2012-01-05 / News

Island artisans make headlines in 2011


“You can’t swing a cat on this island and not hit an artist,” said Ernie Savastano, president of the Conanicut Island Art Association, during the CIAA’s annual members show in August. “Jamestown probably has more artists per capita than any other place I know of.”

While there can be little doubt that the opening of the Jamestown Arts Center was the major local arts story for 2011, it was far from the only story in this arts-centric community. A number of other island arts groups and individuals made news last year.

The official opening of the arts center was the culmination of a dream held by local residents who felt there was a need for such a facility, and everything that has happened since then has proven the validity of that belief.

The JAC had many successful shows last year, including April’s Collaboration ’11 and the Holiday Small Works Show & Sale in December. But maybe its most successful turnout was the Summer Soiree in July, which acted as the JAC’s grand opening. It included an art exhibit titled Big, where 11 artists – most from Jamestown – showed off their large-scale works.

“It was a huge, gigantic, smashing success,” said Executive Director Lisa Randall. She added that even U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and state Rep. Deb Ruggiero were on hand to address the crowd.

The arts center also presented films as part of the Rhode Island International Film Festival in August, and was one of over 200 locations worldwide for the Manhattan Short Film Festival. Since that time, a highly successful series of film screenings has taken place on the third Thursday of each month.

The JAC also played host to an acclaimed dance performance by Lance Gries in August, and powerful productions of two Shakespeare plays by students in the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA program. A series of fundraisers like the Summer Soiree and Bombay Bash helped the organization to meet its fundraising goals, while visual arts classes were well attended for the summer and fall sessions.

Acclaimed marine photographer and Jamestown resident Onne van der Wal presented a striking slide show as part of a marine-photography exhibition at the JAC. The event was curated by Tenley van der Wal, and marked the first collaboration between the arts center and Save the Bay. Onne van der Wal also expanded his horizons with striking video work for events like the Transatlantic Race 2011.

“Video is new to me,” van der Wal said. “I’ve been shooting video for about a year, and it’s always been a steep learning curve.”

The Conanicut Island Art Association continued a series of wellattended juried art shows at Town Hall. The association also presented its annual members show at the recreation center in August, a display of art etchings at the library in October, and the Holiday Art & Craft Show at Melrose Avenue School in December. Scholarships in the amount of $3,000 were offered by the CIAA to graduating high school students from Jamestown.

CIAA member artists were also in the news this year. Jillian Barber presented her work at a number of shows both on and off the island, including Newport’s Looking Upward Arts Festival in September, the Halloween-themed Boo! show at the Bristol Art Gallery, the Black & White Show at the Portsmouth Art Gallery, and the members show at the South County Art Association.

“I see a lot of beauty in people and that’s what I try to capture,” Barber said. “Not the everyday beauty so much. I look for that perfect visual expression.”

Allie Sabalis, another CIAA member, displayed her digital photographs in a show called Remembrance of Things Past at the library in July, and glassblowers David and Jennifer Clancy continued to win acclaim for their creations at Collaboration ’11 and other shows.

Island stone carver Nicholas Benson was the recipient of a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation. The $500,000 grant came without stipulations or recording requirements, and was presented to the artist with the opportunity to “reflect, create and explore,” according to the foundation.

“Amazing!” Benson said of his reaction to the news of receiving the grant. “I was completely and utterly bowled over.”

The Jamestown Community Chorus started its season with concert performances of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” in March. According to JCC Director B.J. Whitehouse, he chose “Pirates” because he thought the nautical theme of the musical was a perfect fit for the island community of Jamestown.

In April came “Spring Fling: Our Salute to Broadway,” followed by the 22nd annual talent show in August, a Jamestown Day performance in September, and “Favorite Choruses From Handel’s Messiah” in December. The chorus received a grant from the Newport County Fund that allowed it to add orchestral musicians for the December performance.

The Jamestown Community Theatre announced two $1,000 awards to be given to graduating seniors for achievement in theater and performing arts, and capped the year with a successful production of “The Wizard of Oz” at the rec center.

During rehearsals, Director Mary Wright said, “JCT’s production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is sure to delight audiences young and old alike. There is something for everyone: a beloved childhood tale, a villain, some lessons to learn, magic, and of course, a few surprises.”

According to audience members, the show more than lived up to that advance billing.

Several locations on the island were also used this year as locations for the latest Wes Anderson film, “Moonrise Kingdom.” The film is scheduled to be released on May 25. The ensemble cast stars Hollywood A-listers Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Edward Norton. The film also includes Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman and Tilda Swinton.

The Jamestown Community Band entertained audiences at a variety of island events in 2011 including performances at its spring concert in April, the Memorial Day Parade, a summer Sunday concert appearance at East Ferry, Hey Day at Godena Farm in September, the village Christmas tree lighting in early December, and the Jamestown 1st Day Plunge on New Year’s Day.

Island artist Peter Diepenbrock unveiled his latest work, a 3,000-pound, 14-foot-high sculpture called “Tranversion” on the lawn of the Lakewood, Ohio Public Library in December, while the Jamestown Historical Society also presented a varied calendar of events in 2011, including film screenings, talks and discussions for its successful Jamestown and the Silver Screen series.

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