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Georges Adéagbo's evolving exhibit 'Create To Free Yourselves: Abraham Lincoln and the History of Freeing Slaves in America' features his found object work amongst the pieces by Daniel Chester French. The exhibit runs through September.
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Adéagbo hopes to have a one-day exhibit at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
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West African Artist Brings New Perspective to Lincoln at Chesterwood

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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Artist Georges Adéagbo's installation will become part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of African Art in September.
STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — Chesterwood is having a singular artist's exhibition on display alongside Daniel Chester French's work for the first time in the museum's history. 
West African artist Georges Adéagbo's evolving exhibit "Create To Free Yourselves: Abraham Lincoln and the History of Freeing Slaves in America" opened Saturday and runs through Sept. 4.
The exhibit encourages people to see how they are limiting themselves because of external influences but it also about not letting these influences prevent them from doing something important, said Adéagbo.
"No one can make your life work. You are the only one who can make your life work," the artist said through his translator Stephan Kohler. 
"When you don't feel free, that's terrible, but also at the same time, look, of course, at the circumstances around you but also their circumstances within you."
Aside from the annual summer contemporary sculpture display on the nearly 200-acre property, the museum has not had visiting artists come in to exhibit their work, senior site manager Margaret Cherin said. 
In fact, the museum didn't have a gallery space for visiting artists. The multipurpose Morris Center, the estate's former garage, was renovated last year as an artist studio and gallery space. 
The renovations, including work at French's home, are part of the museum's efforts to establish an artist in residence program.
The Adéagbo works — inspired and influenced by Abraham Lincoln — have been arranged alongside and in communication with pieces by French, who is best known for the massive sculpture of the 16th president at the Lincoln Memorial.
Cherin said she knows French's work very well but seeing this exhibit has made her look at it in a whole new way and allowed her to make connections that she has never seen before. 
"To have someone from Africa respond in this way ... it's just been illuminating," Cherin said. "I still have a lot to take in because I've been working so hard with these guys that I haven't had a chance to really spend time with every panel and read every panel but I know once I do, the meanings will deepen for me."
The Lincoln Memorial is a cultural touchstone, Cherin said. More than 4 million people visit it every year and having this contemporary response to French's work brings the studio alive.
"One of the texts in the exhibition room says, 'the eyes can only perceive part of the truth,'" said Kohler. "So, you have to also perceive with your heart, the invisible so that's what he feels can be done through visual arts at a dimension of understanding."
The Beninese artist researched Lincoln on a Smithsonian fellowship two years ago; the resulting found-object works were exhibited earlier this year at President Lincoln's Cottage in Washington, D.C., as a collaboration between that museum and the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art.   
After the successful monthlong show, Adéagbo was welcomed to Chesterwood to view the original 6-foot plaster model of the Lincoln Memorial that went to the marble cutters on May 20, 1922.  
Bard College at Simon's Rock graduate and international student A'ssia Rai was able to assist with the installation, seeing how he incorporates each location.
She thought it important for area residents to experience the exhibit and see Lincoln from a very different perspective, noting the area is demographically very white.
"So, it's just very much alive as they are and what they are seeing, which is really cool," she said. "So it's really nice to have an outside perspective and just to come across a person very willing to look at this area and talk to what we hold dear when it comes to iconography and I guess symbols of power."
Adéagbo developed the installation using images gathered during his fellowship at the Smithsonian and working with Beninese artists. 
He continued the evolution of his work by creating new pieces using photos from Chesterwood's archives and incorporated objects from local tag sales, book stores and record stores. 
The objects in the exhibit include books, newspapers, handwritten notes, records and artwork.
The installation is like a court where the onlookers are the jury examining the evidence to form their own opinion, Adéagbo said. The history of the objects or their context creates a story. 
The installation will continue its evolution at the National Museum of African Art in September, as part of its permanent collection.
Adéagbo's goal is to have a one-day exhibit at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial.
For him, the artistic process is a form of self-liberation. 
"My work and my life are the same thing. Work talks about life and makes life visible," said Adéagbo. 
More information on the exhibit here

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Presumed Drowning of Minor Being Investigated

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Authorities are investigating the presumed drowning of a 14-year-old at Benedict Pond on Wednesday afternoon. 
According to Great Barrington Police, first responders received a 911 call shortly before 2 p.m. of a teen who was unaccounted for in the pond's beach area. 
The youth was found unresponsive in the water prior to emergency personnel arriving. Several people assisted in removing the victim from the water and CPR was immediately started. The victim was transported to Fairview Hospital, but lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful.  
The Berkshire District Attorney's Office is actively investigating the death of the minor. The victim's name has not been released and the office said more information would be provided in coming days pending the preliminary investigation results.
The State Police Detective Unit assigned to the DA's Office is overseeing the investigation.
Responders included local Police and Fire Departments, as well as Monterey Police and Fire, New Marlborough Ambulance and Southern Berkshire Ambulance Squad.
Benedict Pond is located within Beartown State Forest with access in Great Barrington and Monterey.
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