Harvest the Arts kick off Friday with a behind-the-scenes look inside the Gura Building
From a fire show to artists’ demonstrations and the Shoe Parade, the second weekend of the 47th annual Apple Harvest Festival showcases a variety of “artsy” events and activities.
Sponsored by the Greater Hartford Arts Council and Southington Community Cultural Arts (SoCCA), Harvest the Arts will return this Friday evening and will continue through Sunday. Harvest the Arts weekend began in 2009 when five artists and 15 students in a downtown restaurant created a large-scale mural during the Apple Harvest Festival.
On Friday, festival goers will get a behind-the-scenes look into the Gura Building when shadow-box performances will take place inside…as seen from outside.
Local artist Lori Holm, owner of The Arts at Angeloria’s, LLC in Southington, said the “Behind the Scenes” exhibit inside the Gura building “will give the public a glimpse into the kinds of activities that will be occurring on any typical day inside the building” when it opens.
Last year, SoCCA secured a lease for and reached its fundraising goal of over $1 million to renovate the old Gura building into a community arts center, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Using the ancient, yet ever-evolving dynamic art form of shadow theater, guests will be entertained by three separate vignettes addressing various aspects of the arts, said Holm. One of several different vignette performances will be on a repeating loop from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. During the course of the evening, guests can experience all three as they pass by the Gura Building at various times.
“We hope that the shadow theatre vignettes will generate enthusiasm and interest about the art opportunities to come as the building draws nearer to its opening,” said Holm.
This past spring, Mary DeCroce, president of SoCCA, enlisted local artists to create artwork for the plywood-covered window openings at the Gura building until the windows were installed. The goal was to help gain exposure to local artists while promoting the future arts center. The artwork was auctioned off at the end.
Mat Florian of Florian Properties will help renovate the 1920s building, which started undergoing renovations last November. When completed, the first floor of the arts center will feature a gallery and small performance area, a retail area for artisan work and supplies, and a catering room. The second floor will include a large workroom, five artist studios, a pottery room, and a soundproof music room.
In addition, the UArts Program will operate out of the new arts center. A statewide network of individuals, organizations and supportive artists, UArts provides opportunities in the arts for people with disabilities, especially with regard to offering resources for projects that can help generate income for the artist. The program was funded through a grant from the Main Street Community Foundation via the Bradley Henry Barnes and Leila Upson Barnes Memorial Trust, said DeCroce.
“All kinds of things will be happening,” said DeCroce. “That building is going to bring a lot of people into town.”
“The arts and culture play an important role in promoting social and economic goals through local regeneration, tourism, the development of talent and innovation, and by improving health and well being,” added Holm. “This is forward thinking and a gift to all members of the community.”
Since SoCCA began fundraising for the future community arts center, the organization received support at both the local and state level through grants, private funding, and donations for goods and services. Not only did SoCCA receive funding from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and local foundations, but also from countless civic groups in town, including the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, UNICO, Sons of Italy, and more.
“I was overwhelmed. People in town really supported this project,” said DeCroce. “The door never closed on this project.”
As this year’s theme of the Apple Harvest Festival is “Growing Community Pride,” DeCroce hopes the Behind the Scenes event will inspire people in town to not only experience art up and close but also to get involved.
“Art is something important to our culture,” said DeCroce, adding how much appreciation for art has grown in town.
Also on Friday, Harvest the Arts will feature a Matica Fire Show at 7:30 p.m., featuring fire spinning, fire jump rope, extreme unicycling, fire stilts, knife juggling, sultry fire dances and fire devil stick. Choreographed to upbeat music, the fire show will combine circus skill, thrill and dance with elegant manipulation of the flame.
Through Sunday, The Shoe Parade, sponsored by SoCCA, will feature shoe sculptures made by 20 local artists that will be displayed in businesses located in downtown Southington and Plantsville. Each business will offer a raffle for shoppers to enter their name and e-mail for a chance to win different prizes. After the festival, the shoes will be auctioned off to support SoCCA.
On Saturday, artist demonstrations will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. up and down Center Street. Festival goers will see demonstrations from fine artists, a body painter, sculptors, creative artists, a violinist, and a large scale mural painting by Ryan “ARCY” Christenson as well as a live silk screen demonstration from the UArts Artists.
“Harvest the Arts as a component to the Apple Harvest Festival serves to spotlight the rich and diverse art community that exists and is growing here,” said Holm, “further illustrating all that is wonderful about our community.”
PHOTOS BY TAMMI NAUDUS
Of course, arts and crafts are a part of both weekends of the festival. The Southington Elks were busy promoting arts and crafts at their annual fair beside the town green.
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