A hot time in downtown as art takes to the streets
The temperature Thursday was nearly high enough to melt asphalt, but if the pavement beneath the feet of people crowding Main Street felt like it was moving it was likely from the high-octane fun rolling through downtown from Post Road to Elm Street.
Police closed the road to vehicular traffic for the opening night kick-off of the annual Art About Town, which turns downtown Westport into a linear indoor-outdoor art gallery that displays the work of 84 local artists in 73 store front windows and restaurant walls through mid-June.
"It's wonderful to walk around have children playing without having to worry about cars," said Eileen O'Reilly, whose daughter Esa, 5, created her own chalk art in a designated area on the street and on the exterior walls of a cardboard village, each structure covered in black construction paper.
Various stations along the route gave children the opportunity to use their own imagination to create works of art.
"I am amazed at the level of creativity. It reinforces how creative Westport is. Sometimes art is so isolating, but everybody shops so this is great exposure," said Westport artist Jana Ireijo, who painted with acrylics on canvas throughout the night.
"It's such a lovely community thing. It's a lovely town and this is a typical community happening," said Nicholas Clarke of Westport.
Sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association, the Art About Town street festival featured music by the Shiny Lapel Trio outside Bobby Q's BBQ & Grill, a drum circle lead by Randy Brody of Milford in front of Calypso, outdoor dining, dance performances in front of Allen Edmonds, street performers, and about a dozen artists demonstrating their talents.
"It's nice to have live music in my studio tonight," said East Hampton artist Josa Weatherwax, referring to her outdoor demo space in front of Loft. At formal galleries few people approach Weatherwax, but the more relaxed atmosphere on Main Street allowed for greater interaction with the public. Weatherwax was flexible enough to change her plan from one of painting in public to demonstrate her artistic process to youngsters.
She gave Ethan Shaw, 6, and his sister Sophia, 4, wooden squares and encouraged them to create their own works of art.
At age 5, Cameron Cooleen of Westport showed a sophisticated interest in art, while her twin Caleigh preferred more physically active challenges. Cameron sat Indian style on the street studying the work of Westport artist Sholeh Janati and then stood admiring the work of Ken Delmar, a Stamford artist who painted realistic portraits and vibrantly colored masks using sheets of paper towel rather than canvas.
"I liked the hula hooping and seeing the tall people," said Ryan Lucarelli, 6, of Westport. He got to high-five one of those tall performance artists, who looked like they were on stilts. Actually, they had their feet firmly planted on the ground and manipulated the costumes from inside, articulating the arms to interact with adults and children.
Other performers spent the night horizontally. Mark Mindek of Manhattan and Chriselle Tidrick of Brooklyn, members of the Alice Farley Dance Theater company, crawled on their bellies dressed as crabs. "It's really fun. The kids get caught up in the illusion of the creature," Tidrick said. Some adults did too.
"This was an unexpected treat for a Thursday night," said Rick Goldenberg of Weston. He and his wife stumbled upon the event by accident. They were away last week and assumed they had missed it.
The Art About Town event was postponed by a week because of the threat of dangerous storms. The only threat Thursday initially came from the unseasonable heat, which is more associated with August, but it cooled slightly by evening, allowing for a community celebration of the arts in all their forms.
Even those who were encapsulated in the crab costumes said it was not that bad. "It's actually okay if you don't roll into a part of the asphalt that's still hot from the sun," Tidrick said.
The juried exhibit continues through June 16, and is free and open to the public. The next event, Art Crawl 2013, a specially curated food and art tour, is scheduled for June 4 and requires tickets purchased in advance.
For more information regarding Art About Town and Art Crawl 2013, visit www.westportdma.com.or call 203-505-8716.