MY MARBLEHEAD FIRST TIME: Living in a town where art is created — and respected

Court Merrigan
+ posts

Wyoming transplant Court Merrigan is a new Marblehead resident. His column “My Marblehead First Time” appears regularly in the Current.

I was standing around the office the other day chatting with some colleagues, when in walked a woman with some postcards. Given that the office gets drop-offs all the time and it was nearly noon, I figured she was handing out flyers for a pizza special or maybe some discount sushi. But she was after something else entirely. Turned out, she was an artist, a real professional. Her postcards were an invitation to visit her art show opening in a few weeks time.

Harikleia Kuliopulos was her name. She’s a Boston-based painter who had secured a gallery for her showing, “Marblehead Seascapes.” She had come to the office that day to tell us about it.

‘Harbor Shimmer’ by painter Harikleia Kuliopulos is on display at the Marblehaed Arts Association.

Business of the moment temporarily forgotten, the small group standing there launched into a discussion of art we adored. That’s the magic of Marblehead: one moment it’s nearly lunch, the next you’re discussing medieval art (a favorite genre of mine). And more than that, people take time out of their day to appreciate that art, and to support the artists that make it.

Now, I am not an artist in the 3D sense, but I am a writer. I send words out into the universe and hope they are well-received. When that happens, people sometimes tell you about it. In person, by email, via message — it’s all precious fuel reserves for the days when you’re just not sure you should be bothering at all. That said, I don’t hang this column on the wall and ask you over to my house to read it. But painters sure do!

In a world flooded with the blue light of screens, painters work for months on end, compete with other painters to find a space, hang their work on the wall and then invite you over to judge it over a glass of wine. Akin to the musician or a stage actor awaiting your applause on the stage. And mere kissing cousins to the writer and the poet. We are safely hidden away in a den writing something else by the time you crack open the page.

Not satisfied with this process, Kuliopulos took to the streets, going door-to-door to invite all and sundry to attend her exhibition. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the moxie. After all, I like action. And I respect these talented individuals who stand fast against the digital tide to create physical art in the real world. So I took one of her postcards and we made plans to go to my first Marblehead art exhibition.

I hope I never take for granted the degree of community support we enjoy here in Marblehead. I had imagined the exhibition would be a small, single-artist affair in a small gallery tucked away down a side street. Instead, the event turned out to be an entire shindig hosted by the Marblehead Arts Association. It encompassed six galleries and the place was hopping with attendees. The show featured pros like Kuliopulos as well as high school students from across the North Shore.

I found a number of these pieces produced by local students striking, but the one that moved me the most was a photo called “Lost,” by Marblehead High School student Laura Botnaro. An image of a small child sitting alone on a couch in an abandoned building, it evoked exactly the sense the title indicates. Fine work, Laura!

The pro piece that really stood out to me was called “Moon Landing at Berkeley Hollow,” by Pamela Berkeley. Something in the ethereal colors and the foggy landscape seemed very much of a piece with our surroundings here in Marblehead. Back in Wyoming, sunny days are the rule. If it’s cloudy more than two days in a row it’s generally a blizzard or a forest fire. Meanwhile, I’m still adjusting to the long strings of slate-gray days we receive here in the Northeast. Berkeley’s piece contained a vibrancy in its portrayal of the local climate.

Finally, I turn back to Harikleia Kuliopulos, whose fearless door-to-dooring got me to the exhibition in the first place. I enjoyed her impressionistic-style pieces set in Marblehead. Many of them appeared to feature summer scenes, a season I’ve yet to enjoy here. Everyone keeps telling me, ‘Wait for summer! Summer is the best in Marblehead!’ And when I ask, ‘When is summer?’ they always answer … June.

So, waiting for summer to arrive for real, I enjoyed those painted summer scenes instead. And although I am of the opinion that God’s own paintings back in Wyoming — fiery orange and purple sunsets and long, tawny reaches of high plains — ought to be the subject of a thousand paintings and just as many sculptures, I now live in a place that artists travel to in order to render on canvas. And even more so, a community where art is respected, admired and encouraged. I bear that in mind now every time I walk out the door.

As always, if you’ve got an idea upon which I can embark for a Marblehead First Time, drop mea line at

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: