Easthampton’s Cultural Chaos adding floating sculpture exhibit to street art fest

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  • Pamela Matsuda-Dunn of Easthampton, left, directs the placement of her floating sculpture, “The Urchin in the Pond,” in between the two boats on Nashawannuck Pond on Wednesday in advance of Cultural Chaos this Saturday. Helping with the installation are Russell Braen, who volunteered the use of his boat, and brothers Sam and Casey Douglass, left and right in kayak, all of Easthampton. The brothers had just finished anchoring Casey’s sculpture, “Phoenix Bear,” at left. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton City Arts Coordinator Pasqualina Azzarello helps Russell Braen create an anchor for one of the floating sculptures being installed on Nashawannuck Pond on Wednesday in advance of Cultural Chaos this Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Russell Braen of Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton, uses his boat to drop an anchor in Nashawannuck Pond on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, that will secure one of four floating sculptures in advance of Cultural Chaos this Saturday. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    Pamela Matsuda-Dunn of Easthampton, ferried onto Nashawannuck Pond by Russell Braen, left, also of Easthampton, prepares to drop an anchor for her floating sculpture on Wednesday, June 8, 2022. Behind them is "Phoenix Bear" by Casey Douglass of Easthampton, one of four artists featured in the floating installation. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

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    Artists, from left, Casey Douglass and Pamela Matsuda-Dunn, both of Easthampton, and Robert Osborne of Athol pose for a photo by Easthampton City Arts Coordinator Pasqualina Azzarello at Nashawannuck Pond after the first of four floating sculptures was installed on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, in advance of Cultural Chaos this Saturday. Behind them is "Phoenix Bear" by Douglass. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2022 7:10:40 PM
Modified: 6/9/2022 7:08:33 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Cultural Chaos is making its triumphant return to the city’s downtown this weekend with its first-ever floating sculpture exhibition at Nashawannuck Pond.

The festival will be held this Saturday, June 11, from noon to 5 p.m.

Sponsored by Galaxy restaurant, the floating sculpture exhibition was originally planned for the 2020 event.

Casey Douglass, owner of Galaxy, had contacted Easthampton City Arts Coordinator Pasqualina Azzarello with the idea for the exhibit in 2019. Azzarello said that while she was able to secure permission to hold the unique exhibition that November, the 2020 event was canceled.

“We’re so thrilled to be able to have the event once again and finally be able to reveal this beautiful idea and bring this vision to life,” she said. “This has been a really hard two years, so this is really meaningful to be able to celebrate art and artists.”

The Easthampton street art festival, launched in 2014 and typically held on the second Saturday in June, has been canceled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, Azzarello said, the daylong event has brought more than 10,000 people to Cottage Street.

The event was initially designed to draw people to the Cottage Street Cultural District, which was officially designated by the state as such in 2012, according to Pat Brough, chair of the Cottage Street Cultural Street Committee.

“With an unintentional two-year break for the event, we’ve worked to remember where all the pieces go to maintain that vibe it’s held in years past, while presenting new things that keep people engaged,” Brough said.

In addition to sponsoring the unique exhibition, Douglass is one of the four exhibitors. Each sculpture has the ability to move with the wind in the water, but is anchored in the pond.

Douglass’ sculpture, “Phoenix Bear,” took hundreds of hours to create. It’s constructed out of styrofoam takeout boxes from his restaurant that are pieced together with spray foam and carved to create a large bear with wings.

When Douglass first moved to the area in 1998, a real estate agent mentioned that there was housing available in Easthampton, but told him that he didn’t feel comfortable coming into the city. The “Phoenix Bear,” he says, represents how Easthampton has risen. At nighttime, the bear is lit up.

His hope is that people take a moment to embrace the beauty of Nashawannuck Pond.

Another artist featured in the exhibition is Pamela Matsuda-Dunn. Her sculpture, “The Urchin in the Pond,” is constructed out of a repurposed sculpture that was featured at the 2019 Art in the Orchard Biennial at Park Hill Orchard.

“This is what happens when an artist asks you something, because it stimulates other thoughts of creativity. I’ve never created anything like this before,” Matsuda-Dunn said.

The sculpture’s materials include pool noodles, Mylar emergency blankets, glass beads and PEX pipes, which is a cross-linked polyethylene tubing used for water supply systems.

Also new this year is the first-ever stage of dance (on land) that will feature the work of Art in Motion dance stage with performances by Art In Motion, The Legible Bodies, and Momentum Youth Co.

Being able to offer dance at this event is a testament to how the event is growing, expanding and looking to support artists of all kinds, Azerello said.

“Contemporary dance is such a poetic expression of movement and humanity,” she said. “And I feel that having worked with hundreds of artists during the pandemic, it’s been incredibly moving to be able to support artists to activate public spaces, to bring their work into a public forum — not only because it’s fun, entertaining and enjoyable but also because it serves as such a vital reminder of what it means to be alive. I think it’s very encouraging.”

At Easthampton City Arts, she said, “we facilitate spaces that support experimental work and new artistic discoveries,” Azzarello said. “To be able to do so on a public platform is incredibly meaningful for the city of Easthampton as we continue our efforts in renewal.”

This year’s event also includes the largest makers market ever held at the festival, with more than 50 vendors and community tables.

Admission to Cultural Chaos is free. Brough said the event will be offering entertainment that’s welcoming to all ages including SHOW Circus Studio’s Aerial Rig, Sage Meadow Farm’s Baby Goats, Caravan of Puppets’ Puppet Parade, and two indoor music stages at Luthier’s Co-op and Marigold Theater.

“It will be an exciting day to see, hear and taste the joy of Easthampton,” Brough said.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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