Hamlet Comes to Salem Theatre

Artwork - Salem Theatre - HamletIn high school, as a lover of all things Lit, I took an Honors Shakespeare class. I looked forward to the class  every other day, and especially when we would get a chance to read the lines aloud. I loved imagining I was a character in one of these most famous plays. While I never actually got to grace the stage as a Shakespearean beauty, I did receive the invaluable pleasure of being in the audience the Salem Theatre production of Hamlet on Sunday afternoon.

From the heavy beat of solemn and foreboding drums marking the beginning of the very first act, and which repeat at significant scenes throughout the performance, the audience was alert to the dark tragedy and drama that lay ahead of us. Throughout the show, even though it’s most likely possible that we had all read Hamlet in our lives, it was as if we were anticipating every line, every moment, every dramatic episode as if what we were witnessing was something brand new. And in several ways, it was; Salem Theatre Company is breathing new life into one of Shakespeare’s most renowned and timeless plays.

Modern, darkly colored dress (with the exception of a few royal and theatre troupe characters) and a simple set allow the acting to really speak for itself without distraction of any sort.

Photo courtesy Salem Theatre

Photo courtesy Salem Theatre

Ariel Zuckerman gave a stellar performance as a more determined, confident, yet cautious Hamlet who does not have so much of internal struggle with the question of whether to avenge his father’s death, but how to ensure that yes, this is the right thing to do and what might be the best way to go about it. The emotions – rage, heartache, grief, wit – which Zuckerman portrays in the climactic scenes, as well as the advantageous bouts of madness which his character Hamlet uses to manipulate those he is interacting with t is utterly believable and captivating.

Other standouts include Dave Rich, who plays both an eerie ghost of King Hamlet as well as his murderous, conniving brother Claudius, and Linda Goetz as the naive Queen Gertrude holds reign over the audience each time she speaks. Polonius (the father of Laertes, played with conviction by Tom Rash and Ophelia, played by Elena Faverio) is reimagined here as Polonia; a cunning, meddling mother whose intrusiveness causes her to meet her fate. Giving a female role to this character is a welcome twist on this classic play, and Polonia is played brilliantly by Karen Trachtenberg.

Elena Faverio gives  an enthralling performance as Ophelia, winning the audience over with her sweetness and adoration of Hamlet’s affections, and bringing sorrow to the stage as Ophelia, all too really, descends into madness and eventual death. Kyle Gregory (who I saw and loved as Ned Weeks in The Normal Heart) is another Salem Theatre standout as Horatio, Hamlet’s dutiful best friend who serves as his confidante throughout.

Hamlet is wonderfully directed by the exceptional Caroline Watson-Felt, who truly knows how to make a Shakespeare play appear larger than life in a small space.

Hamlet is the last play that is being performed in the “black box” theatre on Lafayette Street, and while the new theatre at Shetland Park will be larger to accommodate more guests, the finale of the black box era is one you don’t want to miss. The upcoming showings of Hamlet are as follows; November 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, & 21 at 7:30 p.m., as well as another Sunday showing, November 15 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $12-$25 online and $15-$30 at the door. Visit http://www.salemtheatre.com to purchase yours!

Salem Theatre Company – 90 Lafayette Street (soon to move to Shetland Park), Salem, MA, www.salemtheatre.com, 978.790.8546

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“The Normal Heart”: An Outstanding Production by Salem Theatre Co.

This Saturday, my first official weekend back in Salem, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend the final performance of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” by the Salem Theatre Company (STC). Directed by Catherine Bertrand for the STC, “The Normal Heart” is an emotionally charged and thought-provoking story about a group of gay activists living, and sadly dying, during the AIDS epidemic in 1980s New York City. They put up a years-long, tragic fight to bring this deadly virus to the consciousness of a society seemingly turning a blind eye.

When I took my place in the theater on Lafayette Street, I was surrounded by black walls filled with names written in chalk – names of those whose lives had been claimed by AIDS, including the name of lead actor Kyle Gregory’s father, Kenneth Gregory, who passed away in 1992. The mood of the crowd before the performance even began already felt anxious and somewhat somber. Once the lights dimmed a bit more and the actors and actresses took the stage, I began to understand why other reviewers had written such heartfelt responses to the production.

Kyle Gregory, a Salem State graduate and first-time STC actor, starred as the eccentric, bluntly speaking, ultra-passionate writer Ned Weeks, a character based on Kramer’s own experience as an activist during this time. Gregory’s portrayal of Ned truly had me, as well as the other audience members, absolutely captivated.

After first learning about the AIDS virus and seeing it claim the lives of many of his friends and acquaintances in a very short amount of time, Ned began to work tirelessly with a group of friends to make the danger of the disease known to all it could affect, and all who he believed could help in doing something about it. Ned’s in-your-face, brazen tactics rub lots of folks the wrong way, including those he is closest to, bringing setbacks upon him. Things only continue to flare when his lover, Felix Turner, a New York Times reporter played by Sam Lewis, becomes diagnosed.

As an audience member, I felt true pity for Ned, someone so desperate to stop something so terrible that blatant honesty seemed the only path to take even if no one wanted to hear it that way. On an infinitely smaller scale I, and I’m sure many others, can relate to the feeling of hopelessness that not getting your point across incurs, and how it makes you just want to scream. One can only imagine how Ned would feel with an issue so grave continuing to fall on deaf ears. The anxiety only rises between each scene when dates and numbers flash upon a screen indicating the death toll from the disease at that time, with audio news clips in the background. The numbers increase at an alarming rate in a small timespan.

