When is a craft art, or art a craft? I think we could all agree that the annual Marion Art Center Arts in the Park event held on July 10 in the town’s Bicentennial Park showcases both and blends the two harmonious as one – art, for art’s sake. And what a grand and visually delicious day it was for all in attendance.
Not looking back on the truncated event that the pandemic placed on the 2020 event, MAC’s Executive Director Jodi Stevens was delighted to have 40 booths featuring a wide variety of artistically crafted items. Simply put, there was something for everyone.
The event itself is no small task for Stevens, or the committee members who must ensure that the quality of the items brought into the event are equal to the event’s name, Arts in the Park. To that end, event organizers began receiving applications in the cold heart of winter. Artists touted the type of art they could offer, the quality of the materials, and the level of talent they could demonstrate in their finished goods.
The MAC’s website discusses the jury process. “Registration and jury for Arts in the Park begins in February, but the committee accepts vendor requests on a rolling basis. Arts in the Park is curated annually for quality and variety.” It goes on to say that great care is given to planning the vendor spaces throughout the park, and that vendors will further contribute to the fundraiser by donating an original item for the MAC’s raffle. All money raised, including the booth rentals, benefits the ongoing cultural and social events the MAC has come to be known for throughout the state’s southeast region and beyond.
To no surprise, vendors vying for a space come from both near and far.
Some came from Mattapoisett, Fairhaven, and Marion, while others got up extra early in the morning to travel from Providence, North Kingstown or Warwick, Rhode Island, or from Osterville, Randolph, and Falmouth, Massachusetts. There was even an artist who splits her time between Plymouth and Maui – yes, that Maui.
No doubt, it is a true labor of love for artists when planning and preparing to present their works in a fair-like setting. There is the picking and packing of objects that are fragile or that need tender handling such as silk. Upon arrival at the venue, there is the unpacking and associated set-up necessary to showcase the beautiful items to their best advantage. And there is the manning of the booth space, chatting up potential buyers, and elaborating on how a piece was crafted.
While it is wonderful to show the world one’s art, it can be exhausting, several artists confided. So, in selecting what shows to participate in every season, artists take a measured view at what will work best for their finished pieces and the events. For many, the MAC’s venue was top on their list.
The 2021 Arts in the Park brought out the masters in photography, hand-painted furniture, custom built dining tables, fine clothing crafted with vegetable dies, silk scarves, and tops sheer as gossamer in vibrant colors, and jewelry, both the finely crafted from silver and semi-precious stones to the funky, 3-D rendered styles that lured the young and young at heart. There were several different exquisitely completed types of pottery, and clothing items that truly were wearable works of art.
With every gathering of people there are the stories not on display like the works of art, but they’re waiting to be discovered. Like the two vendors who contributed all or some of their earnings from the event to food banks in Rhode Island or the family, in this case two sisters, Lisa Elliott and Susan Gelotte, who shared a booth. Elliott said she comes from a family of artists, as both her parents and her children, along with her siblings, have pursued creative paths. Elliott’s name may sound familiar; her husband, the late Willoughby Elliott, was also an artist whose works are currently on view in the MAC’s gallery.
The atmosphere was joyous throughout the day as family and friends crossed paths with happy greetings. In the MAC’s side yard, a craft station was set up for budding young artists, complete with a giant white board and colorful markers. Across the street, people gathered to catch up on benches stationed near the Elizabeth Taber statue. The life-sized likeness seemed to come alive, bending towards those engaged in chatting, not wanting to miss a word.
As a backdrop to it all, music filled the air as Yesterday’s Country entertained passersby. They even performed a wonderful rendition of “Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart).”
Marion Art Center
By Marilou Newell