Amherst Arts Festival attracts attendees, audiences
AMHERST – An arts and music festival was held on Town Common Sunday, in what was one of the first in-person shows since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for many artists and performers there – low.
“After the pandemic, it’s nice to see,” said Ann Tweedy, chair of the Amherst Center Cultural District Steering Committee, one of the main organizers of the event.
The celebration took place from noon to 6 p.m. and included paintings, metalwork, live music and photography. Entrance to the festival was free, as was the water that was distributed in hot weather.
Another organizer of the event was the Amherst Cultural Council.
“It looks like the light at the end of the tunnel,” Leah Neuburger, a rising junior at Amherst High School and student member of the Cultural Council, said of the event.
The opening act on stage at the celebration was Jeff Gavioli and his Bad News Jazz and Blues Orchestra. It was the group’s second show since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gavioli, the band’s conductor and founder, said performing in front of a live audience who appreciates their craft “brings out the best of all musicians.”
“The crowd was great,” Gavioli said.
He said he took an extended break from playing during the pandemic.
“I put the horn on for the whole of last summer,” he said.
Gillian Haven grew up in South Amherst and now lives in Pelham. A painter, many of his works feature notable local monuments, such as Mount Norwottuck. Some of his paintings are also painted on denim once worn by his children.
“After everyone’s been a hermit for so long, it’s really great to be outside,” Haven said.
Shoshana King sold both homemade soap and note cards with her photographs.
King said she started making soap during the pandemic because her son used a lot of soap and there was a shortage of soap. She has a friend who has goats and she makes her soap with olive oil and goat milk.
“People started asking for it,” King said.
King also expressed his happiness in being with people and selling art.
“It feels like the ship has straightened up,” she said.
Theodore Hinman, artist and blacksmith, did cold forging work at the festival, making brass sheets. The wares he and his wife, Armene Margosian, sold included fish hooks, hand-forged knives, angling platforms and tin cans.
Margosian said it was their first show since the start of the pandemic.
“We haven’t been to a festival for two years,” she said.
Some of Hinman’s sculptures will also be seen at Art In The Orchard in Easthampton later this year.
Nayana LaFond was selling prints of paintings from her “Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls” series, as well as paintings and prints from her work inspired by COVID-19.
“It’s really nice to be able to be face to face and not have a mask on, to talk to people and interact without being afraid,” LaFond said.
LaFond is of Aboriginal descent and the proceeds from sales of prints will fund a tour of some of the paintings in the series. All excess profits will go to the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women, she said.
LaFond said the pandemic allowed her to focus on her art, and she made 70 paintings in 2020.
“It gave me the incubation and the platform because I realized that everyone was online,” she said.
Afri (K) Limited, a local non-profit organization, was also in attendance. The association organizes events that empower women and girls in western Massachusetts and also sells artwork by women in Togo to help lift them out of poverty.
“Everyone is so welcoming to us,” said Karina Dise, founder of the association.
The group also performed a storytelling show showing how stories are told in Togo.
Bera Dunau can be reached at [email protected]