Gregory did a terrific job portraying the deep-seated frustrations, loss of control and melancholy that seeped into Weeks as his organization, which was created to help spread the word and obtain funding to fight the disease, spirals.

Outside of Gregory, “The Normal Heart” featured an outstanding cast well-deserving of their standing ovation. Caroline Watson-Felt brought murmurs of “incredible performance!” through the audience as Dr. Emma Brookner, the doctor who sees the most AIDS patients in New York and desperately fights tooth and nail to learn more about the disease and gain support from an apathetic medical community. Dr. Brookner is bound to a wheelchair, but that does not stop her in any way from being a powerful presence. A scene where her anger boils over after funding for research continues to be denied earned a round of applause, usually reserved for the end of the production. 

As mentioned before, Sam Lewis brings a touching performance to the play as Felix Turner, Ned’s boyfriend who is the calm to his storm and shows him how to truly love and be loved until death does them part. Alex Portenko plays the closeted former Green Beret Bruce Niles who battles with wanting to make an impact on the crisis while not wanting to stir up any controversy. Portenko’s talent is really showcased in a heartwrenching scene where Bruce finally breaks down in the face of another tragic death from AIDS. CJ DiOrio brings a more tranquil presence to the stage as the level-headed Southerner Tommy Boatwright who tries to keep the other men from their bitter fights. Andy LeBlanc passionately plays Mickey Marcus, an employee of the city Health Department worrying about the safety of his job while being involved in spreading the word about AIDS. 

Robert Cope is perfect in the role of Ben Weeks, Ned’s older brother who is a millionaire lawyer and whose persistent way of seeing Ned differently has been a point of contention between the two for years. Colin Colford as Hiram, the exasperating representative of the mayor, and Francis Norton as Craig (the first character to die of AIDS) and Grady, another activist, bring stellar performances to the production as well. 

The time in which I saw “The Normal Heart” happened to be during Pride Month, and the day after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all fifty states. This allowed me to see that in the 30+ years since the era of the play, our country has come a long way towards compassion, tolerance and love for all – although in my eyes, it shouldn’t have taken three decades and we have a ways to go, but we should celebrate the victories along the way. However, the frightening numbers of those dying from AIDS in 2015 in our country and around the world show that 30 years later, we still have so much more to do in finding a cure for this devastating virus. Hopefully influential plays like “The Normal Heart” will continue to bring this issue to light in the public eye, and one day I hope to see the numbers diminishing as fast as they increase.

Featured: 

Salem Theatre Company, 90 Lafayette Street, Salem, MA, 978.790.8546.

Amazing Accessories from LnK Designs

Every so often, a girl comes across either a fashion or jewelry designer who just really “gets” her style. My new favorite just happened to reach out to me via email and coincidentally was going to be a vendor at the Salem Arts Festival which I was covering for Creative Salem and this blog. I was thrilled to get to meet Laura Henkin of Rhode Island-based LnK Designs, and for those of you like me who enjoy getting jewelry even more than clothes, you must check out her Etsy shop. Not only does Laura create unique, eye-catching and sturdy pieces of jewelry, but supporting her business means helping a fellow New Englander continue to do what she loves and I’m always down for that!

Laura makes jewelry under her tent at the Salem Arts Festival

Laura makes jewelry under her tent at the Salem Arts Festival.

Before I was to meet Laura, I checked out her Etsy shop and loved what I saw. Not only does Laura handcraft a variety of metal jewelry with Swarovski crystals,  but she also makes fashionable dog collars and leashes with these crystals as well as popular soaps with Lego figurines inside, delightful gifts for children that receive great reviews from customers. Laura also handmakes ornate Swedish Star Lights out of wood. They are such intricate artistic pieces and were accepted into the juried gallery at the Salem Arts Festival.

Laura's hand-carved Swedish star light

Laura’s hand-carved Swedish Star Light, featured inside the juried gallery at Salem’s Old Town Hall.

When I arrived at the festival that Friday evening, I spotted one of Laura’s Star Lights illuminating its space, softly glowing and beautifully carved. After seeing this in person, I knew she was very talented and I couldn’t wait to view her jewelry. I found the LnK Designs tent the second day of the festival and clearly wasn’t the only one impressed by her work. I wanted to speak with her but she was so busy with adoring customers that I had to wait a bit, which I didn’t mind at all! I was able to browse and see her pretty and fun products up close that I had only previously seen online. I seriously wanted all the jewelry I saw. I once saw an internet meme that stated, “Be with someone who gives you the same feeling as when you see your food coming at a restaurant.” Well, I am obsessed with food but I get that same feeling from seeing jewelry that I really love, and I was certainly feeling it at the LnK Designs tent.

