Monday, September 20, 2010

Street Art – Worcester’s Got It!

(Please click on the photos to make them bigger.)

Today’s Worcester Telegram and Gazette shouted in a front page spread that 40,000 art lovers flocked to StART on the Street yesterday to view and buy the art and crafts of about 250 local artists.

Maybe 40,000 is a wee exaggeration, but seeing the event, which took up several blocks of Park Avenue, filled me with pride in Worcester. I realized that there is a burgeoning community of talented artists in these parts, some of whom came from outlying communities to sell their creations. I am constantly amazed at the power of the creative urge (especially in older folks, like my fellow crones) that inspires people to spend their weekends and spare hours creating art out of an incredible variety of materials.

Yesterday I saw artists working with media ranging from painting, sewing, knitting, glass blowing, mosaic, iron welding, and furniture building, to feathers, gourds, dolls --even forks. (Matthew Bartik, whose business is aptly named “Fork Art” was so busy selling sculptures he has created by bending forks that you had to wait in line to get up to his table to pay him.)

A new wrinkle in this year’s StART on the Street was having artists demonstrate their craft. For instance there were three blacksmiths—one of them a woman-- another woman spinning yarn on a spinning wheel, and a huge “community quilt” of designs chalked on the street surface by anyone who wanted to create a square.

There were scads of small children (and small dogs in odd costumes). It was interesting to see the children transfixed as they interacted with a knight in shining armor, fencers fencing, craftsmen demonstrating how to carve and saw wood, even a lady covered in bronze paint and sitting on a ladder looking as still as a statue—these real-live artists were more interesting to the youngsters then anything they might see on television because they could hold the knight’s sword or saw on a log with the wood cutter, collect the wood chips and draw on the pavement with chalk. They were being entertained by the dancers and musicians and the man with the shell game and they were learning something about arts and crafts at the same time.

I saw a lot of paintings and prints and photographs I liked, and bought a few cards of Worcester photos from Dick Taylor. I also bought a little brown fabric doll with dreadlocks who is sitting in a rocking chair holding a miniature teacup. For gifts I purchased a couple pieces of “fork art” and a lacey wooden bowl crafted by Al Wheeler from solid oak using a scroll saw.

The food and drink booths had block-long lines and kept running out. All the artists I spoke to were thrilled with the business they were doing. It was a perfect day—not too cold and mostly not too hot. As I left StART on the Street, I walked through Elm Park, the oldest piece of land in the United States set aside for a public park in 1854. It has been full of outdoor art for two months, including a “fountain” made of empty plastic bottles gushing from a tree into the lake. (This year I noticed a lot of art is being made from recycled plastics—everyone’s thinking “green.”)

On the way to my car I took a photo of my favorite three-deckers—Worcester’s trademark architectural form, originally designed to house the families of the immigrant factory workers who crowded the streets at the turn of the last century, when Worcester was a thriving industrial center.

Today the city is much less crowded and many of the public buildings are empty, but on a day like yesterday, it was clear that, when it comes to encouraging arts and crafts, Worcester is worthy of its (usually) ironic nickname, “The Paris of the Eighties.”

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