Easthampton’s bustling art scene has grown even busier in recent months, as the town’s monthly Art Walk returned after a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Marigold Theater opened in a space that had recently housed a tattoo parlour, and work has begun on turning the upper floor of the old town hall into a new performance hall.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the city will offer another burst of arts activity with two separate events. The Wild and Precious Arts Festival will showcase music, visual arts and more by female artists aged 50 and over, while the Easthmpton Film Festival will feature a range of dramas, documentaries and short films in multiple locations – the first time the city has staged a film festival.
Here’s a preview of what’s on tap.
Wild and Precious Arts Festival, May 27-28 — According to Ellen Cogen, female performers in a number of fields often face challenges as they age, given the scrutiny they can face for their looks. Opportunities to showcase their work may diminish, she notes, even as the actual art that older women produce “become stronger and more confident.”
That’s what prompted Cogen, a jazz pianist and singer who teaches music at Holyoke Community College, to start thinking about hosting an event dedicated to older female artists. She started discussing the idea with friends about a year ago, and now with support from a number of people, especially Burns Maxe and CitySpace, the non-profit group that runs Easthampton’s Old Town Hall, the festival took shape, with nearly a dozen events across eight venues.
“Without becoming a political statement, the idea is to shine a light on what female artists can do and the pressure they can face regarding their appearance,” said Cogen, who also runs music programs at The Unitarian. Society of Northampton and Florence. “I know I felt that pressure as a jazz singer when I was younger.
“But as a woman and an older artist, I think you feel free to do whatever you want,” she said.
The Wild & Precious Arts Festival kicks off on Friday, May 27 from 4 to 6 p.m. with a vernissage at Big Red Frame/the Elusie Gallery, where the works of nearly 40 female visual artists, mostly from the region, will be exhibited; the Bel Canto Chamber Players, a string quartet, will perform on site.
And that evening, at 7:30 p.m., the ‘Sensational at 70+ Cabaret’, to be held in the Blue Room of the Old City Hall, will feature female performers who are still going strong after more than seven decades, with dancers from 80-year-old tap dancer and, according to the program notes, “a retired police officer who happens to be a former Mrs. Senior Massachusetts.” Cogen will provide piano accompaniment.
Most of the events take place on Saturday, May 28, and include an origami and poetry workshop, a dance performance, gospel music singing, Afro-Cuban drumming and singing, and a showcase of songwriters at the Luthier’s Co-op, including local favorites June Millington and Narissa Niels.
The festival concludes with a performance from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Marigold Theater by the band Wild & Precious, fronted by longtime O-Tones vocalist and key co-organizer of the festival, Mary Witt.
Cogen says about 60 female artists are involved in the festival, which she stresses, “is for everyone, for all ages and genders. We think everyone can enjoy what we have put together.
Visit wildpreciousartsfestival.com for more information and to pre-register for a few events; most are free, though two require tickets (for $10).
Eastampton Film FestivalMay 26-29 – When actor and film producer Chris Ferry moved his family to Easthampton from New York in 2020, he was struck by the artsy vibe of this small town and wondered what he was up to. might well contribute.
Two years later, Ferry, who is known for his work in the 2006 thriller “Salvage” and the 2009 comedy “London Betty,” as well as his work on several films and independent film festivals, answered that question. : he organized the first Easthampton film festival.
“I saw that Northampton had had a film festival in the past, so I thought ‘Why not try to do something here?’ said Ferry. “The idea was to keep it small, see how it goes and build on that.”
The Easthampton event showcases 33 films in four different locations (most of them are shorts, ranging from 15 to 20 minutes), and although many films are made by regional filmmakers, some come from more far, including from abroad. Ferry used a digital platform, FilmFreeway, to screen independent films and seek submissions for his festival.
The Easthampton event begins May 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the Abandoned Building Brewery with four 30-minute documentaries covering an eclectic list of topics: an effort to revive a historic brewery in Lapland; an exploration of the civil war in Syria; a portrait of a muralist struggling with multiple sclerosis; and a look at the debate over arming public school teachers. (The latter film, “G is for Gun,” is co-directed and produced by Valley filmmaker Julie Akeret.)
Screenings of short films covering a variety of topics are taking place at two locations – the Marigold Theater and the Luthiers’ Cooperative – on May 28 and 29, respectively. A series of horror shorts on May 27 is sold out.
Ferry says he’s particularly excited about three feature films that will screen May 28-29 at the Marigold, in part because the directors, actors and others involved in those films will be in attendance and participating in post-film discussions with members. public.
“It brings another dimension to the experience, to hear how these films came together,” Ferry said.
In “Montauk77,” for example, the two lead actors are the film’s director, Michael Scully, and Scully’s teenage daughter, Michayla, who wrote the screenplay with him. In the film, which won multiple awards at the 2021 New York Long Island Film Festival, Michael Scully plays an unlucky rideshare driver whose latest customer is a sarcastic teenager, Liz, who wants to go to the east end of Long Island with the his mother’s ashes – but who may have an ulterior motive for the journey.
“They wrote and directed the movie together, and I think it would be fascinating to hear about it,” Ferry said.
Another feature, “Just Say Goodbye” by Valley filmmaker Matt Walting, explores the relationship between teenage Jesse, a troubled child who experiences abuse from his alcoholic father and a high school bully, and her best friend, Sara. When Jesse tells her he’s considering suicide, Sarah must make fateful decisions about how she can save her friend’s life.
Tickets for all films or series of films are $5 and can be purchased at easthamptonfilmfestival.com.
Steve Pfarrer can be contacted at [email protected]