Don’t blink: Artists have seconds to explain their work at ArtSalon in South Deerfield

Last modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WHAT can artists say in just seconds about their art? Turns out, quite a lot

In a presentation style called Pecha Kucha, started in Japan in the early 2000s, artists show an audience 20 photographic slides that depict their work, for just 20 seconds each. That’s all the time presenters will have to explain their work at ArtSalon, a local social gathering where emerging and established artists in the community can showcase their creations.

The next ArtSalon is April 17 at the Deerfield Arts Bank in South Deerfield, a newly renovated community arts venue in a former Bank of America.

ArtSalon was created in 2013 by Eva Fierst, Lauren Miller, Lisa Thompson and Elizabeth Stone. The mission, organizers say, is to highlight specific artistic communities throughout the Pioneer Valley. Fierst is the education curator at the University Museum of Contemporary Art in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Fine Arts Center; Thompson is the associate director of A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton; Stone is a figurative artist and member of the Northampton Arts Council; and Miller is an arts administrator and the communications coordinator for the ArtSalon.

Fierst has been doing Pecha Kucha art shows in the community since 2009, when she and Sabine Holub, the wife of former University of Massachusetts Amherst chancellor, Robert C. Holub, created the Hillside Salon, a predecessor to the ArtSalon. Back then, presentations were held at the chancellor’s house on the university campus.

Fierst says it was the only venue in the area for artists to present their art in this style.

“It’s very democratic. It has a very clear linear format,” Fierst said. “Having this particular format is very helpful and very democratic because everyone has the same time.”

Hillside Salon ended when Holub resigned as the university’s chancellor in July 2012.

Rebirth of an idea

The first ArtSalon, in its present form, was held at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. Subsequent ones have been held in Northampton, Greenfield, Florence, Easthampton, Holyoke and Shelburne Falls.

“It’s a nomadic format when we move to different towns, highlighting different artists in those areas,” Fierst said.

The community is invited to get involved in all aspects of the event, Fierst says, including the artist-selection process. Each of the four organizers is heavily involved in the local art scene, and spreads the word about ArtSalon to friends and associates.

“We get recommendations from individuals, artists and people in the Valley from different towns,” Fierst said. There is also an application tab on the ArtSalon website,, for artists to submit their art without a formal invitation.

Among those presenting at the next ArtSalon is Samuel Rowlett of Haydenville, who creates experimental landscape paintings. He is familiar with Pecha Kucha presentations, though he says, “I’ve never done one quite like the ArtSalon, with such a limited time frame.”

He was recommended to Miller by another artist who had participated in an ArtSalon.

“I’m glad they’ve taken up the torch and kept this thing going,” Rowlett said, adding that the social aspect of the salon appeals to him.

“Art is an ongoing dialogue. I’m carrying on the conversations of artists before me,” Rowlett said. It [the salon] is a great opportunity to engage with the greater community of artists and art appreciators.

Rowlett is an assistant professor of art at Landmark College in Putney, Vt. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Connecticut Public Radio, The New York Observer, C Magazine, and The Queens Chronicle.

After becoming frustrated with studio work, Rowlett says, he moved his art outdoors. Carrying a painter’s canvas on a backpack into the woods, he positions the canvas to let nature’s light and shadow play on its surface, then documents the results with still and video cameras. The results can be seen on his website,

“I’m creating without using any paint or brushes,” he said. “The backpack is a sculpture. The photography is an extension of that concept.”

The other artists participating in the April 17 event are Tim de Christopher, Edward Maeder, Barabara Milot and Tim Trelease.

De Christopher, a stone sculptor who lives and works in Turner Falls, has been honing his craft for more than 20 years. His most recent exhibition, “The Fruit of Our Labors,” was on display at the Oxbow Gallery in Northampton.

Maeder, an embroidery artist, lives in South Deerfield. He has organized and curated over 80 exhibitions around the world. He was the founding director of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto and curated the La County Museum of Art’s Department of Costumes for 15 years.

Milot, a Turner Falls resident, will showcase her most recent compilation of drawings. She is an art professor at Framingham State University. Her recent awards include the Copper Union Artist’s Residency and the Artist’s Resource Trust grant. She is currently exhibiting drawings at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, Calif., and the 25th National Drawing and Print Exhibition Gormley Gallery, Notre Dame of Maryland University.

Trelease is a video and multimedia artist from Deerfield. He teaches visual design, digital photography, videography and advanced placement studio art at Deerfield Academy. He has an extended exhibition record primarily throughout New York, Philadelphia and Boston. He also runs a private studio in Greenfield and regularly exhibits at Gallery A3 in Amherst.

The Deerfield Arts Bank is at 3 Sugarloaf St. in South Deerfield. Refreshments, provided by MRKT, a Deerfield restaurant, begin at 6:30 p.m.; presentations start at 7. Suggested donation: $5


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