Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

I am often led to arts enclaves by the artists who live and work there. Such was my introduction to Rockport, Massachusetts last summer, and so deep was my infatuation, that I have already booked a week there this summer.

Rockport, Mass sits on the northern coast of the state, just past Gloucester, on the very tip of Cape Ann. The artist who led me there was a wonderful contemporary architectural landscape painter named David Arsenault, whose work I have followed for several years. His aesthetic is to paint clean, crisp visions of the simple elegance of these landscapes. His website invites you to visit both the town he loves to paint (complete with lodging information and local events), and the gallery he now occupies on Dock Square (a move from his previous location on Bearskin Neck).

What is it about this place?

Take a look at the location and you’ll see why the fascination with Rockport. It’s about an hour’s drive north of Boston—but it couldn’t be further from the city. The energy here is slow and easy during the day, warm and bubbling at night.

No Coastal MA map

The Massachusetts Coastal Zone Map (full map available at http://www.mass.gov)

Yes, this is Yankee country—where “ahhhhr’s” float on the wind. You can walk Bearskin neck to the tip of Cape Ann in Rockport and from that vantage point, the Altantic surrounds you on three sides. It’s a picturesque place that has inspired artists for centuries, as well as photographers, and even filmmakers.

In nearby Gloucester, the famous fisherman statue leans into the wind It’s the oldest seaport in America, home of Gorton’s, the originators of the fish stick, and the port where the families of the Andrea Gail crew waited for the six fishermen who never returned from The Perfect Storm. But you can relax there, with a nice meal harborside.

Just west of Rockport is Manchester-by-the-Sea, now best known as the site of the Oscar-nominated film from 2016. (Much of that film was also shot in Rockport.)

Motif #1v5

And the next time you watch Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, you’ll realize she didn’t go all the way to Sitka Alaska, but to Rockport (and other surrounding areas). You’ll recognize the iconic replica of a fishing shack called “Motif #1” (pronounced Mow-tiv, ask the locals why), which Wikipedia refers to as “the most often painted building in America.”

Rockport was designated one of the 10 Prettiest Coastal Towns in New England by Yankee Magazine—and it’s well deserved. This tourist haven blooms primarily in the warm breezes of the summer (although there are activities year-round, particularly at Christmas), with an easy pedestrian shopping district filled with crafty shops with stories and interesting items from around the world—handmade ponchos from South America and French linens and drums and perfumed oils—not to mention the pewter and woodwork and ART everywhere. You actually can get something here that won’t be in every tourist town in America.


The Beach

Okay, it’s everywhere. Rockport is really more like a peninsula jutting out into the ocean, so it’s easy to find a bit of public sand or a bench to sit and enjoy the views, or can take a nice dip (and you don’t even need hotel access). There’s also other stuff, like kayaking, whale watches, fishing excursions and boat tours (check www.rockportusa.com). My personal recommendation is to just hop on the water taxi in Gloucester at any stop.

The Rockport Arts Colony

The village wakes up in summer like the opening of a Disney movie. Last summer, my friend and I came of out breakfast in the main square and stepped right into a little parade, complete with a marching band. Music can be heard frequently on the streets, but the real deal is the spectacular Shalin Liu Performance Center, with its amazing backdrop of the coastline behind an impressive showcase of performers of all styles (classical, jazz, pop, folk, orchestral and choral). It’s a focal point of the village, a nice stroll from many of the hotels and inns and nestled between a number of restaurants and art galleries.

Rockport1 2016

And, don’t forget the ART. Rockport is home to 30 galleries that show the works of hundreds of local artists. Visiting artists of all kinds are encouraged to set up easels and can easily by guided to many local spots for painting by the gallery owners in town. The Rockport Art Association also hosts a number of art exhibits and painting workshops where you learn the best of what these artists have to teach.

Two art-related events worth noting are:

Head to Gloucester for the small galleries, restaurants and shops of Rocky Neck and the Cape Ann Museum where you can explore the gloriously rich maritime and granite-quarrying history of this tiny New England region through centuries of fine art and sculpture.

Just so you know, there are many things that I’ve missed, so you’ll just have to go and explore it yourself (and share what you learn in the comments).


David Arsenault in his studio, August 2016

Make sure to say hi to David and talk to the locals—they love Rockport and Gloucester and will be very happy to tell you so much more about it!

More Reading:

In Rockport, artists kept the Depression at bay (Boston Globe, 2010)

Artists of Cape Ann – A 150-Year Tradition – by Kristian Davies, 2001

© Copyright 2017– Arts Enclave.

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So here I am in Sydney, Australia, on a writing gig that even makes me jealous—and I’m here! Freelance writing—especially niche writing—can offer amazing perks and this is one of them. In one of my other incarnations, I am a medical writer, specializing in neurology. I’m here to cover the International Congress of the Movement Disorders Society, and of course, I had to take some time to see the city before I got down to work.

Before my arrival last week, my uninformed impression of this city was based mainly on movies like the absolutely hilarious The Gods Must Be Crazy, and the not quite so hilarious Crocodile Dundee. Oh, and I am a regular at the Outback Steakhouse (get your own link for this one, they don’t need me to advertise them).

So my initial impression was this would not be a city known for its arts culture, despite the imposing figure of the Opera House. Before disembarking the plane, my image was one of burly men in short sleeves and hats, talking about shrimp and beer. Okay, my impression may have been several miles below the solid ground of reality.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney, Australia

Not to sound juvenile, but…this city RULES!


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You never know who you’ll run into at a frying pan throw in the Adirondacks, but there I was with my little camera and someone said my name. Turning around, I could see two pairs of eyes and big smiles beneath the snow gear.

It was Jelane and Eileen, of the Travels in Abbey blog, on one of their weekend jaunts (this time minus the infamous Abbey).

Eileen and Jelane at the Frying Pan Throw

Eileen and Jelane are awed by the spectacle of the FPT.


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If you’ve never been to an outdoor festival and you can make it to CT this weekend, Gathering of the Vibes is where the music plays!  It’s a four-day festival in the old rock tradition, built on the memories of Grateful Dead concerts–but with plenty of new talent to keep all ages entertained. Last year I interviewed the VIBES Director and originator, Ken Hays about the festival, and where live music is headed.

Try to catch this great event if you can. Tickets are still available by the day for the performances – check out the schedule. Bands like Dark Star Orchestra and FURTHER, featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir are long-time favorites at the Vibes. This year the new headliners include Elvis Costello and Jane’s Addiction. Definitely one of my favorite CT events!

  © 2011 Arts Enclave. All Rights Reserved.

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The ARTS ENCLAVE is up for a PEPSI REFRESH grant in the month of August, and we will need votes…Many many votes every day in August to meet our goal.

My project is to take this blog you have been reading, and build a website around it where you can start to meet artists of all kinds and learn more about what they are doing and how they do it. They will teach us! There’s a huge arts culture going on around us and participating in it is the best way I know to change the world for the better—which is exactly what the PEPSI REFRESH PROJECT is all about. 

Please vote for the ARTS ENCLAVE website project today and every day in August. And look at the other projects on the RefreshEverything.com site. There’s a lot of good karma on there!

© 2010 Arts Enclave. All Rights Reserved.


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Part II of a Two-Part Interview with Ken Hays

Click Here for Part I

The Gathering of the Vibes music festival is primed to rock ‘n roll into  its 15th season honoring Jerry the Garcia, and introducing thousands of new fans to bands with great vibes of their own.

There’s food, arts and crafts, sunshine (and sometimes rain) at Seaside Park in Bridgeport Connecticut. And for four days, the air above the shores of Long Island Sound will be filled with music you rarely get the opportunity to hear live. Bands like Furthur  with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, Jimmy Cliff, Little Feat, Dark Star Orchestra, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Rhythm Devils featuring Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzman and Keller Williams. The Vibes homepage gives you the full lineup, which includes the perennial Wavy Gravy (who MC’d Woodstock) as VIBES Master of Ceremonies.

Little Feat, playing at the 2010 Vibes -- press photo courtesy GOTV

 I talked with Festival Director Ken Hays back in April, first about his concept for the festival (which we covered in an earlier post), and then we got down to talking about how bands survive in this altered music world, where YouTube controls the fates of as many musicians as American Idol. How do you launch with a creative sound and find your listeners, when they are already bombarded with so much else to see and hear?  Here’s what Ken had to say…

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