The sky was overcast Friday, July 2. It was an abrupt weather change, in true New England fashion, from the oppressive heat that marked most of the Windjammer Days’ festivities. However, the cloudy day didn’t stop shoppers from attending the annual Artists’ Alley.
The expo featured 12 artists from across New England, live art demos by John Seitzer and Tony van Hasselt, a silent auction and and a raffle.
The Artists’ Alley was started by the late Jim Taliana as part of the 50th Windjammer Days Festival in 2012 and has been run by volunteers since his death later that year. Artists’ Alley chairperson Catherine Tracy explained, event planning was hard due to the evolving Center for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 regulations. She commended the open communication between Friends of the Windjammer Days and the vendors.
“Everybody has been so flexible. The vendors have been very excited to have this event, since they usually do really well, year after year. I was a little nervous in the beginning, but here we are, and everybody's making money and having a good time,” said Tracy.
Vendors also expressed their excitement. Janet Brennan, former event organizer and “the collage jewelry” owner, and Nancy Shaul of Westport Island Pottery are event veterans. They emphasized the importance of supporting local artists who live off their work. In addition, the event also allows them to share their respective artistic passions with others.
Saul enjoys how open-air markets are more personal. She explained, “I like retail. I like seeing who decides they want to have a piece of mine, and what becomes of items that people really make personally theirs.”
This sense of connection is personified by the live demos of Seitzer and van Hasselt in the middle of the festival. The artists invite onlookers to watch and interact as they create abstract pieces and scenic Maine landscapes. Seitzer has been doing live demos for two decades, almost as long as he has been in the state. He likes to repurpose canvases to add color, texture, or abstract elements to his paintings, which grabs onlookers’ attention. These interruptions help his artistic process.
“Sometimes I get too involved in what I'm doing, and I don't take the time to step back or to evaluate. So, having interruptions forces me to look at what I'm doing. I enjoy getting out here and meeting the people and having the people ask questions. That drives me to do what I'm doing.”
Along with the familiar faces, the expo also welcomed Boothbay region natives Sari Weiss (Sari Rae) and Morgan Mitchell of Morgan Mitchell Designs.
Weiss majored in business in college but never thought she would run her own. However, after a few years working corporate, she decided to return to her passion of making jewelry. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit only weeks after Weiss bought studio space, but she believes the experience helped her be more “adaptable” as a small business owner.
“I was just excited to get back here and it's just amazing to see all of the locals that have come out to support (Mitchell and I), local girls,” said Weiss.
Mitchell was thankful for the support she has received from her family and the community. Mitchell, similar to Weiss, thinks some positives came from the pandemic. She believes there will be a post-COVID “art renaissance” because people had more time to pursue their artistic passions and will use these skills to help heal.
“I think that there's a real need for people to have genuine connection again and to connect over something other than just work. I think art is central to that type of healing and transition,” said Mitchell. “We need things that are nonlinear, and we need things that are based in craft and emotion to help us heal and move forward.”
Other featured artists included Alan Claude, graphic artist; Anne Gobes, Cape Newagen Alpaca Farm; Chris Cambridge, The Scrimshaw Workshop; Derek Keenan, Hill & Shore Woodwork; Diane Horton Fine Art; Marianne Janik, Cali b.; Sharon Goldhirsch, Crow Point Herbal; and Susan Thiboult, The Chestnut Quilt.