‘Chaos’ street festival a hit in Easthampton, draws over 3,000 in first outing

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — Sometimes, chaos can be a good thing.

This was the case Saturday when artists, a magician, stilt-walkers and children with painted faces were among the thousands who descended upon Cottage Street in Easthampton for the first “Cultural Chaos,” an all-day arts festival that included street art, outdoor concerts and performance artists. The festivities coincided with the city’s monthly Arts Walk and annual spring opening of Cottage Street Studios and drew a constant stream of visitors to the restaurants and other businesses downtown.

Burns Maxey, a festival organizer and head of the city’s arts organization, Easthampton City Arts Plus (ECA+), said she was pleased with the turnout.

The festival opened at 11 a.m. and by around 4 in the afternoon, she estimated that as many as 4,000 visitors had come through. It ran until 6 p.m. under sunny skies.

“It represents its name truly as cultural chaos,” she said.

Among the street artists was James Barry, who painted on records and sold finished paintings on canvases. Barry, of Easthampton, recently moved to the Valley from the central part of the state. He said he used to create street art in Boston, and while there was more foot traffic there than in the Valley, he found that fewer passers-by showed interest in his work in Boston.

“Ninety-five percent of people will walk by and won’t even turn their head to look at your art,” he recalled.

At the same booth was Eddy Hougen of Northampton, who painted monkeys on canvases.

He likes to play on the classic style of portraits using monkeys, he said. The monkeys he painted Saturday wore human clothing, such as suits — which he finds inspires people to imagine what the monkeys’ lives are like.

“They start to basically give them their own story,” he said.

A short walk down the sidewalk, Sam Jackson of Whately performed magic tricks for all ages.

“I really like to perform for adults, but the kids also love it,” he said.

As Kona Wasley, 6, watched carefully, Jackson seemingly made a card disappear by waving his hand over it.

“He must have went to Hogwarts,” remarked Kona’s mother, Kelly Laughton, of Easthampton.

Wandering around were several colorful stilt-walkers from Show Circus Studio, including Ukoiya Mastin, who carried a large feather and called herself the “tickle monster” — tickling adults and children alike.

Also drawing attention were several bicycle motocross, or BMX, riders who awed onlookers by soaring over ramps that were set up in the street.

Those in attendance were pleased to have an opportunity to not only see the art, but mingle with their fellow residents.

“The main thing, though, is just seeing everybody out,” said City Councilor Nathan Ziegler, as his daughter Ava, 4, grew antsy on his shoulders. They had recently come from Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream, where Ava had strawberry ice cream with whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry, Ziegler said.

Meanwhile, artists at 1 Cottage St. found the festivities drew more people to the open studios event.

“We’ve had a lot of new faces as well as old friends,” said Janna Ugone, who with Justin Thomas owns Ugone & Thomas, where they make ceramic lampshades, floor lamps, tables, accent furniture and other handmade items.

Thomas added that they were so busy that they had to make more lampshades earlier in the day.