Art — Looking for a crowd? Just add art

Looking for a crowd? Just add art

By Michelle Saturley

Visual arts becoming major draw for downtown happenings

If you plan on attending the Jazz & Blues Festival or the Strawberry Shortcake Festival this summer, you might be surprised to find local artists painting right alongside the musicians and food vendors.

All over the Queen City the visual arts are being incorporated into some of the summer’s biggest events.

“We were looking to add some ambience to our noontime performance series,” said Sue Butler of Intown Manchester. “It was actually Mayor Baines who suggested inviting local artists to come out for the concerts and do live demonstrations while the music is going on.”

Because of Baines’ suggestion, Intown issued a call to artists to participate in the summer concert series, which began June 1 at City Hall Plaza. Local painters and photographers Jeff and Debbie Ford will be the first artists to try out the new venue, June 3 at noon.

Vermay DeRossi, cultural administrator at the Manchester Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that arts advocates in the city have been pushing toward this trend for quite some time.

“When I was over at Art Builds Community with Jessica Kinsey, we had a lot of ideas, along with other organizations, on how to add the element of visual arts to certain events,” she said. “The one that comes to mind first is the Strawberry Shortcake Festival.”

Last year was the first time the Friends of the Valley Cemetery added the art element to the mix, and it was well-received, by attendees and artists involved. In fact, the event marked the emergence of local artist James Chase, who has since gone on to join the Manchester Artists Association and has been featured in several area shows.

“I think, for new and emerging artists, attaching yourself to a cultural event like the Jazz and Blues Festival, or the Mill City Festival, is a cost-effective way of getting your work out into the community,” DeRossi said. “A lot of these artists cannot afford the fees involved in mounting a show at a traditional gallery.”

“I think artists add a certain ambience to these events,” Butler said. “It draws out the art lovers in the community who otherwise might skip a music-based event. Conversely, it also exposes people who normally don’t consider themselves fans of visual arts to some of the great things that are going on in the city.”

- Michelle Saturley

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