn’t there be something missing in your life?”
There are 10 of these banners each featuring a different photo placed around the campus of Phillips Academy that bring attention to one of the Addison Gallery’s current exhibits “Pekupatikut Innuat Akunikana / Pictures Woke the People Up: An Innu Project with Wendy Ewald and Eric Gottesman.” The exhibit runs through Jan. 13 of next year.
This exhibition explores the culture of the Innu people of Labrador and the economic, social, and environmental challenges they have faced since their forced settlement in the 1960s through photography.
Allison Kemmerer, one of the curators at the gallery, said the banners are a way for people to learn about the Innu people.
Both artists are alumni of the former Abbot Academy and Phillips Academy. Abbot Academy was an all girls academy in Andover that merged with Phillips Academy in the 1970s.
The project began in 1969, when Ewald — who was 18 at the time and a recent graduate of Abbot Academy — traveled to the Innu reserve of Sheshatshiu in Labrador, Canada, to work with children who were adapting to the forced settlement of their community several years earlier.
Together with Ewald, the Innu children used Polaroid cameras to create a portrait of their changing community. Concerned by the continuing challenges faced by the Innu, Ewald along with Gottesman returned to Sheshatshiu in 2007 with Ewald’s pictures to engage in conversation about the issues still facing the community and embark on a series of new projects, according to
Featuring about 100 objects — including historic photographs, archival film footage and the 1969 photographs by Ewald and her Innu students, “Pekupatikut Innuat Akunikana” documents the artists’ and community’s efforts to use photography and video to revitalize Innu culture after forty years of friction and change.
“They are really expressive of where they were at that time,” Kemmerer said. “She told the children to take pictures of their community and families.”
Later, the artists worked with the entire community to create a series of large-scale banners based on the 1969 and 2007 photographs and installed them throughout their community, inspriing the banners to be installed for the exhibit.
This week, five members of the Innu community, along with artists Ewald and Gottesman, are at Phillips Academy to meet with classes and participate in a series of evening programs, including film screenings and readings.
The Addison Gallery of American Art, 180 Main St., is open to the public from Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m. The Gallery is closed on Mondays, national holidays, and December 24. Admission to all exhibitions and events is free.