Music. Dance. Artwork everywhere.
Yes, the festivities in downtown Greenwich last night marked the start of the 15th annual Art to the Avenue. This month-long celebration of art, sponsored by the Greenwich Arts Council, features 150 area artists. Their work is on display at 120 different locations, mostly in downtown retail establishments, but also at the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club and The Nathaniel Witherell skilled nursing facility.
As you enjoy the artwork at these locations on the Art to the Avenue map, there’s yet another location you need to consider. In fact, you absolutely must check out the art at Christ Church Parish Hall where 19 artists are exhibiting 35 pieces of original artwork over the coming week.
The opening reception is this Sunday, May 6, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Christ Church Parish Hall at 254 East Putnam Avenue in Greenwich.
The exhibit, curated by Lynn Garelick, is open to the public. The artwork will be on display through next Sunday, May 13.
Although this exhibit is not part of Arts to the Avenue, it’s well worth your time. Not only is the artwork exciting, but it also has a very special meaning and history.
Seventeen of the artists are members of Laurel House, and two participate in programs at the Family and Children’s Agency in Norwalk.
Laurel House is a Stamford-based nonprofit that provides resources and opportunities for people living with mental illness. The goal is to help all Laurel House members lead fulfilling and productive lives in their communities.
This art show serves that goal in important ways.
“It’s a healing device,” said curator Garelick when I caught up with her this morning at the Parish Hall where she was directing the hanging of the exhibit. “Art is therapy,” she said.
Garelick, an artist herself, was enthusiastic as she spoke about the importance of self-expression through art. She was equally enthusiastic as she described the artwork as it was being hung.
She pointed out what she called the “architectural, structural quality” that characterizes the work of one of the artists. She saw this work as grounding the artist with “lines, purpose and direction.”
She contrasted this structural quality with another artist’s work that shows “a burst of energy, an explosion” that she described as “van Gogh-esque.”
She pointed to three more paintings, all of planes in flight. Here she saw an “exuberance emerging that is almost playful, yet with a dark side that speaks of war.”
The scenes are war scenes. “Dark in historical memory,” said Garelick,”But creating it in a different way that gives lightness.”
A number of Laurel House members are artists and participate in the agency’s art program. An exhibit such as this gives these artists a venue for presenting their work to the public and an opportunity to sell this work. This goes a long way toward making them productive members of the community and generating a valuable sense of self-worth.
And the community itself also benefits, as Pat Swasey, a Christ Church member who serves on the Laurel House board, observed during a telephone interview.
While an exhibit such as this helps support and sustain the artist, Swasey pointed out, it also enlightens the community and helps counter the stigma that surrounds mental illness. It helps them be “more among us,” she said.
Sayre Lukason, who serves on the Christ Church Outreach Committee, echoed Swaysey’s observation, also during a phone interview. It makes the community more aware, she said, noting also that members of the public have an opportunity to meet the artists at the opening.
Swasey’s daughter, Emily, who is no longer alive, was a photographer and member of Laurel House, with an interest in the art program. Emily once suggested during a discussion about a possible Laurel House fundraiser that there be an art show.
This suggestion eventually led to an art show in the Stamford Government Center and subsequently to a major fundraiser featuring an art auction, as well as an art show at a Southport gallery.
Following the art auction and Southport art show, Lukason spearheaded the involvement of the Christ Church Outreach Committee in providing space for an art show.
Christ Church had already been giving financial support to the Laurel House art program to help the artists create, display and market their artwork. This is the second year the church has provided space for an art show. Last year, the exhibit resulted in the sale of 16 pieces.
This year, all 35 works on display are for sale, with prices ranging from $25 to $750. Anyone interested in purchasing the artwork should contact Michelle Sawyer at Laurel House at 203 324-7735.
The exhibit coincides with Art to the Avenue, but this was not intentional, although Lukason says they hope to find a way to dovetail with Art to the Avenue in the future.
According to Lukason, the exhibit in Christ Church Parish Hall was originally timed to happen as an Easter Season celebration during what she referred to as “the fifty Great Days of Easter,” or the seven weeks between Easter and Pentecost.
According to Swasey, that’s because of this season’s association with rebirth, recovery and enlightenment.
“It’s all about recovery and rebirth,” she said.