CIAA will celebrate 4 years at Town Hall
On a recent weekday afternoon, Conanicut Island Art Association members Allie Sabalis, Roger Birn and Carol Graves were in a room at Town Hall that not only serves as the council chambers, but also as the gallery for the six art shows that the CIAA mounts each year. One of their responsibilities is to create the calendar of shows that take place each year.
On this particular day the board members were releasing works from the CIAA’s “Pastels, Charcoal and Watercolor” show that just closed, and accepting submissions for the organization’s new show. The upcoming exhibition, which opens Sunday, March 11, with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m., is special because it marks the fourth anniversary of the CIAA’s Town Hall presentations.
“When the Town Hall was being built, the CIAA worked with the builder to put up the hanging apparatus,” Birn said. According to Sabalis, the CIAA worked closely with the Town Council to obtain permission to have its art shows in the space.
The “4th Anniversary Show” is open to all media and is expected to feature 60 to 80 entries that will include works of photography, paintings, pastels, drawings, watercolors, printmaking, collages, mixed-media and digital works. There will also be 3-D works in two display cases.
“Because it’s the fourth anniversary show, we wanted to include as many artists as possible by accepting all media,” Sabalis said.
The new show is non-juried and submissions were accepted from members of the CIAA as well as nonmembers. “A while back, in order to encourage more participation, we decided to have nonmembers from all over Rhode Island to enter works,” Sabalis said.
Sabalis added that some of the shows are judged and a juror comes and awards prizes for first, second and third place, as well as honorable mentions. “This particular show is non-juried because we wanted to have as many entries as possible,” she said. “We try to make the shows as inclusive as possible to encourage art in the community.”
The CIAA was founded more than 30 years ago and has approximately 160 members. The organization provides scholarships to high school students who are interested in studying art in college.
Sabalis said that there are also scholarships for elementary school students so they can attend workshops at the Jamestown Arts Center or the Newport Art Museum.
While the CIAA enables students to further their art education, the organization does not conduct educational programs of its own. Instead it opts to provide the scholarships and to offer shows that allow the whole community to exhibit its work.
“It’s in many ways a public service organization,” Birn said. “Two years ago we expanded to include artists from outside of the island. We noticed that more and more participants were from off the island so we decided that it was time to offer membership to off-islanders.”
The board members expressed interest in having Jamestown declared an art zone, which would result in a waiver of sales tax on art transactions. Recent attempts to get this designation for Jamestown have failed, but efforts continue in the area.
“The reason that the program was started was to help urban areas in Rhode Island by giving the tax abatements so that they could attract artists,” Sabalis said. “I guess they decided that we were too affl uent, which is really funny because Wickford and Newport have it.”
In addition to the six annual Town Hall art shows, the CIAA presents an annual art show and a summer craft show, both of which are held at the recreation center. The organization’s holiday craft fair in December is usually held at one of Jamestown’s schools.
The CIAA’s “4th Anniversary Show” will close on April 26. It will be replaced by a show called “Through a Window,” which opens on May 3 and is also open to all artists. The theme is left up to the creator to interpret.
Future shows include “Americana,” which will open on June 14, “Invitational,” which will open on Sept. 20, and to close out the year, “Travel Through the Lens” will open on Nov. 8.
The opening of the “4th Anniversary Show” will take place at Town Hall on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Normally shows open on Thursday evenings a week after the preceding show, but during the winter the CIAA tries to have two Sunday afternoon openings. “It makes it easier for people to get out in the weather during the day rather than at night,” Birn said.
“We have a huge community of artists in Jamestown,” Sabalis said. “The last time we looked there were hundreds of people engaged actively as creative visual artists, musicians, writers and architects. We sell work from these shows. The artists get a percentage of the sale and the percentage that we take goes to fund the scholarships.”