“Telling Seventeenth-Century New England Stories Through the Archives”

A panel presentation in celebration of 25 years of the
Creative and Performing Artists and Writers Fellowship Program

Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT

Approx. 75 minutes

This online event is free, but registration is required.
You will be sent an email with a link and instructions on how to join the event upon registration.


Artists can often provide a unique perspective on our understanding of the past, moving beyond an intellectual understanding of the facts and their meanings to an exploration of sensations and emotions. As we commemorate two significant anniversaries—that of the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620 and the start of our own Creative and Performing Artists and Writers Fellowship program in 1995—we have asked three artists, all of whom have created works exploring life in seventeenth-century New England from varying perspectives, to discuss their work, their creative processes, and their experiences conducting research in the archives.

About the AAS Creative and Performing Artists and Writers Fellowships

In 1995, the American Antiquarian Society began what was then a unique program: to hold competitions to bring artists and writers of all disciplines into the library to conduct research for original, non-formulaic works of visual arts, performances, and fiction and non-fiction writing designed for non-academic audiences. Since that time, the Society has sponsored 118 fellows who have produced an astonishing variety of works. We are celebrating the first quarter-century of this program with a special website exhibition, a series of blog posts, and public programs, of which this is the first.


The panelists include:

Annie Bissett

Annie Bissett will discuss two historically based projects. The first is We Are Pilgrims, a series of fifteen woodblock prints centering on the lives of the earliest colonial settlers of New England. As a Mayflower descendant, the work is personal to Bissett, but it is also a response to the nation’s public discourse about what it means to be American, who gets to be American, what our earliest founders intended for the country, and what their lives might mean to us now, 400 years later.

The second project, Almanack, is an in-progress exploration of early American almanacs and science books that Bissett studied during her 2015 fellowship at AAS. Prior to that fellowship, Bissett confessed she had thought that seventeenth- and eighteenth-century colonial understanding of science was more “modern” than it apparently was, and she became fascinated by various religious and astronomical references pertaining to weather and matters of health. For each print she combines a scientific definition from the colonial period with woodcut images from almanacs.

Annie Bissett is a printmaker living in Providence, Rhode Island. After working as a freelance digital illustrator, in 2005 she studied briefly with woodblock artist Matt Brown and soon afterward began pursuing printmaking full time. Her woodblock prints have been exhibited throughout the United States and in Canada, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Bissett’s work has received critical attention in Printmaking Today, The Stranger, and the Washington Post. She is on the teaching staff at Zea Mays Printmaking, Florence, Massachusetts. Her work can be viewed on her website.


Diane Glancy

During her July 2020 fellowship at AAS, Diane Glancy wrote “New England Indians,” a section of Quadrille, a book about the intersection of Native history and Christianity. The 1663 Indian Bible was the first Bible published in America. The Reverend John Eliot worked for fourteen years translating the sixty-six books of the Bible into Algonquian with the help of four Native men—Cockenoe, James Printer, John Sassamon, and Job Nesuton—who received little acknowledgment for their work. “What was it like?”— is the question which began her research and creative process.

Diane Glancy is a prolific, award-winning writer of poetry and prose and professor emerita at Macalester College. Among her many honors are two lifetime achievement awards, from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas (2014) and the Oklahoma Center for the Book (2016). Her latest book, Island of the Innocent, a consideration of the Book of Job, was published by Turtle Point Press in 2020. She currently teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Carlow University. A full list of her books and awards are available on her website.


TaraShea Nesbit

During her 2018 fellowship at AAS, TaraShea Nesbit conducted research for her second novel, Beheld, which reframes the story of the Pilgrims in the voices of two women of very different status and means. In this novel Nesbit evokes a vivid, ominous Plymouth, populated by famous and unknown characters alike, each with conflicting desires and questionable behavior. Beheld is about a murder and a trial, and the motivations―personal and political―that cause people to act in unsavory ways. It is also an intimate portrait of love, motherhood, and friendship that asks: Whose stories get told over time, who gets believed―and subsequently, who gets punished?

Nesbit is an assistant professor of fiction and nonfiction at Miami University. Her second novel, Beheld, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and an Indies Next Pick for April 2020. Her first novel, The Wives of Los Alamos, was a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, an Indies Choice Debut Pick, and winner of two New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. Her essays have been featured in Granta, Lit Hub, The Guardian, Salon, and elsewhere. Read more about Nesbit’s work on her website.

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