Art — Manchester Art In 2004

Manchester Art In 2004


By Michelle Saturley


Abstract shows, collaborations graced the 2004 scene


The last 12 months could have been called The Year of Ceramics. Manchester’s art scene was all about the clay this year, from the Currier’s jaw-dropping exhibit, Creations in Clay: Contemporary New England Ceramics to New Hampshire Institute of Art’s first ever Ceramics Biennial, a national juried competition which brought in an overwhelming number of applicants. The Currier show featured new works by “Pottery god” Don Campbell, among others. The NHIA show assembled pieces by emerging clay artists from as far away as California.

Then again, 2004 could be noted as the year abstract art finally broke out in the Queen City. Manchester’s art lovers took a quantum leap forward this year, attending such cutting-edge shows as the digital photography exhibits by local artists Lynda Elliott and teacher/artist extraordinaire Harry Umen. Elliott’s works were featured in a solo show at E.W. Poore, while Umen’s new work was the subject of a show at Southern New Hampshire University.

Even traditional artists got in on the act: East Colony Fine Arts member artists were challenged with the “Tradition Gone Wild” show to take a piece of theirs and give it an abstract makeover.

At the Manchester Artists Association’s annual Art in the Park show in September, the winner of the “Best in Show” award was a 22-year-old abstract artist named James Chase. And finally, the City Arts Commission made a bold statement in December, by selecting abstract artist Jessica Van Daam as their artist in residence at City Hall. If there was any question about the place of abstract art in the city’s art landscape, those questions were answered in 2004.

We also had to say goodbye to some friends along the way in 2004: Art Builds Community was effectively disbanded due to funding issues, which meant that their fabulous gallery closed its doors. Before the gallery folded, they managed to reach out to the arts community and put on some memorable shows, including exhibits by newcomer Kathryn Dean, a two-person show by Stephanie Bergeron and Ann Trainor Domingue, and a showcase of the Currier Art Center’s Open Studio students. For a brief time, ABC’s gallery really showed the communal spirit of the city’s artists.

Also leaving us in 2004 was the Hot Couch, a teen art center and hangout spot on Elm Street. It’s already been replaced by a cigar shop, but its mission of creating a safe haven for creative expression among the under-21 set is sorely missed.

Some of the biggest art events of the year included the Strawberry Shortcake Festival at the Valley Cemetery. This was the first year the Friends of the Valley Cemetery invited artists to become part of the event, with big results. The Jazz and Blues Festival also added an art show to their festivities. The Art in the Park outdoor show at Veterans Park drew one of the biggest crowds in the history of the event. The same could be said for this winter’s Holiday Renaissance at Langer Place.

In 2005, the gallery to watch is the Manchester Artists Association’s new gallery, located at the Carol Rines center on north Elm Street. Their first show of the year is collaboration with the students of the Open Studio project. This new gallery features new works by some of the area’s best artists, both established and emerging. They have the potential to fill in the gap left by the Art Builds Community Gallery — and with the community’s support, they could really be something special.

—Michelle Saturley

2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH