July showers bring August artworks: Art in the Orchard returns to Easthampton

  • Philip Marshall discusses his steel sculpture, “Distant,” at Art in the Orchard in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Detail from “The Poppy Field,” a spread of crocheted flowers made by Eileen M. Travis. Her work is part of Art in the Orchard 2021, the latest iteration of the outdoor exhibit at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Florence artist Dave Rothstein works on his hay sculpture, “Hoo Goes There?” at Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Beth A. Crawford, Noah Dickerman and Robert Dickerman with their installation “PI + LOVE” at Art in the Orchard in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Beth A. Crawford, Noah Dickerman and Robert Dickerman with their piece, “PI + LOVE” at Art in the Orchard. The concrete balls were hollowed out, otherwise they would have been too heavy to move, Crawford said. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • “The Poppy Field,” a spread of crocheted flowers by Eileen M. Travis, is part of Art in the Orchard. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Joe Chirchirillo, at left, works on his sculpture, “Earth Arches #2,” as Russell Braen of Park Hill Orchard uses his tractor to lower the last piece of Chirchirillo’s work into place. Staff Photo/Steve Pfarrer

  • Joe Chirchirillo, at left, works on his sculpture, “Earth Arches #2,” after Russell Braen, right, of Park Hill Orchard uses his tractor to lower the last piece of Chirchirillo’s work into place. Staff photo/Steve Pfarrer

  • Jean-Pierre Pasche, left, co-founder of Art in the Orchard, looks on as contractor Kevin Mulligan, center, and Troy Gray, foreground, and Bob Dizon, right, install a new 10-by-14-foot frame at Park Hill Orchard. The new frame, yet to be painted, replaces the orchard’s original “Big Red Frame,” which had worn down. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A detail from Mark Fenwick’s “Race to the Top” at Art in the Orchard. Staff photo/Steve Pfarrer

  • “Square Dance,” by New York state artist Bob Turan, is one of the new installations at Art in the Orchard in Easthampton. Staff photo/Steve Pfarrer

Staff Writer
Published: 8/5/2021 3:47:09 PM

Needless to say, it’s been a tough year-plus for artists of all stripes. Even visual artists, who could still do their work at home, were shut out of many galleries and shows for much of 2020 and earlier this year due to the pandemic.

These days, some galleries and museums are still limiting visits due to continued concerns about COVID-19, notably the highly contagious delta variant. So if there’s one place where art can shine in an unrestricted way, it’s outdoors.

That makes the latest iteration of Art in the Orchard, the biennial installation in Easthampton, all the more appealing. The exhibit, at Park Hill Orchard, began in 2011 as something of an experiment: put some art among the trees and fields and see what happens.

Since then, Art in the Orchard has become a fixture every two years on the Valley’s art calendar, bringing upward of 30,000 visitors to Park Hill, where they can wander a trail through the grounds to view 25 or more large and inventive installations, of varying makeup: freestanding metal sculptures, mixed media pieces that hang from trees, fabric art, horses and other animals created from twisted pieces of wood, and more.

This year, the sixth for the exhibit, is no exception, as the art — 30 pieces — ranges from a giant family of owls sculpted from hay to an enormous metal cube, to a mixed media piece that includes hollowed-out concrete balls. That work will be on display through late November.

Art in the Orchard 2021 was slated to open Aug. 1, but the artwork is not expected to be fully installed until Aug. 16. Jean-Pierre Pasche, a co-founder and key organizer of the exhibit, says the heavy rain in July saturated much of the ground at Park Hill, making parts of the orchard inaccessible to trucks and heavy equipment and delaying the installation of many pieces.

But a good amount of the artwork has now been installed, and visitors are welcome to come have a look before Aug. 16, said Pasche, the owner of Big Red Frame and Elusie Gallery in Easthampton (though a benefit rock concert, “Thunder in the Valley,” on Aug. 14 at nearby Molitoris Orchard may make parking difficult that day). 

Pasche said he and other organizers received close to 100 applications for the exhibit, including many from first-time applicants. Some of the art has been inspired by COVID-19 and the quarantining and isolation the virus necessitated.