After the crowd cleared, I was able to speak with Laura in person so I could feature her in my Creative Salem piece about why the Salem Arts Festival was important to artists in the community. She was so sweet and I was instantly glad to be featuring her in two posts. I got to learn what led Laura to start the LnK Designs business, and I can’t thank her enough for telling me her story. To quote my article for Creative Salem, this is how Laura began her journey with jewelry and her other pieces:

For years, Laura worked in a variety of business environments. When very difficult times struck after Laura was diagnosed with breast cancer and her father passed away during the same time period, she turned to art. Laura explained, “I needed an outlet, so I started making things with my hands.” As a way to honor her late father, she began carving intricate Swedish lights out of wood, a few of which were featured in the Juried Gallery in Old Town Hall during the festival.

From there, she branched out into making jewelry. “It made me feel good, and it made me heal,” she said. Being a part of the Salem Arts Festival is exciting to Laura because of her hometown roots. “I grew up in Salem, so I have a strong connection with it. My first job was a Tour Guide at the Salem Witch House…I had to dress like a Puritan! This is coming home for me, and it’s very special to me,” she stated. Laura felt the all-around positivity that the Salem Arts Festival brought to the city, and we were certainly feeling it too.

I was so inspired by Laura’s story. She is truly an example of taking negative circumstances and turning them into highly positive outcomes, a successful business built on doing something she enjoys tremendously. You go, Laura! After speaking with her, I got to choose three of her jewelry pieces to feature here, and I must have made pretty darn good decisions because I’ve gotten so many compliments on my LnK Designs jewelry since!

This first piece is one of my favorites and one of Laura’s bestsellers. It is the Volcano Swarovski Crystal Cuff Bracelet, available in either Silver Ox or Brass Ox and your choice of stone color. I chose the silver cuff with green-blue crystals. As someone who loves jewelry but is unfortunately capable of great accidental destruction with it, Laura really sold me when she described how sturdy this piece was, and I agree with her 100% on that matter. The metal band and hinge are very strong while not being too heavy on the wrist. The crystals are set tightly into the bracelet, so I have no worries about one falling out. I have worn this every day since receiving it at the Salem Arts Festival and am always having friends grab my wrist to admire it! No wonder this is one of the top-selling items.

The second jewelry item that I’ve been wearing from Lnk Designs is this absolutely adorable Salem witch bangle bracelet with a red Swarovski crystal, one of the colors of Salem High School where Laura graduated from. I love how the bracelet is able to open larger to put on, and will return back to its normal size after doing so. It looks daintier than the cuff bracelet but when you feel it, it is a well-built piece. Laura has a wide variety of these bangle bracelets with different charms and crystals; there is something for everyone! She also makes colorful beaded bangles to pair up with the charm pieces.

Laura showed me this beautiful necklace and I fell in love. How can you not be mesmerized by that hypnotically beautiful sapphire-colored Swarovski crystal in the center? It’s like your own personal Hope Diamond! I’m very big into dark blues (mainly because I love anything nautical which means lots of blue and white combos, as you can see from my shirt). This necklace is surely a stunner and can be paired with an outfit for going out on the town or can be used to dress up a more casual wardrobe. I’m a fairly casual girl myself, so it’s normally the latter for me. Either way, all eyes will be on you with this pretty piece.

I’m so grateful to Laura for immensely adding to my jewelry collection with these awesome pieces, and it makes me happy to know that they are crafted locally here in New England. Although I had spoken with her at the Salem Arts Festival, I was curious to know more about the background behind LnK Designs, so I had an email Q&A with Laura afterwards. Check it out and see which New England events you can find her at next!

1. Where does the “LnK” in LnK Designs come from?(I’m guessing the L is from Laura!) The L is indeed for Laura and the K is for my sister Kate who originally intended to create more for the shop but had to concentrate on her busy career as a Boston chef.
2. Where do you get the inspiration for your jewelry designs? Most of my inspiration comes from finding happiness and peace within.  I do lean towards making things that are ocean or nature-inspired. 
3. When you want to make a new piece, do you just have an idea in your head and begin crafting it into the product? Or do you draw things out first, etc.? I do just operate from a general idea in my head and then I start crafting and see where that idea leads me. Using this method, I do have discarded failed attempts before I feel things are just right!
4. What is your favorite item to make? I do like what I do, so anytime making and creating is awesome. But, if I have to choose, I truly love making the Star Lights. I make them when I am quiet and peaceful. I started making them in honor of my father who passed away. Because of that, I often find myself thinking about happy times spent with my Dad. Making the Star Lights and carving wood is a very therapeutic thinking and doing activity for me. From start to finish, the entire project of one star light including sanding, staining and drying can take about a week now. I’m getting faster and more accurate with time.
5. I know that you began working with wood first in making your Swedish Star Lights. What got you into the metals side of art and was it hard to begin making things that way or was it easier after having got your start with wood?  I’ve just always been kind of handy with projects and taking up different activities in my free time and having great teachers.
6. What is your bestselling item? My bestselling items are split between my Volcano Swarovski Crystal Cuff Bracelet and my soaps with with minifigures inside. 
7. You attend a lot of festivals and fairs! Where can New Englanders who would like to see your products in person find you this summer? I am very excited to participate in the Northeast Comic Con event at Shriner’s Auditorium on 6/20 & 21!  After that, I have plans to be in South Kingstown, RI at the Field of Artisan pop-up markets on Matunek Town Beach on 6/28 and on Old Mountain Field for the 4th of July weekend. I will be up in Salem again for the Jazz & Soul Festival down the Willows on 8/15 and 8/16 and for the BizBaz on 10/3 and 10/4. This is just to name a few of my events. I keep my Facebook page update with all events at www.facebook.com/LnKDesignsJewelry.
To view and order LnK Designs jewelry and products yourself, find Laura’s shop online at www.Etsy.com/shop/LnKDesigns, and keep her in mind for buying local items made in the USA for your next special occasion. She also loves getting new followers on social media, so find her at www.Instagram.com/LnKDesigns, www.pinterest.com/LnKDesigns and www.Twitter.com/LnKDesignsFun!

