‘Feels like the ship has righted itself’: Amherst arts festival brings out participants, audience

  • Bandleader Jeff Gavioli conducts the Bad News Jazz and Blues Orchestra to kick off the Amherst Center Cultural District’™s “A Celebration of the Arts,” Sunday, on the Town Common in Amherst. FOR THE GAZETTE/Sabato Visconti

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    Musicians Ed Cohen, Josh Thomson, Peter DiRocco, and Pat Kennedy, members of the Bad News Jazz and Blues Orchestra Trumpet Section, perform a classic Blues song during their opening set for the Amherst Center Cultural District’s "A Celebration of the Arts Event," held at the Amherst common Sunday in Amherst, MA Sabato Visconti—Copyright.2021

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    Artist Nayana LaFond of Northampton discusses her piece "Leesha in RED," which is part of an ongoing series of paintings based on selfies of Indigenous people. LaFond seeks to honor her Anishinaabe heritage and to raise awareness of the ongoing epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the U.S., during the Amherst Center Cultural District’s "A Celebration of the Arts Event" Sunday at the town common in Amherst, MA. Sabato Visconti—Copyright.2021

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    Artist Gillian Haven of Pelham talks about her paintings of local landscapes during a "A Celebration of the Arts Event" hosted by the Amherst Center Cultural District, Sunday at the Amherst common in Amherst, MA. Sabato Visconti—Copyright.2021

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    Artist Blacksmith Theodore Hinman of Greenfield demonstrates his cold forging and repoussé techniques, hammering a brass leaf that will be part of an upcoming sculpture exhibit at the Park Hill Orchard, during the Amherst Center Cultural District’s "A Celebration of the Arts Event" held on the Amherst town common, Sunday in Amherst, MA. Sabato Visconti—Copyright.2021

Staff Writer
Published: 6/27/2021 8:12:37 PM

AMHERST — A festival of the arts and music was held on the Town Common Sunday, in what was one of the first in-person shows since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for many of the artists and performers there.

“After the pandemic it’s nice to see,” said Ann Tweedy, chairwoman of the Amherst Center Cultural District Steering Committee, a chief organizer of the event.

The celebration took place from noon to 6 p.m. and featured paintings, metalworking, live music and photography. Entrance to the festival was free, as was the water that was handed out in the hot weather.

Another organizer of the event was the Amherst Cultural Council.

“It feels like the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Leah Neuburger, a rising junior at Amherst High School and a student member of the Cultural Council, of the event.

The opening act on stage at the celebration was Jeff Gavioli and his Bad News Jazz and Blues Orchestra. It was the group’s second show since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Gavioli, the bandleader and the group’s founder, said that playing in front of a live audience that’s appreciative of their craft “brings out the best in all the musicians.”

“The crowd was great,” Gavioli said.

He said he took an extended break from playing during the pandemic.

“I put the horn down for all of last summer,” he said.

Gillian Haven grew up in South Amherst and now lives in Pelham. A painter, many of her works feature noticeable local landmarks, such as Mount Norwottuck. Some of her paintings are also painted on denim that was once worn by her children.

“After everyone being a hermit for so long, it’s real great to be out,” Haven said.

Shoshana King was selling both homemade soap and notecards that feature her photography.

King said she started making soap in the pandemic because her son was using a lot of soap and there was a soap shortage. She has a friend who has goats, and she makes her soap using olive oil and goat’s milk.

“People started asking for it,” King said.

King also expressed happiness at being out around people and selling art.

“Feels like the ship has righted itself,” she said.

Theodore Hinman, an artist and blacksmith, was doing some cold forging work at the festival, making leaves out of brass. The wares he and his wife, Armene Margosian, were selling included fishhooks, hand-forged knives, drop-line fishing rigs, and tins.

Margosian said this was their first show since the pandemic started.

“We haven’t gone to a festival in two years,” she said.

Some of Hinman’s sculptures will also be seen at Art In The Orchard in Easthampton later on this year.

Nayana LaFond was selling prints of paintings in her “Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls” series, as well as paintings and prints of her COVID-19 inspired work.

“It’s really nice to actually be able to be face to face and not have a mask on and talk to people and interact and not be in fear,” LaFond said.

LaFond is of indigenous descent, and proceedes from her print sales will go to help fund a tour of some of the paintings in the series. Any excess profits will go to the families of missing and murdered indigenous women, she said.

LaFond said the pandemic allowed her to focus on her art, and she made 70 paintings in 2020.

“It gave me the incubation and the platform because I realized everyone was online,” she said.

Afri(K)que Limited, a local nonprofit, was also in attendance. The nonprofit does events that empower women and girls in western Massachusetts and it also sells art from women in the nation of Togo to help get them out of poverty.

“Everybody’s so welcoming to us,” said Karina Dise, the nonprofit’s founder.

The group also did a storytelling performance showing how stories are told in Togo.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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