Blueway Alliance looks to forge artistic community

As Kathleen Jacobs sees it, creating art is often a solitary exercise — great for concentration and building on one’s creativity, but not so good when it comes to sharing ideas with other artists and the public.

Now she’s finding ways to give artists more exposure — both with the public and with one another.

A longtime painter who lives in Florence, Jacobs, who earned her BFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is the founder of the Blueway Art Alliance, a nonprofit group she formed last year that’s dedicated to giving artists more exposure through workshops, lectures, poetry readings and other events, as well as through collaborative shows and events with other arts organizations.

Jacobs also believes there’s an important role for area artists to play in sharing their views on society through their work. Climate change, for instance, is a big concern for her, and it’s a subject she addresses through her oil and watercolor landscape paintings, most of which she works on outside, en plein air.

“It’s not only important for artists to have a voice,” Jacobs said. “I think it’s also important for other people to see and feel the things that are happening through the lens of contemporary artists.”

The Blueway Alliance, she notes, is founded on the idea that a society that’s involved with artists and educational programs for the arts is one that can be more hopeful and sustainable. The name itself is a reference to the 2012 designation of the Connecticut River Valley and watershed as America’s first national “Blueway.”

In a recent interview at the Florence studio of painter David Brewster, who splits his time between the Valley and Vermont, Jacobs talked about what she’s worked on so far and her plans for the future. For one thing, she sublets Brewster’s studio space — in the Arts & Industry building on Pine Street — for use for various workshops; figurative painting, wood sculpture and watercolor painting were all covered last fall.

“The events are open to all skill levels,” she said.

Jacobs has also forged a connection with the Oxbow Gallery in Northampton, an artists’ collective, and brought a number of speakers there, including some from outside the area. Brewster will give a lecture there in May. A nationally noted painter who works on site — he specializes in large, semi-abstract canvasses of industrial and urban scenes and rural landscapes — Brewster also has a show scheduled at Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery April 15 through May 15.

“David is a fantastic painter, but many people around here don’t know of his work,” Jacobs said. “He’s a good example of the kind of artist I want to work with.”

For his part, Brewster said he’s happy to work with Jacobs and be part of an effort to build more community between artists and the public.

“We tend to get caught up in our own work, so when you can engage with a bigger audience, it’s great,” he said.

Jacobs has also co-curated a new painting exhibit at the Herter Gallery at UMass, “50 Shades of Red,” that’s been organized by Herter director Trevor Richardson and the director of the university’s Hampden Gallery, Anne LaPrade Seuthe. (See accompanying story)

In addition to doing her own painting and giving lessons, Jacobs has a background in arts administration; she’s worked with groups on Cape Cod and currently handles marketing and communications for the Concord Center for the Visual Arts. She says that background, coupled with the connections she made from her days as a graduate student in art at Lesley University in Cambridge, has allowed her to enlist artists from across the Northeast to lead events and workshops with Blueway Alliance. Also helping the group is administrative coordinator Karen Arnold.

In the future, Jacobs said, “Hopefully we’ll have a permanent location and a place to meet. But for now we’ll keep building on what we’ve done so far.”

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

To learn more about Blueway Art Alliance and upcoming events, visit at bluewayartalliance.org.