An Unforgettable Weekend at the Salem Arts Festival

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What a fun-filled whirlwind of a week it has been, and it all started with the Salem Arts Festival! I was in Salem, Massachusetts for the three-day long festival, an annual June event that brings together artists of all forms and the Salem community for a weekend of beautiful and eclectic art, exciting live music and theater, activities for families and so much more. Thousands attend each year, and I could certainly see why! I was happy to be one of the many enjoying everything the festival had to offer for all three days.

Day 1: The Salem Arts Festival kicked off Friday evening with a reception and juried gallery in Old Town Hall. When I arrived around 7:30, the doors were open, letting live music from the Squeezebox Stompers filter through the space and add to the lively mood.

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I stopped by the Salem Main Streets table as I walked in. Salem Main Streets is the main organization involved with planning and putting on the Salem Arts Festival. They are a non-profit who serves to promote and invigorate Salem’s downtown and support the city’s local businesses and individuals doing awesome things. I paused to admire the stickers and pins featuring their brand new logo designed by Elissa Von Letkemann Art & Design. Afterwards, I headed towards the wine table where, to my joy and surprise, I found out it was FREE as I went to pull out some cash. To me, there’s not a better way to celebrate a Friday night than with free wine and an art gallery in a historic setting.

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I strolled around the space, taking in each and every work of art – so many different mediums, so much talent.

fri collage

As I stepped back outside, the evening was the perfect temperature and the sight of a large crowd of happy people enjoying the music warmed my heart. There was a lot of dancing going on; couples dancing with each other, parents dancing with children, kids dancing with other kids. Good vibes filled the atmosphere and everyone appeared ready for all the excitement yet to be had that weekend.

Day 2: Saturday marked the start of the Street Fair as artists filled Front Street and Derby Square with tents and tables featuring the fruits of their creativity. People filtered in and out of the Artists’ Row buildings, admiring and purchasing the unique pieces available inside. Items for sale ran the gamut from fine art to photography, handcrafted jewelry, candles, ceramics, cards, kids’ toys and, well, the list is pretty endless.

I was repping the wonderful Creative Salem organization at the festival, speaking with different artists about their work and why this event was important to them as creatives within the Salem community. It was clear to me, speaking with a variety of people on this second day, that the Salem Arts Festival is of such larger significance than just something for people to do on a nice day. This festival links the entire city. Salem is a creative hotbed, and this festival brings artists of every style together, allows them to connect as a vital community and aspect of the city’s economy, introduces them to one another and hopefully paves the way for some incredible collaborations…exactly what Creative Salem is all about.

Just some of the many people who took time to speak with me about their festival experiences! From left: Sabin and Pamela of Double Exposure, Heather Reid-Barratt of Heather Reid Studios, Jamie of Roost, and Laura Henkin of LnK Designs.

Besides connecting artists with one another, the Salem Arts Festival links these artists with the greater community at hand, those who may not be artists themselves but seek out the beauty of the work, and events that allow them to support and participate in the creative scene. This is also part of the mission of Creative Salem. The festival helps to generate customers for the small businesses and restaurants that surround the festival space, and brings attendees into what may just become their new favorite cafe, store or lunch spot. I did not see a single frown on a face throughout that Saturday, and I saw lots of faces. This sense of community is what I missed in my few years living away from Salem, and I am happy to say that on Saturday Nick and I found out that we have been accepted into an apartment there!

Although my main goal was to speak to different artists, I obviously couldn’t help doing a little artistic shopping myself! Between a lot of new handcrafted jewelry and beautiful painting prints, collages and nature photography, I’ve definitely built quite the little collection. My plan is to decorate our new apartment in this one-of-a-kind local art.

other art

Day 3: If possible, Sunday appeared to have even more people out for the festival than the day before! The variety of live music by the Salem and North Shore-based bands kept everything upbeat, and there were some awesome street performances, theater productions and fun activities for kids. I continued my mission for Creative Salem of speaking with different artists to learn what the Salem Arts Festival meant to them, and I continued to receive nothing but absolutely positive answers and thankfulness that an event like this exists to connect the community.

I, myself, am thankful that Creative Salem provided me the opportunity to share the message of these talented artists and get to know them on a deeper level. On this third day, I spent more time inside the Artists’ Row buildings meeting those who set up shop there for the season and admiring all that they had to offer. As the City of Salem’s website explains, “Artists’ Row is a seasonal program that provides rent-free space for artisans interested in building their audience through daily engagement with residents and visitors to Salem.”

