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Doing up the town with art and culture: Amherst joins the state’s 2019 ArtWeek project with a range of events

  • The colorful artwork on the “Amherst BID Trolley” will be on display during ArtWeek 2019 in Amherst. Image courtesy Amherst Downtown Cultural Council

  • Live mural painting take places at Bistro 63 on May 2 as part of ArtWeek 2019 in Amherst. Image courtesy Amherst Downtown Cultural Council

  • Now you see them, now your don’t: ArtWeek includes the creation of sidewalk “rain poems” that only appear when the pavement is wet. Image courtesy Amherst Downtown Cultural Council

  • Painters of all levels can try their hand at recreating Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Petunias” at AmherstWorks. Image courtesy Amherst Downtown Cultural Council

  • The Amherst High School Jazz Combo performs at Gallery A3 as part of ArtWeek. Image courtesy Amherst Downtown Cultural Council

  • Painter/printmaker Margaret Jean Taylor — her “Summer Shadows” is seen here — and painter Nancy Meagher will discuss their work at Gallery A3 on April 25 as part of ArtWeek.  Image courtesy Amherst Downtown Cultural Council



Staff Writer
Thursday, April 25, 2019

It started in 2013 with an initiative by Boston’s Boch Center, a nonprofit arts organization that runs the Wang and Shubert theatres in the city and sponsors numerous workshops and community activities connected to the arts.

The idea: create an annual “ArtWeek” in Boston that would feature myriad artistic workshops, hands-on experiences and other events that could offer behind-the-scenes access to city artists and the creative process.

In 2017, the Boch Center encouraged other communities in the state to begin taking part in the event — and in 2019, Amherst has jumped feetfirst into the project.

Amherst’s ArtWeek 2019, which actually runs for 11 days — April 25 to May 5 — will feature a wide range of mostly free events: mural painting, storytelling, writing workshops, music, sidewalk poetry, gallery and architecture tours, a lesson in the “art” of making a tasty taco and more.

The festival, timed to coincide with Amherst’s next Arts Night Plus on May 2, is hosted by the Amherst Center Cultural District, which has combined forces with other organizations in town to put together the events: the Amherst Public Art Commission, the Emily Dickinson Museum, the Mead Museum at Amherst College, the Jones Library, the Amherst History Museum and others.

A number of downtown businesses, such as AmherstWorks, Laughing Dog Bicycles and Bistro 63, are also on board.

“I think we were able to make a lot of connections for this project because some of our roles overlap,” said Eric Broudy, a photographer who chairs the town’s Public Arts Commission and is also vice president of Amherst’s Cultural District.

Last fall, Broudy and Ann Tweedy, communications director of Amherst’s Business Improvement District (BID) — another contributor to the town’s ArtWeek project — attended an information session hosted by Boch Center officials and came away with ideas of how Amherst might get involved. Broudy also noted that since Amherst, like Easthampton and Northampton, has a state-recognized cultural district, organizers were able to secure a $5,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Commission to use (primarily) for promoting ArtWeek.

Artist Amy Crawley, head of Amherst Arts Night Plus, said artists and many businesses in town responded favorably to the idea. “We’ve reached out to different organizations about making space available, and so now the Amherst History Museum will be hosting a sale of artists’ surplus supplies on their lawn on April 28.”

Other towns in the region are hosting events as part of ArtWeek, though not to the extent that Amherst is. A mural painting of abolitionist Sojourner Truth is scheduled in Florence April 26-28, for instance, and Silverthorne Theater Company of Greenfield and the Deerfield Valley Art Association are hosting a workshop exploring the links between photography and playwriting.

Broudy and Crawley noted that Amherst hosted a few events last year as part of ArtWeek, but nothing on the scale of the 2019 version. Though it’s too soon to say whether the town might try to make this an annual event, Broudy said, he noted that highlighting the arts at such a scale is a good way to bring people to town and to its businesses: “It’s just a nice way of showing what makes Amherst special.”

Here are some highlights for Amherst’s ArtWeek; events are free unless noted otherwise.

 

Friday, April 26, 7-9 p.m., Laughing Dog Bicycles — At “Found in Amherst,” poets, performers and storytellers such as Olivia Holcomb, Elliot Hartmann-Russell and others will offer a mix of tales, poems, and ideas around the theme of things that have been discovered in Amherst — like a reading by author Corwin Ericson of interesting items culled from the police log in the Amherst Bulletin. All attendees are invited to participate at the event, which will also include a display of artifacts, artwork, zines and journals, as well as ephemera found in town center.

Saturday, April 27, 2-4 p.m., Of Note Stationers — Remember the less-frantic days before cell phones and email? Or maybe that sounds like ancient history? To revisit (or experience) that time, and the former practice of actually writing a card or letter, Of Note Stationers is hosting “a mindful letter writing practice” in which participants will share a meditation, enjoy tea, and get started on writing to friends, family members or others.

The event includes postage for one card and some extra “take-home” cards for help in keeping up the practice of writing letters. Please RSVP at www.eventbrite.com/e/connecting-through-writing-tickets-59229409759.

Wednesday, May 1, 6:30-9 p.m., AmherstWorks — Painter and art teacher Teri Magner leads a “BYOB Wine & Painting event” that includes some art history as well as instruction in individual technique. No prior painting experience is necessary. For this evening, the featured painting is Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Petunias.”  A $30 fee includes all instruction, materials, equipment and snacks.

Thursday, May 2, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Eric Carle Museum — The South Amherst museum of picture book art boasts over 7,000 items in its collection, only a small percentage of which can be seen on display. A behind-the-scenes tour will look at all the Carle’s current exhibitions but also at items in the collection archives. The tour is free with museum admission, but reservations are required and limited to 20 people. Call (413) 559-6336 to reserve a spot.

Thursday, May 2, 5-8 p.m., Visitors Information Center at 35 South Pleasant Street — Check out the colorfully painted “Amherst BID Trolley,” which has been designed by Phool Patti, a group of artists from Karachi, Pakistan as a classic example of Pakistani “truck art,” with iconic images of both Pakistan and Amherst. Information on the imagery and expressions on the trolley will be available, and Urdu writers will translate visitors’ names into the calligraphic Urdu script. 

And also from 5-8 p.m. on May 2 at Bistro 63, visitors can enjoy live mural painting by local artists Ian Macpherson and Alula Shields on the restaurant’s south side. Music and food will also be available.

Other events during ArtWeek include a performance by the Amherst High School Jazz Combo at Gallery A3; writing workshops at the Emily Dickinson Museum; an architecture tour of Amherst led by architect and town councilor Stephen Schreiber; a “Star Wars”-themed art workshop for kids at the Jones Library; and a visit by Santo Taco to the Amherst Farmer’s Market on May 4, at which the street vendor will offer a special plate inspired by famed painter Frida Kahlo.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

For more informayion on Amherst’s ArtWeek events, visit amherstdowntown.com/amherst-center-cultural-district/artweek-2019/