Let's elect arts champions in Holyoke and Springfield

Let's elect arts champions in Holyoke and Springfield

Local elected leaders recognize how important opportunities for creative expression are for building strong communities. The National League of Cities, which provides resources, training, and support for municipalities, recently released a report showing that mayors across the country view arts and culture as important as employment opportunities and economic investment to a city or town's health.

That's obvious to anyone who has attended a concert or comedy show at the MassMutual Center, visited the new Dr. Seuss Museum, saw their child's artwork displayed in the lobby of their school, or sipped brews at White Lion Wednesdays this past summer. It's also obvious to the folks that have taken a tango class at Gateway City Arts or enjoyed a MIFA theatrical production...

Artist Kim Carlino finishes labor of love with 'Milton Bradley Deconstructed' mural on side of downtown Springfield building

Artist Kim Carlino finishes labor of love with 'Milton Bradley Deconstructed' mural on side of downtown Springfield building

SPRINGFIELD -- For Kim Carlino, a giant mural project on the exterior wall of a downtown business on Lyman Street had its challenges, but was a labor of love from start to finish.

"I love all of it," Carlino said. "The excitement of creating, the tediousness of hours and hours of touch-up, the struggle and fear of things not working out and the satisfaction of standing back and saying, 'I stood the course and look what it became.'"

Art Stop Pop-up Gallery Walk Returns to Downtown Springfield

The Springfield Central Cultural District (SCCD) announced the return of Art Stop, a pop-up gallery/street-festival hybrid on Wednesday, Aug. 2, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The district has partnered with venues downtown to open five galleries in unexpected spaces simultaneously. Between the galleries, which will have the typical artist talks, drinks, and appetizers, there will be street performances and other surprises. Art Stop was designed to both activate underutilized community spaces with colorful art and create economic opportunity for artists.

“Guests who attended Art Stop in April or last October will be pleased to see we’ve scaled the program up substantially,” SCCD Director Morgan Drewniany said. “In response to the feedback of our audience, we’ve added two new venues to the existing three spaces, to allow for more art and music.”

Galleries will be located at 1550 Main Street, New England Public Radio (NEPR), UMass Center at Springfield, Community Foundation of Western Mass., and TD Bank. Each individual gallery opening will feature a reception with food and drink, and the artist will be on site to both sell and talk about their work.

The SCCD, along with organizing the curation of art in all five spaces, has hired unique buskers to encourage attendees to walk from place to place. August’s performers are all focused on jazz, in celebration of the upcoming Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival on Saturday, Aug. 12. All five locations are accessible by foot or otherwise, located within a block of each other.

On the evening of Aug. 2, White Lion Wednesday, a program of the Springfield Business Improvement District, will be taking place in Tower Square Park, right in the middle of the gallery walk. Drewniany noted that “this is a great example of the work the SCCD does — bringing organizations, resources, and people together in a way that feels genuine to Springfield and its many assets.”

Cultural District Adding Color to Downtown Springfield with Painted Pianos and more

Your walk through the downtown area is getting a bit more musical and colorful thanks to the Springfield Central Cultural District.

Springfield Central Cultural District has been a nonprofit organization for about a year now. Its plan is to make the downtown area more comfortable and fun to walk around.

One of its initiatives is an Aug. 2 pop-up art walk. From 4:30-6 p.m. people can check out art displayed in downtown buildings, attend a jazz concert and even play pianos right outside. All ages are welcome.

Cultural district Director Morgan Drewniany believes art can bring the city together and increase the amount of walking downtown, whether it's people stopping to look at the painted utility boxes or artwork that school kids have done.

Three colorfully painted pianos were recently placed outside One Financial Plaza, the Springfield Public Schools office and the Market Place Shops. The pianos will be there for the public to play until September.

Inside the lobby of our schools office, at 1550 Main St., there is also artwork by students at The Springfield Renaissance School.

Megan Scaife, a junior at Renaissance whose drawing can be found in the lobby, said her inspiration came from Barry Moser's pen and ink drawing titled "Ephialtes," part of the revered Western Massachusetts artist's "Inferno" series.

In her piece, a self-portrait, Scaife highlighted the forehead and the heart. "My message is that you should always trust your brain and you should always trust your heart. To kind of connect with each other. You shouldn't just trust one or the other. You should use both to make every decision in your life," she said.

Also in her self-portrait, she's wearing a butterfly necklace; the necklace can always be found in her drawings. She received the butterfly necklace from her father at the age of seven from The Big E. "I love the whole idea of a butterfly, how it's in this little cocoon but it transforms into a beautiful butterfly," she said. "I believe anyone can do that."

Jack Devlan, who painted the piano found near the Market Place Shops, said, "I just brought down colors and went with it. I used a variety of tools to get my shapes and so forth."

The piano outside One Financial Plaza, 1350 Main St., was painted by Sheldon Smith. It's covered with gold seashells -- a play on the artist's first name. On the back of the piano Smith painted his son, Trevian Smith-Figueroa, because that's who inspired him to do the project and he happens to play the piano.

"Ideas are limitless. ... One day he ended up coming down and playing the piano so I figured that should be a feature," said Smith.

Smith loves the idea of the piano he painted being outdoors for the public to play. He said a security guard told him that a homeless man comes just about every night between the hours of 1-3 a.m. and just plays till he's tired. Smith believes the project's goal of bringing people together is exactly what's happening.