I was able to speak with Nikky Bergman, who creates very artistic jewelry thanks to her background in both Fine Arts and Metals. She shares a building with Liz Frazier who makes all-natural soy candles for her business, Witch City Wicks, and Bridget Alexander of The Pack Paper Co. who sells beautifully designed paper products, such as wedding invitations. I told Nikky how much of a cute boutique style shop they had going there in Artists’ Row and she agreed. It seems like fate that they were all accepted into the same space, as their products go so well together. As Nikky stated, if you’re a bride, it’s basically one stop shopping – custom rings, invitations and wedding party favors all in one place!

artists row collage

After chatting with Nikky, I made my way into the building across the street to meet and talk with Sibel Alpaslan, an artist who creates gorgeous ceramic pieces in earthy tones, many with a splash of turquoise color which is my favorite. I learned that Sibel is from Turkey, and got her beginnings in ceramics while attending art school in Istanbul. She explained how at her school in Turkey, students would take a test to determine which medium the school believed best suited them individually. She thought she would be a painter, but they placed her in ceramics and it seems like they had the right idea! Her pieces that I saw were functional yet intricate, with what her husband called “whimsical” designs, and I agree.

In the same building was Karen Scalia from Salem Food Tours, holding spice tastings at her table and getting people acquainted with her tour business. I loved speaking with her and literally cannot wait to sign up for one of her food tours. These tours take guests on a journey through Salem’s diverse culinary scene while combining modern day foods with the history of the spice trade, a prominent piece of Salem’s past.

While talking with Karen, a fellow foodie approached with a sample of chocolate chip cookies from her business, Good Chemistry Foods out of Exeter, NH. Her products are all gluten-free as well as dairy-free. While I am not either of those, I can never resist a treat. I could not tell the difference in her cookies! I ate three of them right away…oops. They tasted exactly like the chocolate chip cookies I’ve known and loved my whole life.

My last stop and purchase on Sunday was at Deanna Jacome’s tent, my fellow Creative Salem member and an extremely talented artist who recently graduated from Montserrat. Deanna’s art is of many varieties, but she was selling her Turkish marbled pieces at the Salem Arts Festival. Turkish marbling makes for incredibly eye-popping patterns and designs that you can’t look away from!

Deanna’s first sighting of this art form was in the flyleaf of a book at the Harvard library. After much research, she taught her self the traditional process of how to create it. Now she is marbling everything from book covers to frames, t-shirts to bookmarks and much more using her own twist on the style. Through Deanna, I made my first purchase for my new kitchen, a marbled wooden spoon and fork set. Deanna was also making and selling pretty floral crowns at the festival, and I spotted many a person (women, men and children!) wearing them while walking around. Right next to Deanna, another of Creative Salem’s own, Joey Phoenix of Salem Pet Photo and Joey Phoenix Photography, had an adorable pet photo booth set up. I popped by to see how the pictures of furry friends were coming out.

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By Sunday’s end, I was sad that the Salem Arts Festival was all over until next year. I had an unforgettable time getting to connect with the talented, dedicated and incredibly welcoming artists of this community. As a creative professional, moving to Salem is so significant because of how cared for and supported those like me are here, thanks to the wonderful organizations like Creative Salem that give us an outlet to be uniquely ourselves, sharing our work with each other and inviting the greater public in to be a part of it all. Although the Salem Arts Festival may have wrapped up, there is so much more on the city’s schedule for the summer. I’m thinking my next stop will be the fabulous Salem Farmer’s Market that just opened for the season! For more information on all the creative goings-on in Salem, visit the Creative Salem website.

Special thanks, in no order, go out to John Andrews, Joey Phoenix, Deanna Jacome, Mayor Driscoll, Kylie Sullivan, Catherine Bertrand, Jamie (of Roost), Theresa Wall Duggan, Laura Henkin, Bill Laforme, Morgan C. Leshinsky, Heather Reid-Barratt, Sabin and Pamela, Nikky Bergman, Sibel Alpaslan and Karen Scalia for all taking precious time to speak with me for my Creative Salem piece and this blog, and letting me into your background and thoughts. I appreciate each one of you. 

The Weekend Ahead: Salem Arts Festival!

salem arts fest logo

Hey all! The countdown is on to the Salem Arts Festival this Friday, June 5 through Sunday, June 7. BOOM – just like that, you have weekend plans! 🙂

The 2015 schedule is up on the festival’s website and it sure won’t disappoint – three days packed full of amazing art of all kinds, phenomenal performances, and activities for all. Friday evening features the kickoff reception at Old Town Hall, so join us for the first night of fun!

You can find the entire weekend’s lineup and details here.

The Salem Arts Festival is FREE and great for the whole family to attend. This event welcomes all in the community to gather together in appreciation of the arts and those who make it, as well as support it. I will be there this weekend covering all three days of the event along with Creative Salem, so come say hi! Follow me at @lindsroman on Twitter and Instagram and New England State of Mind on Facebook for live action from the festival as well. See you there!

Save the Date for the Salem Arts Festival

salem arts fest logo

For the past six years, thousands have gathered in Salem, Massachusetts during three days in June for the renowned Salem Arts Festival downtown. 2015 will be lucky year number seven! Whether you are an artist, a performer, or someone who just appreciates and is intrigued by the local art scene, there is much to excite all the senses at the Salem Arts Festival. From painting, photography, music, dance, writing, film, sculpture and so much more, this festival welcomes and encourages art of all mediums to be showcased and appreciated by the community. The Salem Arts Festival is free and great for families, offering activities for children as well.

The 2015 festival will be held Friday, June 5 through Sunday, June 7 and will offer many ways for participants to get their art fix, from galleries to indoor and outdoor performances, a street fair, interactive events and more. Each year, the festival is planned and put on by the wonderful Salem Main Streets, along with a host of awesome volunteers. The goal of Salem Main Streets, a non-profit organization, is “the revitalization of downtown Salem as a vibrant year-round, retail, dining and cultural destination through business recruitment, retention and the promotion of the downtown district”.

Are you a local artist, or know of one? The call for gallery artists for the festival is still out! Don’t miss your chance to submit your work as part of this awesome event. It’s a great way to build exposure within the local arts scene and connect with the community. Visit this page on the Creative Salem site for more information on how to get your work featured. All mediums are accepted! Not an artist, but would like to be more involved in the event? Volunteers are still needed as well! Click here for more information about volunteering.

I wouldn’t miss the Salem Arts Festival for the world, and neither should you! There’s a reason it drew over 5,000 people to Salem last year. It’s truly a feast for the eyes, ears, mind, body and soul for all ages and all members of the community, whether your work is featured in it or whether you’re like me and just love to view art and watch it in action! I’ll see you there 🙂

For more information, visit the Salem Arts Festival website.

Salem’s Art Scene Thrives at the Creative Salem 3×5 Gallery

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This weekend, Nick and I had the exciting experience of attending the Creative Salem 3×5 pop up gallery reception. Artwork on display and for sale was 3×5 in size, but artists chose all different media. This made for a bevy of truly unique pieces – drawings, paintings, collages, photography, graphic design and more.

Nick and I arrived towards the beginning of the reception and it filled up fast, which was a wonderful thing! The gallery was held at the Salem Theatre on Lafayette Street. There was a DJ, cash bar and tasty treats from Jodi Bee Bakes all adding to the energy of the event. I slowly perused the wall of 3×5 art, red wine in hand, admiring all the intricacy of each piece while trying to imagine what the artist was thinking as they created it.

An empty spot indicates a 3x5 was purchased!

An empty spot indicates a 3×5 was purchased!

The 3x5s could be purchased for $15 each, and I was having trouble deciding! I asked Nick to point out his favorite, and he showed me one I hadn’t looked at yet but then fell in love with, an acrylic on canvas of three different colored birds sitting on a branch, budding with flowers. I am a textural person, and aside of the brightly colored painting, I enjoyed the way the canvas and chosen medium felt. I snatched it up and bought it because I knew it would be gone soon if I didn’t. Can you spot it in the photo above?

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3×5 artwork was not the only kind featured at the event. There was a traditional gallery as well, with much larger works created by artists from all around New England. The art ranged in theme, but I was most drawn to scenes from different cities, such as Boston, New York, Gloucester and Salem. There were some detailed and gorgeous paintings of animals that stood out to me as well, and so much more.

Artist: Scott King, acrylic on wood

“State House”, “Boston” and “The Ritz”: Scott King, acrylic on wood

During the event there were tables set up around the space where attendees could create their own 3×5 art for a chance to win a great prize pack, so before leaving Nick and I made a couple. I’m a writer and sadly am not blessed with the ability to make visually appealing art by hand, but at least I had fun! The 3×5 gallery was a huge success, so much so that a second one to be held at a larger location in the fall is already being discussed!

Nick getting to work on his own 3x5.

Nick getting to work on his own 3×5.

When I arrived home with my purchased 3×5 artwork, I looked at the name of the artist on the back again. Each piece was a mystery as to who created it until you purchased it. My 3×5, titled “Three Birds”, was painted by Nancy Newton Putnam.

“Three Birds”: Nancy Newton Putnam

As I am a curious person by nature, I decided to try and find her on Facebook to say thanks for her beautiful artwork, and get her thoughts behind it. Luckily, she was sweet enough to quickly respond to me! Nancy stated that the inspiration for “Three Birds” came from a calendar her hairdresser had given to her and originally had four birds, but only three would fit on her 3×5 canvas.

When asked about how her passion for painting began, Nancy said that “My art career got started in March of 2014 at a Wicked Art Bar painting event. I had never ever painted freehand before…since that day I have painted well over 100 paintings on my own, and at least 50 Wicked Art Bar supported events!” Nancy had only exhibited and sold her art at one show at her hairdresser’s, but when a friend mentioned that she should create artwork for the 3×5 gallery, “I jumped at the chance,” she said.

Besides “Three Birds”, she told me she had made a 3×5 painting of a lighthouse which also sold, and that another woman had been asking about the bird painting, but I must have purchased it before she went back for it. Nancy also sent me photos of some of her other paintings, and they are lovely as well. I’m sure she will provide more paintings for the next 3×5 show, and I look forward to seeing them!

Salem is such an incredible city with an energetic creative scene and many supporters, which is a big part of what draws me (and I’m sure others) to it so much. Empowering, promoting and bringing together this vibrant scene is  Creative Salem, which put on the event and which the funds benefited:

Creative Salem celebrates the city of Salem as a hub of creativity, and is dedicated to promoting collaboration, facilitating quality artistic events, and providing contemporary tools for local creative professionals to find and connect with new audiences while encouraging them to apply their skills to help solve challenges facing the community. — creativesalem.com/about

The 3×5 gallery also supported the mission of the organization I interned for in college, Salem Main Streets. This is a non-profit dedicated to building and maintaining a thriving downtown through supporting and promoting new and current local businesses as well as holding popular events throughout the year such as the Salem Farmers’ Market and Salem Arts Festival, which are both coming up in June.

