Beginning Friday, May 6, Maine Farmland Trust Gallery and the Belfast Free Library will present photographs and writing from the Of Farms and Fables Project by Claire Guyer, in collaboration with Open Waters Theatre Arts from Portland.

The “Growing Stories” photographic exhibit will open with an artist’s reception at the MFT Gallery, 97 Main St., from 4 to 6 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., the public is invited to join cast members from the Of Farms and Fables project at Belfast Free Library, 106 High St., for a reading from early drafts of the script. This work-in-progress presentation will include a Q&A opportunity for audience feedback.

Of Farms and Fables, a project of Open Waters Theatre Arts, combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine.

The photographic exhibit at Maine Farmland Trust Gallery documents the process of the artists and farmers involved. Guyer, a Georges Valley High School grad, is company manager and dramaturge for the Of Farms and Fables project and the artist behind the camera. The photos in this show represent her effort to document the work she and her fellow artistic team members did over the course of the summer of 2010. In that 12-week period, the director, Jennie Hahn (also a GVHS grad), playwright Cory Tamler, resident actor Keith Anctil and Guyer worked on three small family owned farms: Broadturn Farm in Scarborough; Kay-Ben Farm in Gorham; and WH Jordan Farm in Cape Elizabeth.

“That work, along with historical and general research regarding farming in Maine, group storytelling workshops with farmers and farm workers and individual interviews served as a basis for our upcoming full-scale original production,” Guyer said.

For the exhibit, the photographs have been combined with blog posts, personal journal entries and excerpts from early drafts of the original script written by company playwright Tamler to create an intimate look at the development of this innovative project.

The company also has begun preparations for their full-scale production scheduled for October, featuring the acting talents of many farmers and farm workers involved in the initial work exchange. In an effort to further engage audiences in the artistic process and start a dialogue about the future of small family farms in Southern Maine, local actors and company members will be staging readings of early drafts of the script, such as the one set for the Belfast library.

Open Waters Theatre Arts is a community-based theater organization that focuses its efforts on social and economic issues relevant to a broad spectrum of Maine citizens.   Committed to enriching the performance culture of diverse communities across the State of Maine, Open Waters seeks to create opportunities for effective communication and cultural exchange through the production of theatrical events.  Open Waters has produced four public events since 2006 and has received support from the Maine Humanities Council, the Maine Arts Commission and the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust.

Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide nonprofit organization working to permanently preserve and protect Maine’s agricultural lands and to keep Maine’s farms farming. Maine Farmland Trust created its gallery to celebrate art in agriculture and to inspire and inform visitors regarding the vibrancy of farming in Maine.

The MFT gallery is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit mainefarmlandtrust.org.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to dernest@villagesoup.com.