Viewing options include in-person with masks and social distancing, or online

FARMINGTON — As the University of Maine at Farmington’s Emery Community Arts Center Flex Space Gallery reopens to the public, it is fitting that its first exhibit will be close to the heart of rural Maine life.

The “Farm Tools Project,” a visual exploration of the use of hand tools on small farms by Michel Droge and Sarah Loftus, will be on display in the Emery Flex Space Gallery and on the Emery website from Aug. 31 to Oct. 1.

According to University Safe Return plans, gallery hours will initially be on a limited basis, and patrons are encouraged to check Emery’s website for updated open hours.,

All visitors are required to wear masks and maintain social distancing while in Emery and the Flex Space Gallery.

Over the last year artist Michel Droge and archaeologist Sarah Loftus traveled around the state with a portable cyanotype kit,  a 19th century form of non-toxic photography, creating images of tools with people in their fields, barns and greenhouses. They talked with farmers about their practices, the significance of the tools they choose to use, and how they engage with the earth to produce and harvest food.

As an archaeologist, Sarah has been researching American farming and the material culture of daily life for many years. Michel is a research based artist with a socially engaged practice that addresses the environment and climate change. They decided to collaborate to look at the material choices people make on small farms, the labor of it, and the objects they pick up each day to grow food and maintain sustainable relationships with the land. 

Tools are embedded with their own histories and stories, extensions of ourselves and partners in our complicated relationships with the world. They have their own animus, but also speak to humanity’s collective capacity for invention and ingenuity.

As with farming, cyanotypes are produced with sunlight and water and the ghostly beauty speaks to generational relationships with the land and the enduring resilience of small farms facing a suite of environmental, social and industrial challenges.

The exhibition is moving around the state and was at Maine Farmland Trust’s Gallery this winter.  Fifty percent of artwork sales proceeds will go to Real Farmer Care, which raises funds for self-care for farmers who need it, @realfarmercare. The remaining 50 percent will go towards publication of a book for the project.

The Farm Tools Project is funded in part by a grant from the Maine Arts Commission and by the Kindling Fund, a grant program administered by SPACE as part of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Regranting Program 


Black Kettle Farm, Lyman

Burke Hill Farm, Cherryfield

College of the Atlantic’s Peggy Rockefeller Farm, Mount Desert Island

Four Season Farm, Harborside

Frith Farm, Scarborough

Girard Farm, Lyman

Hurricane Valley Farm, West Falmouth

Ironwood Farm, Albion

Villageside Farm, Freedom

More information on the artists:

Michel Droge is a painter, printmaker and educator whose work engages with the environment and the human condition in an era of uncertainty.  Their public engagement projects involve field research and collaboration with conservation and environmental groups such as Maine Audubon Society and the Island Institute. They are a recipient of a Joan Mitchell Award and three Maine Arts Commission Grants. Their recent exhibitions include the Maine Audubon Society, University of Maine Machias, Bates College Art Museum, and The Cue Art Foundation in NYC. Michel has a BA from Oberlin College and an MFA from Maine College of Art. 

Sarah Loftus is an archaeologist at Northeast Archaeology Research Center in Farmington with a focus on the 19th and 20th century history of the United States and people’s relationships with the environment through material culture, labor and technology. She moved to Maine from Texas and spent two years working on vegetable and dairy farms as part of an ongoing interest in American farming. Sarah has an MA in Archaeology from University College London and a PhD in Anthropology from Syracuse University.