The recent increase in COVID infections from the delta variant is a concern, Pasche noted in an email, “which is why we won’t have an official opening day, to avoid generating large crowds.”

Visitors will be asked to wear face masks when near the orchard’s fruit stand, he said, and if they’re part of a crowd watching the various performances that will staged at the property later this year.

Otherwise, Pasche said, he expects plenty of distancing: “We are lucky that AiO runs for almost 4 months so the visitors can be spread over a long time. And over a wide territory too. So it actually should be a sought after destination for these reasons.”

Art in the Orchard 2021 also boasts a new “Big Red Frame,” an iconic wood construction on which so many visitors posed for photographs over the years that it had to be replaced, Pasche said. He organized a Kickstarter campaign in June that quickly raised over $5,000 to build a new and sturdier frame — and it’s now in place.

Bring in the art

Artists like Joe Chirchirillo of Bennington, Vermont, are happy to have the opportunity to get their work before the public again.

“It’s been a long year, hasn’t it?” Chirchirillo said one morning in late July as he worked with Park Hill’s co-owner, Russell Braen, to get his metal sculpture, “Earth Arch #2,” in place in a field at the west end of the orchard, near the edge of thick woods.

“It’s good to be back,” added Chirchirillo, who has exhibited at Art in the Orchard before.

Braen, driving a tractor with a forklift, hoisted the top section of Chirchirillo’s arch from the artist’s pickup truck, then maneuvered it onto two pillars Chirchirillo had constructed of old machine parts — some salvaged from a vintage John Deere tractor — and steel bars.

“This one’s in the right spot,” Chirchirillo said to Braen, as he screwed one side of the arch to the top of one of the pillars. “We need to check the left side, but I think we’re almost there.”

About 40 yards away, Dave Rothstein and Carlos Miguel Ramirez Pereyra were working on Rothstein’s enormous “Hoo Goes There?” sculpture, crafted from hay and wire lacing, which depicts three owl heads, one on top of another.

Rothstein, who lives in Florence, is well known for his exotic snow and ice sculptures — he’s also a photographer and illustrator — but he said he was enjoying the experience of sculpting something different, in warm weather and a beautiful setting (despite July’s rain).

Just the other day, he said, he’d come out to the orchard to find a red-tailed hawk sitting on top of his owl-inspired sculpture: “That seemed very appropriate.”

On the other side of Park Hill Road, in a field that offers great views of Mount Tom, Worcester artist Philip Marshall was installing a more modest-sized sculpture, “Distant,” an abstract design of broad steel bars, some curled and some straight, all of them painted bright yellow.

Marshall, who also paints and draws, in a sense combined his interests to create “Distant,” which he said was inspired by the physique of a model he’d been sketching with charcoal.

As he explains, he’d been drawing a man with a lean but strong physique — a rock climber — who was sitting in a chair. “I got up to get some more paper, and when I looked at him again, it almost seemed like he was part of the chair,” Marshall said. “So I went back to my easel and did a sketch of a sculpture instead.”

With that explanation, “Distant” takes on a different dimension, as one curled metal bar at the bottom of the sculpture, and a straight bar that runs at a 45-degree angle to the ground, can stand in for the model’s legs, while a smaller curled bar could represent one of the model’s arms, resting on a chair’s arm.

Not far from the orchard’s fruit stand, Valley artists Beth A. Crawford and Robert Dickerman had just finished installing their new work, “PI + LOVE,” with an assist from their son, Noah Dickerman: three large concrete balls on the ground and, overhead, several metal rings, taken from old barrels and hung in loops from a tree.

“I love circles, how they represent the way things come back, the whole cycle of life,” Crawford said. “We do a lot with circles.”

She and her husband work under the tag name “Yellow Dog” and exhibited at Art in the Orchard in 2017. They plan to be part of other outdoor installations this year and now hope to make art an even bigger part of their lives: Crawford is a former Franklin Probate and Family Court judge, and Dickerman is the former dean of Science and Engineering Transfer at Springfield Technical Community College.

“We’re hoping we can have a productive retirement,” Crawford said with a smile.

For more information on the exhibit, and on Park Hill Orchard, visit parkhillorchard.com.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Daily Hampshire Gazette Valley Advocate


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy