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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.

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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).

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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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It may be a while before we find our way home again.

This blog has fallen idle in the past year or two because truthfully, I didn’t know what to say anymore. I wrote my first post on Christmas Eve, 2009, after something we never knew could fall did, and the message was that Art Matters. From then on I wrote about the crossroads of where Art and Life meet. There was no shortage of topics—just a shortage of time to cover them.

But as life around us grew more serious with events like Aurora and Newtown*—which occurred just 11 miles from where I was living at the time, and two days after I interviewed Kenny Loggins and the Blue Sky Riders—it seemed that art of all kinds began to recede into the background. Dare I say it—we became less relevant?

And now, on the first day of a very different world for all of us, it seems that the last thing on the agenda is art of any kind. Artists, musicians, composers, filmmakers, writers, etc.—we all seem to be quite beside the point.

But nothing is further from the truth.

What you do with your art in the next few years will be informed by the massive changes in the way we are coming to live and to think on a daily basis. We will all be challenged on our values, no matter what they are, because we now cohabit a world in a heightened state of disagreement, of conflict, and of confusion.

History does repeat, and looks at lot like the early 60s, a time that led directly into a creative explosion. Art thrives in adversity and finds its voice. Artists of all kinds are ridiculously brave in the darkness, willing to put fingers out into the unknown and explore whatever could be out there. What they show us about ourselves through songs and movies, in paintings and stories, will amaze us and open our hearts. It happened before and will happen again, and soon.

Of course, there is a unique lack of appreciation for any of the arts within the new administration, which has set as one of its first goals the elimination of funding to the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) and Humanities (NEH). Really? A world in crisis and the first order of business is to cut out the arts? But I do digress….

The arts are and have always been the soul of our entire way of life. Artists are now charged with preserving our culture, as they have been since the first cave drawings were made. We capture not just the facts, but the raw emotions of the smallest moment in time, protecting and projecting images of who and what we are that are likely to outlive any number of transitions in our government.

And in the middle of the chaos to come, the words, the pictures and the thoughts will be released from a collective creativity that will lead us to understanding, to empathy, and hopefully to peace of mind. The message today is the same as it was in 2009: Art Matters. And now it matters more…please keep at it.

So welcome again to the Arts Enclave Blog – Where Art and Life Meet!

*going right up to the biggest and most lethal shooting in Orlando in December of 2016

© Copyright 2017 – Arts Enclave.

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Take success where you find it, and call it yours.

Stan Lee, the most famous comic-book creator of all time, was born Stanley Martin Lieber. He started working as a teenager at Timely Comics (later Marvel Comics) where he filled the inkwells for the artists. He planned to use the pen name Stan Lee for serious fiction. In 2008 he received a National Medal of Arts as a writer, editor and publisher—of comic books.

Dan Fogelberg and Joni Mitchell both planned on being fine artists. Oops.

As I write this, I am repeating the mantra to myself: take success where you find it. A lifetime of planning my career in the arts has taken me to many places I did not expect to go, and while the goal stays the same, the journey is not at all what I could have pictured. Through the years, I have worked in publishing, hospitals, advertising, art festivals, movie sets, corporate business, and even retail. It’s all good, because eventually, it all ends up in the book…

You can’t plan your journey in the arts…or in life. You can only prepare for it and then go where it takes you.

Very few will find the kind of success in their fields they dreamed of and others will find so much more. If you choose a life in the arts, then it’s about legacy. While money and fame are certainly possible, they are the rare rewards and to many a distraction from the actual work. Stan Lee, to my knowledge, has never published the novel he planned on writing, although, I suspect he’s pretty satisfied with what he has done.

Even in the business world, there are parallels. Only one person at a time is the CEO. The rest are all just hopefuls and minions.

Now there’s a term we have come to see differently: Minions. Defined as, ‘a servile follower or subordinate of a person in power,’ the connotation of this word changed with the release of the movie Despicable Me. Where once a minion was thought of as one of the faceless mass of followers, usually of ignominious stature, that movie created a whole world of individual minions who are fantastically happy being just what they are. In fact, the new movie “Minions” is based on the notion that they seek to be followers in the most zen-like fashion.

It’s a hard life to pursue the arts, and we are drawn to it because inside, we simply have no choice. Eventually it will call you out, and you know what you want to do. For most of us, it will mean working at other vocations to earn the moments we spend making art of any kind. Those moments are certainly precious, but the ones we spend in our other lives are what we bring to our art.

It’s what you do outside of your art that goes into it.

The secret is to appreciate the journey for what it is. Be a minion to your calling and accept the unique life it brings you.

Here they are, singing the Banana song. Enjoy.

 

BTW: Support Wikipedia with a small donation to keep it ad free. It’s the best FREE resource on the planet!

 

© Copyright 2014 – Arts Enclave.

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Georgia Middleman loves a great hook. Gary Burr looks for the North Star. And Kenny Loggins, he tries to find the truth of the emotion behind a song. Together, they are making music as Blue Sky Riders, and today they launched a CD of new songs crafted (mostly) by the three of them together, called  Finally Home.”

I have written about Kenny Loggins here before, as I am fascinated with his seemingly limitless facility for reinvention—or more aptly, evolution in to the next person along the way…it’s a life skill worth learning, and a creative process that keeps raising the bar on itself.  So I was thrilled to be able to interview the band by phone while they were working on the album in December.

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Seurat probably never said, “fuck-it.” Anyone who has seen his pointillist paintings becomes instantly aware that he just kept going, adding dot after dot after dot until the wee hours. But at what point (literally what point) was it time to stop? It’s really not clear that Seurat knew.

Here’s how it goes:  Anything in life is about perception, which is subjective, meaning completely clouded by the notions and emotional artifacts of the person doing the perceiving. That final impression—of a painting, a song, a movie, an event, even the way you spent Thanksgiving—is as much about the mind of the audience as it is about the creator.

Art needs to cut through this cloud in which billions of particles of debris are already floating to leave one single, fleeting impression. Seurat, who led the Post-Impressionist Movement, discovered he could manipulate the way the brain receives the message by breaking down the colors in the painting into separate points.

Seurat is the artist most associated with pointillism—although there were (and still are) others who practice it. The technique involves placing very specific dots of pure color in careful juxtaposition. Up close, they are DOTS, painstakingly applied, and appearing to have little meaning. But as you move away, the mind takes over, filling in the spaces for a more complete, unified picture. The further back you stand, the better it looks.

Georges Seurat

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Chicago Museum of Art)

Seurat painted about 240 paintings, often repeating the same subject. His most famous work, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” appeared in different forms over several years, as he “reworked” the painting, actually adding the points of color later in the process as his technique grew.

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With a nod to my friend Jackie who’s always involved with cool shows, I’m suggesting you check out her newest venture with Funk Therapy Productions. They have put together a pretty cool fall concert series designed to blast you into the past with some old school funk.

First up, Brooklyn-based funk band LETTUCE hits the stage in at Rhythm Dance Club in Norwalk (731 West Ave) tonight (Thursday). Lettuce just released a new album, Fly, and returns to Connecticut after playing the always awesome Gathering of the Vibes this past July.

…Never thought I’d write this sentence, but the time is right for a good old-fashioned funk sound. And tonight’s your chance to get your funk on with rulers of the genre. The seven members of Lettuce have been playing together for 20 years, after meeting at Berkeley School of Music. Other bands lined up in the Funk Therapy series include Mystic Bowie, Roots of Creation, and The Brew.

Check the Funk Therapy Productions site for tickets to all the shows.

© Copyright 2012 – Arts Enclave.

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Glen Campbell may be the sharpest Alzheimer’s patient ever—although he forgets he has Alzheimer’s disease. Since his diagnosis in early 2011, Campbell, now 75, has produced a final album of new songs with some of his best reviews in decades, and has embarked on a “Goodbye” tour of more than 80 cities scheduled through July, after which he heads for Australia. It all seems pretty ambitious for somebody in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that eventually robs people of the ability to recall or recognize their lives as they knew them. But Campbell soldiers on through moments of confusion by following the trail of music that has always guided him.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight older Americans will develop Alzheimer’s disease, and yet we still have no cure. Glen Campbell’s legacy may well be his confirmation of the notion that music can penetrate any mind, regardless of the state. Oliver Sacks wrote in his book, Musicophilia—Tales of Music and the Brain, that “the response to music is preserved, even when dementia is very advanced….Someone with Alzheimer’s may undergo a regression to ‘second childhood,’ but aspects of one’s essential character, of personality and personhood, of self, survive—along with certain almost indestructible forms of memory—even in very advanced dementia.” Sacks suggests that our individuality is so deeply ingrained in every cell of the central nervous system—which links the brain to every part of the body via the spinal cord—that the essence of personality persists even as the memory disappears.

With musicians of Campbell’s caliber, it is possible to see how his lifetime experience with music—going all the way back to his first guitar at age seven—would etch itself literally on every cell of his being. And so, when the conscious body cannot remember the words or the key of the song, his voice can still find the notes, and his fingers can still run the frets. Guitar playing in particular, requires that the musician practice until he no longer thinks about the notes, but plays them automatically. Guitar riffs often run so fast that the brain could not possibly instruct the fingers of both hands to strike each single note in time to play it, and so the brain develops a map that allows for the notes to be managed as one single, uninterrupted thought, much like a breath.

Early in his career, Glen Campbell was already a top studio musician. In fact, he was one of the elite Wrecking Crew of the 1960s who literally played 600 studio sessions in a year, for major albums by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Sonny & Cher, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkeys, The Mamas and Papas, and the Beach Boys, to name just a few.

His musical map is one of the most detailed in history and there are many well-worn paths for his brain to follow home.  As his wife of 30 years, Kim, explains, “Music is a natural memory aid, and it really works for him ’cause that’s what he does: music. So he’s able, most of the time, to remember and even learn new things because they’re set to music.” It’s no mean feat to do a concert under the best of circumstances, and to step on stage when you’re not sure of where you are or what time it is presents a challenge that takes a whole family to overcome. Campbell’s presence on stage is supported by his three youngest children, all in the their 20s, who play in his band and help keep him on track each evening, despite the wanderings of his mind.

Background

Glen Travis Campbell was born April 22, 1936 in Delight, Arkansas, and raised in Billstown, Arkansas, one of 12 children and son of a sharecropper. During a musical career spanning more than 50 years, he has released 70 albums and sold more than 45 million units, (12 Gold, 4 Platinum and 1 Double-Platinum). He has won Grammys in both County and cross-over pop categories and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

Now at 75, Campbell is touring for the final time before Alzheimer’s disease claims his talent for good. His personal life has also been colorful, and sometimes the stuff of tabloid fodder, including three previous marriages, as well as the infamously tempestuous and overwrought relationship with the much younger Tanya Tucker in 1980 that involved booze, drugs, and plenty of headlines. Campbell was an admitted and committed cocaine and alcohol abuser until he woke up in a hotel in Vegas unable to recall who he was—that amnesia may have been one of those really early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, like a road sign warning of falling rocks ahead. In retrospect, Kim views his DUI in 2003 as another, since he had been sober for 15 years at the time.

The signs of Alzheimer’s, his family members say, have been around for more than a decade. The Goodbye Tour is a brave and brilliant move at the same time, because the more he plays, the longer he seems to be able to hold on—and the proof is that they keep booking new dates, so the tour is currently extended through the fall of 2012. It’s hard for anyone to know just how far he will go, but I for one, am rooting him on. It’s bittersweet to watch him play. He forgets words and needs multiple teleprompters. He forgets what song they’re doing next, or the key of the song, or where he put his guitar, and his very talented kids are on stage to help him as he laughs through the rough spots. He shares his flubs with the audience who are so grateful to have this last chance with him. In the many interviews he has been giving with his wife at his side, it is clear that the man he was has already receded. He seems absent from the conversation, not really concerned about the things he gets wrong. But he gets one thing, that “he just plays guitar,” and when he does that, he’s still himself. And for Glen Campbell music may be the last thing to go….

© Copyright 2012 – Arts Enclave.

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