This film was part of the 2017 Camden International Film Festival

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J. Fred Woell: An American Vision

“J. Fred Woell: An American Vision captures the essence of a man who believed deeply in the power of the creative spirit. As an artist he was an innovator and a rule-breaker. As a teacher he encouraged his students to make their own discoveries. It’s appropriate to have American featured in the title of this film, for Fred’s vision was uniquely American: he had a deep belief in democratic ideals combined with common-sense ingenuity in making work or repairing the world around him. While he could see the inconsistencies and flaws of his own country, he could also evoke in us our potential to make a better world. For Fred, making that better world began with his hands in the studio. In this inspiring film we are fortunate to witness a part of that journey.” Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s Poet Laureate and Chair, American Craft Council

Fred Woell is an icon in the American Craft Movement coming on the scene in the early 1960s just as crafts was becoming much more inclined towards fine art and much more revolutionary. Today, Woell's political statements through his art are every bit contemporary, even prescient. The film follows Woell for six years through his teaching at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, ME, and their adult and high school mentorship programs, and places him in a rightfully significant place as the one artist who opened the door to using found objects to comment on the times. Through interviews with both historic and contemporary top curators, artists and writers we learn of this political artist’s belief system: to protect the environment, to fight against fascism, to respect all humanity particularly the native peoples. Placing him in the context of the history of American crafts are interviews with Paul Smith (curator and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, NY), Helen Drutt (Philadelphia gallerist and curator), and Glenn Adamson (former director of the Museum of Arts and Design, NY). Other interviews include political writer/artist Robert Shetterly (Americans Who Tell the Truth), and other longtime friends and associates including Patricia Wheeler (Fred’s wife and artist), and several top US metalsmiths: Eleanor Moty, Claire Sanford, Tim McCreight, Jim Cotter, and Sarah Doremus.

As an artist who believed in the power of art to call attention to attitudes and issues of the day, the film goes well beyond the interest of other artists. His is a politically progressive story that calls upon all of us to make a better world.

Film Details

Title: J. Fred Woell: An American Vision
Year: 2017
Director: Richard Kane
Producer: Richard Kane, Robert Shetterly
Country: USA
Runtime: 33 mins
Category: Dirigo Docs

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