Creativity abounds everywhere you look in Salem and all throughout the year, so come on down to this historic city and be a part of it all!

Our Friday Plans: Creative Salem 3×5 Gallery

Calling all art enthusiasts! Looking for something different to do this weekend? Head to Salem, MA this Friday, April 24th at 8:30pm for a truly unique event, presented by Creative Salem – a 3×5 pop up gallery reception! As you may be able to guess, featured art will be 3×5 in length, but anything goes as far as a medium. How awesome is that? You never know what mini masterpieces you will find. 🙂 I’ll be there covering the event on New England State of Mind and can’t wait! If you see a piece you like, make sure you snatch it up – $15 per 3×5. Funds benefit the amazing Creative Salem organization and the mission of non-profit Salem Main Streets, which I interned for in college. Be there or be square (and 3×5 is what you’d want to be this weekend)!

Find out all the details on the 3×5 event page on the Creative Salem site.

We’ll see you there! 

A Day at the PEM

meobserving

Observing the beautiful paintings of historic ships in my favorite part of the Peabody Essex, the East India Marine Hall

You don’t have to leave New England to take a trip through history around the world. You don’t even have to venture into Boston. All you have to do is spend a day at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts and you will feel like you just spent time abroad! On Saturday, Nick and I were in Salem and decided to pay a visit to PEM. I had been there during my days as a Salem State student, but wanted to refresh my memory and see what new exhibitionss they have nowadays.

We arrived and purchased our tickets, $18 each for adults. Student tickets (with I.D.) are $10 each, $15 for seniors, and children 16 or under are free. If you know a high schooler (or are one!), this is actually an awesome educational activity to take advantage of for no cost. I took my younger sister here when she was a teenager and she really enjoyed it. If you’re lucky enough to be a Salem resident, you also have free admission with I.D.

There is a lot to cover at PEM, so we hit the ground floor running. Well, not really running…more like walking quietly. We observed the American Art, Maritime Art and Asian Export Art rooms first. These rooms were Nick’s favorite, as they featured a great deal of model ships and seascape paintings. I love all things nautical, so I enjoyed this area as well. I also liked looking at the paintings of historic figures and reading the descriptions to learn who they were. It was interesting to see the ornate antique furniture and imagine the pieces standing regally in homes of old.

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A perfect miniature replica of a ship sits proudly in its case

After thoroughly walking around these exhibits, we headed upstairs. The stairs surround a beautiful cafe called the Atrium Café with a variety of foods, snacks and drinks, and tables under enormous skylights that the beautiful late winter sun come sparkling in. PEM also has its own restaurant called the Garden Restaurant with a seasonally-changing menu. We had just come from lunch at the Hawthorne Hotel, so we weren’t hungry but if we were there would have been plenty of options!

atrium

The Atrium Cafe provides the most beautiful lighting as you eat!

Arriving upstairs, there were more galleries focusing on American and Asian/Indian art, as well as Native American art. We were fascinated by it all. We walked around the special exhibition gallery “Someone Else’s Country”, featuring photos by Jo Ractliffe. These photos, taken of the effects of the lengthy Civil War in Angola , were truly moving.

We went back downstairs to the Art and Nature Center and headed into a unique and engaging exhibit called “Branching Out: Trees as Art”. I have also loved learning about and looking at the beauty of trees, and how they differ from place to place. Even driving an hour away, you will encounter trees that were not found in Point A of your destination. On display were various works of art made with a multitude of trees as a medium. There were also interactive areas, which are my favorite parts of any museum. I like to be involved! There were a bunch of small logs tied together, and using some drumstick-like objects, we were able to bang around on the wood and hear the beautiful, tribal sounding music it made. There was a game featuring a board with a tree layout and cute movable characters made of wood. One player reads questions about trees, and if the other answers correctly, they get to move their character to the corresponding color. I won!

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A fellow museum-goer saw us playing the tree game and thought it was the perfect photo opportunity of us

In a connecting room, there was an area dedicated to learning about different birds and creatures. There was a spot for “air plants”, which seemingly grow off a base straight into the air, and observers could try drawing these plants in a variety of different ways. Nick and I tried to draw them using the technique in which you look only at the object and not down at your paper. We didn’t do too bad – the plants themselves looked like discombobulated fireworks anyway!

airplants

What do these Air Plants look like to you? Fireworks? Octopus?

After working on our drawing skills, I wanted to go back upstairs to what had been (and still is!) my favorite part of the PEM, the East India Marine Hall. According to the website, the hall was built in 1825 by the founders of the museum, the East India Marine Society. You can see portraits of these founders displayed on one of the walls in the hall.

greathall

The ornate windows of the East India Marine Hall. Can I live here?

