Highlights from the Marblehead Festival of Arts exhibits

The Marblehead Festival of Arts exhibits featured 389 artworks in just about every conceivable medium, all displayed across half a dozen exhibits through Tuesday.

Visitors look over prints in Abbot Hall on the opening day of the Marblehead Festival of the Arts. CURRENT PHOTO / WILLIAM J. DOWD

“It was started for the artists, with the intention of focusing on the art and showcasing the talent of artists,” said Kirsten Bassion, the Festival’s director of exhibits. “It provides a beautiful platform for them to highlight their work.”

Bassion invested 12 to 14 hours each day in the days leading up to the Festival. 

“The exhibits certainly do not run themselves. It requires a team of dedicated individuals to invest significant amounts of time,” said Bassion. “There is the art intake, the judging process, the pick-up and drop-off logistics and managing six locations and 11 shows.”

Festival President Jodi-Tatianna Charles said one of the primary objectives when she assumed the role of president was to encourage a concentrated focus on the exhibits.

“After all, we are fundamentally an art festival. It is crucial to immerse oneself in local art to truly comprehend the community. Our town is brimming with artistic flair and culture,” she said. “When I was younger, my dad told me, ‘Whatever country you go to, you always go to the museum, the churches, and you go to the restaurants. Those three things will really make you understand why the people are who they are.”

People peer over the photographs in the Old Town House during the opening day of the Marblehead Festival of the Arts.

She added, “And this town is all about those three things.”

Salem residents Ali Habashi and Eryn Rush stumbled upon the festival.

“We didn’t even know what was going on until we were looking for something to do today,” said Ali Habashi. “And we just said, ‘Why don’t we go into Marblehead,’ and we went and were like, ‘Oh, look, a festival’s going on.'”

The Best of Show lineup

Kate Hanlon’s “The Meeting Spot,” an oil on canvas piece, won the “Painting the Town” award. Her piece is a familiar sight for ‘Headers, capturing individuals on a wooden bench atop Crocker Park, overlooking moored boats in Marblehead Harbor.

Kristin Horgan’s color photograph, “Dancing in the Dark,” was declared the winner in the photography category. The black, silhouetted clouds billowing over a girl standing at the water’s edge as the sun retreats took the best of show.

Owen Taupier, a Marblehead High School student, received best of show for black and white photography. The black and white photo shows a young man working behind a hot dog stand. Taupier’s contrast and shadows create nostalgic atmosphere, as if capturing a scene from the past in a small shop.

The digital art category was dominated by Todd Zalewski’s “By-Catch: The Unwanted Fish and Other Marine Creatures Caught During Commercial Fishing for a Different Species.” His creation employed striking, contrasting visual elements to shine a light on the environmental impact of commercial fishing, standing out as a powerful commentary on sustainability issues.

Michael Kaufman, with his walnut wood “Sculpted Stool,” emerged victorious in the crafts category. The piece blends function and form to create an elegant object of everyday utility.

Nicole Alexandrou clinched the top spot in the drawing category with her charcoal piece “Claustrophobia.” The artwork was lauded for its powerful visual narrative, conjuring feelings of unease and introspection.

The mixed media category saw Stephanie Verdun’s “Springtime at My House,” made of stitched painter paper and vellum. The artwork captured the essence of spring, weaving an abstract tapestry of textures and colors.

The printmaking category was swept by Samia Atoui’s “Bather.” Her dynamic woodblock print portrayed a sunbather in an expressive mosaic style, fusing form, color and mood.

The painting category saw the crowning of Fred Callori’s oil on canvas piece, “Disconnected.” The painting, lauded for its thick and thin brushstrokes, depicted a poignant scene with a balance of sadness and happiness that elicited a strong emotional response from the viewers.

In the sculpture category, Jack Walsh’s “The Root,” an intriguing blend of wood and glass, emerged as the winner.

Claudia Kaufman’s still life “Grape Bunch,” an oil on canvas piece, took top honors in the senior art category.

Marblehead resident Charlene Tyler said each exhibit has high notes, but she added it’s also about community.

“It’s gratifying to see that creative individuals get a fair chance, a good possibility of being selected,” she said. “People attend and recognize the work of their neighbors and friends, creating a sense of camaraderie. After all, this festival is about us, it’s a representation of our community.”

If you’re heading to the Festival

The Marblehead Festival of Arts exhibits are open for the public to visit July 4. The opening hours for most exhibits are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 2 and 3, with slightly shorter hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the final day, July 4. However, there are exceptions to this. The mixed media, sculpture, digital art and senior art exhibits at St. Michael’s Church and the Youth & Student exhibit at the Old North Church will open at noon on July 2.

Here is a list of exhibits, along with their respective locations and the art they’re hosting:

Abbot Hall, 188 Washington St.

   – Painting: A juried exhibit of original paintings in oil, acrylic, ink or watercolor.

   – Printmaking: A juried exhibit of original prints in various categories such as etching, engraving, dry point, linoleum cuts, etc.

   – Crafts: A juried exhibit of original handcrafts, traditional or contemporary in nature, that are both useful and decorative.

Old Town House, One Market Square

   – Photography: A juried exhibit of original photography created within the past three years, in black-and-white or color.

St. Michael’s Church,  26 Pleasant St. 

   – Mixed Media: A juried exhibit of original artwork in two or more media in a single composition.

   – Sculpture: A juried exhibit of original three-dimensional sculptures encompassing all styles and genres.

   – Digital Art: A small-scale juried exhibit of original two-dimensional artwork in a variety of digital techniques.

Old North Church, 35 Washington St. 

   – Youth & Student: A non-juried exhibits of original artwork comprising crafts, digital art, drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture by Youth (preschool through Grade 4) and Students (Grades 5 -12).

Marblehead Arts Association, King Hooper Mansion, 8 Hooper St. 

   – Painting The Town: Plein air painters in Essex County are invited to join in Painting the Town – a two-day event culminating in a judged exhibit.

Unitarian Universalist Church, 28 Mugford St. 

   – Drawings: A juried exhibit of original drawings in pencil, pen and ink, charcoal, conte’ crayon, pastel and other media.

   – Senior Art: A non-juried exhibit of original artwork comprising crafts, digital art, drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture by persons 65 years of age or older.

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