By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)
Westport, CT – Row upon row of cubed white tents, hundreds of works of art, living statues intriguing passersby, the aroma of mouth-watering food wafting in the breeze and the jangle of live music.
These were the many accents to be found midday on a sunny Saturday as day one of the two-day, 38th Annual Westport Downtown Merchants Association’s Fine Arts Festival commenced along the banks of Saugatuck River. Over 140 artists displayed works in seven categories, including oils, mixed media, print, sculpture, photography, pastels and watercolors. Over 5,000 people were expected to visit the fest throughout the weekend. Children were offered their own diversions such as tattooing, face painting, balloon animals and a kids tent hosted by Westport Arts Center. In the food department, Blue Lemon and DaPietro restaurants were both on hand offering lunch-oriented menus.
“This is considered to be one of the top shows in New England,” said Peggy Travers, business development manager for the DMA. “We get over 250 artist applications for this juried event. The DMA’s role is to attract people to town via events – I think it’s working judging by the crowds.”
Added Cathy Colgan, DMA events producer, “The fest reflects Westport’s heritage as an arts community.”
The artists themselves certainly seemed to appreciate the event. “It’s a high quality show,” said Michael Patterson, of Roxbury, CT, a painter that depicts people on streets and beaches, in watercolor and oils. “Visitors know artwork and are art savvy. I normally do well here and have exhibited 10 or 12 times before.”
Matt Evald Johnson, an artist that works in carved steel, from Easthampton, MA, said, “This is my first time doing the show and, so far, I’m getting some encouraging feedback.”
Attendees were equally enthused. “I wouldn’t miss this event,” said Victor Chaves, touring the show with Emily Chin and their daughter Leya, 2. “The artists are fabulous. If something feels right, we’ll considering purchasing. We just bought a new home in town, so we certainly have some new spaces to fill.”
Visitor Ali Hoyt, down from Tolland, CT, with her sister Genna and other family, said, “I’m an art history major at Manhattanville College. This is really cool for me to see, especially assemblages. I’m taking a class in the fall titled ‘Assemblage and Collage’. I’m picking up some ideas here. Pretty cool to see.”
Weekend Fine Arts Festival Show Times: Sat., 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is free.