It is an absolutely gorgeous space with high ceilings, large windows letting the natural light in on each side, hardwood stairs and a grand staircase. Besides paintings of the founders, it holds items from the room’s beginnings, and some astounding figureheads from historic ships. When I’m in this hall, I can imagine living in the time of its founding, when ships roamed the world and elaborate parties would have taken place in that very space. You can actually still rent out the East India Marine Hall for nighttime events.

figurines

Imagine being in a time when ships pulled into port with these prominent figureheads standing to attention

After spending time in my favorite hall, we ventured onward to “Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michaels”, an exhibition running until June. I will be honest in that I don’t know much about photographers, but I was engrossed by Michaels’ works. I was inspired by the fact that he often wrote poetic captions to go along with each picture. Since I am a writer, I appreciate a story-photo combination. His work with the use of varying exposures, especially in representation of a spirit or energy, really drew me in. The photos from later in his life show Michaels trying to come to terms with mortality, and along with the captions, will surely make you ponder.

In the gallery on a table there was a book called “The House I Once Called Home”, a series of his photographs and stories of each, depicting the house he lived in as a child and what had become of it. Next to this book was another from the museum, asking us to write on an index card what we would photograph if we were to return to our old homes. After writing it down, we were to place it in the holders on each page of the book, making it a collective tale of memories from hundreds of people. It was fascinating to read such intimate details of a stranger’s home, yet feel the love they had for this place. I wrote that I would have photographed the massive tree in the yard of my childhood home that dropped pine cones as I sat under it, and the lilac bushes in the backyard.

homebook

Books of memories – what would you photograph from your childhood home?

Although we could have continued to enjoy all that the museum had to offer for hours more, we had dinner and drink plans and had to be on our way. We will certainly be back to the Peabody Essex Museum, as it’s ever-evolving with new exhibits regularly and awesome events for the community and beyond. Next time, I am definitely going to purchase a ticket to visit the part of the museum called the Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house astoundingly shipped to the U.S. and built back up at PEM. Knowing that there is a world-class museum right in Salem, Massachusetts is just another wonderful aspect of New England to mark on the list!

Featured:
The Peabody Essex Museum – East India Square, 161 Essex Street, Salem, MA, 978-745-9500
Open Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm, and the third Thurs. of each month, 10am-9pm. Closed Mondays (except for certain holidays).

Painting “Winter in Boston” at Urban Art Bar

If you’ve read back to earlier posts on New England State of Mind, you may remember that over the summer I wrote about a paint night at Muse Paintbar in Manchester, NH, the first I’d ever done. Since then, Nick had been asking for us to have a paint night together. For one of his Christmas gifts, I found a deal on Groupon for a paint class for two at the Urban Art Bar in South Boston.

Nick, ready to get started on his painting!

Nick, ready to get started on his painting!

We looked online at the Urban Art Bar class calendar, chose the “Winter in Boston” painting as our favorite and signed up for that date. Walking in to Urban Art Bar on the night we were to create our masterpieces was instantly welcoming and relaxing. The space was open and nicely lit with various artwork decorating the walls, both on display and for sale.

Paintings available to recreate in the classes line a wall.

Paintings available to recreate in the classes line a wall.

A bartender was behind the counter next to the entrance mixing up, pouring and popping open drinks which included a variety of cocktails, wines and beers. There was a food menu with yummy appetizers to munch on, but we had eaten beforehand. The music playing certainly got everyone ready for fun, as it ranged from golden oldies to disco hits, upbeat 80s tunes to today’s top 40.

A view of the space from my seat.

A view of the space from my seat.

After hanging up our coats, putting on our aprons and securing a couple of seats near where the instructor would be guiding us, I headed up to the bar to get some drinks. Nick started with a Coors Light and I decided to go for the Shipyard GingerbreadHead Ale. I had been trying to order that beer since Christmas time, and other bars had always been sold out! I was glad I was able to try it, albeit after the holiday season.

I'm glad I was able to final

I’m glad I was able to final

While we were some of the first to arrive, the space filled up quickly. The artist teaching the class, Roscoe, was outgoing and humorous and got us right into the spirit of painting. He taught us which brushes to use, which colors to mix, and to be unafraid to really move the brush around the canvas. Best of all, he made it very clear that these paintings did not have to be carbon copies of the original and we could add our own unique touches.

In the process of painting "WInter in Boston"!

In the process of painting “Winter in Boston”!

I’m not very self-confident when it comes to making art with my hands so I mainly stuck to the original painting. However, I did make it my own by using a different brush and painting style for the trees, and skipping ahead to other parts of the painting when I didn’t feel like working on the pieces the class was working on in the moment. I also painted brickwork on the lamp post section of the painting, to cover up the imperfections I had made while attempting to recreate the 3D effect.

In this step, I added the trees and buildings.

In this step, I added the trees and buildings.

There were smiles all around and I could tell Nick was having a great time on his first (and much requested) paint class. While there were a few people who decided to follow Roscoe’s okay on being different, Nick decided to be very different with his, adding an ice rink, UFO and large sun with a face to his painting…quite whimsical, I must say!

Our final paintings! Mine is on tops, and Nick's, well, unique take on bottom!

Our final paintings! Mine is on tops, and Nick’s, well, unique take on bottom!

All in all, we had a blast at Urban Art Bar, and it was the perfect activity for a Friday date night. The class lasted from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. which was a great length of time to have a few drinks and complete the painting without feeling rushed. Classes are offered at various times on weekends and during some weekdays. Check out the Urban Art Bar calendar, and book your paint class today!

Featured:
The Urban Art Bar – 709 East Broadway, South Boston, MA, 617.596.0553