Through December 5
Just hours into the start of the Amherst Biennial, subtitled “Art In Expected and Unexpected Places,” a fortuitous event signaled an omen of welcomed good luck.
Bellamy Schmidt of nearby Holyoke was walking down Main Street on the way to his lawyer’s office when he spied a work of art — a painting by Marlene Rye — in an unexpected place. A non-representational abstract tableau entitled “Red Reverie V” was pressed against the glass of one of the display windows of Hastings Stationery Store.
Perhaps it was the intoxication of red maple leaves in brilliant display on the
Amherst Common. Perhaps it was the painting’s layering of brilliant color.
Whatever the reason, in that instant Bellamy Schmidt decided he must have
“Red Reverie V” adorning the empty space on the wall of his home. Twenty-five hundred dollars later, the painting was his.
The Amherst Biennial will run through December 5 at five formal sites in
downtown Amherst along with numerous unexpected places. The idea for
the project sprang from the head of curator and arts advocate Terry Rooney,
who was motivated to change the perception of local art and to give the
Amherst arts scene a strong shot in the arm after the recent loss of numerous art enterprises, including the Fiber Arts Center, Wünderarts Gallery, Alfredo’s Photographic Gallery and the Amherst extension of the prestigious R. Michelson Galleries.
Rooney enlisted the expertise of Amherst Chamber of Commerce Director Tony
Maroulis (former co-director of Wünderarts and an artscope contributor) and
former Fiber Arts Center director Susan Loring-Wells. The trio, armed with
the support of Town Hall, a media sponsorship from artscope magazine and a
strong desire to have Amherst assume its rightful place as the Ann Arbor of
the East, worked some magic.
“Instead of starting with a list of artists, we started
to brainstorm the important big picture ideas and
concepts about craft in general and Vermont in
particular over the span of the last 60-plus years,”
said Jamie Franklin, curator of collections at the
Bennington Museum. The exhibition is framed into three categories: “Living by ‘Making,’” “Inspirations,”
and “Communities and Connections.”
It all began on a warm Thursday afternoon in October with the unveiling of
“Portal,” an enormous steel oculus that towers over the center of Kendrick
Park. The 3,000 pound welded steel sculpture is the work of Matt Evald
Johnson, who fashioned his great orb from weighty ferrous plow blades,
bending and shaping them with seeming ease, giving the massive substance
the air of blowing ribbon.
The following Saturday witnessed the formal opening of the project and a
first look at the remarkable installations that transformed the abandoned East Street School, a forlorn 1927 brick edifice, into a vibrant and provocative showcase of artistic experiment.