By Molly Hamill
Chatham, Massachusetts sits on the elbow of the sandy spit that saves Massachusetts from being a rectangle. And while collard gingham shirts, golf clubs and yachts abound in this seaside town, there is an enduring art scene that has kept it from being square.
I’ve come to Chatham every summer of my life and have felt a depth of natural beauty here that inspires me. It’s that natural beauty that has drawn generations of people here to both make and appreciate art. The galleries and art spaces in Chatham have always offered a number of opportunities to do just that. Here, I will try to pick out a few not to miss as you’re rolling through town.
But before all else – one needs fuel. Fortunately for me and my eternal search for the perfect breakfast sandwich, Rik and Caren Morse have just opened the Chatham Filling Station at 75 Old Harbor Rd., a stone’s throw from Main Street. Named by Zagat as one of the “10 Must-Try New Restaurants on the Cape and Islands”, the place has a classic roadside vibe with a massive mural by local artist Helen Kelsey on the back wall. Their breakfast sandwich…? Fried egg, avocado, tomato, bacon jam (!!!), on a house made buttermilk biscuit!? It nears perfection.
“SHARKS IN THE PARK”
Before hitting any of the galleries you’ll surely notice something fishy on the front lawn of the Eldredge Public Library, 564 Main St. The Chatham Merchants Association is currently facilitating the 3rd consecutive year of the “Sharks in the Park” exhibit and auction. The annual exhibit of over 40 sharks, uniquely designed by local artists, generates funding for the town Merchants Association and provides grants for local community organizations.
The colorful sharks (each 5 feet long and 2 feet tall, mounted on standing bars in the ground) are hard to miss and lure those who might not otherwise consider themselves interested in art. Now monitored by camera and GPS (there have been multiple attempts to steal sharks!) the sculptures aren’t necessarily high art but are clearly compelling creations. Artist Dorothy Bassett’s shark made of stained glass and wood is a stand out. The online auction ends August 18. For more information, visit: http://sharksinthepark.net/index.html
FOCUS GALLERY, 595 Main St., Chatham, (508) 348-1493; hours: Monday
through Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
While the “Sharks in the Park” exhibit provides a bit of whimsy, just down the road you’ll find a more sophisticated take marine life at Focus Gallery. I stopped into find knowledgeable photography consultant Len LuPriore and gallery owner Cindy Vallino. Their knowledge and appreciation for fine photographs run deep and their clientele is a refined and international set.
The gallery itself is a pleasure to inhabit. Stunningly brilliant colors radiate from many of the photographs featured on the walls. Photographers Alison Shaw and Steve Koppel have captured the same simple yellow dory on a Brewster beach – each with their own take.
And the enormous images of whales by featured artist Bryant Austin are breathtaking. Taken with a 50-megapixel Hasselblad, Austin takes 15 to 20 photos, ultimately creating one images from their composite. Sold in limited editions, his underwater images bring the giant beings on the other side of the water into clear view. Austin’s portraits of these majestic creatures are flawless and moving. Go see them up close.
THE ATWOOD HOUSE & MUSEUM, 347 Stage Harbor Rd., Chatham, (508) 945-2493, http://chathamhistoricalsociety.org.
Just a few paces from the heart of town on a winding road headed toward the harbor sits the Atwood House and Museum. It’s the treasure chest of Chatham. A gambrel-roofed house built in 1752, the Atwood house was acquired by the Chatham Historical Society in 1923 and houses a unique collection of local textiles and furniture and over 300 paintings and 2,500 photographs pertaining to the town.The museum has expanded over the years and now includes eight galleries with permanent exhibits, plus a large special exhibit gallery. On August 5 and 6, the museum will offer the public a chance to purchase “duplicate, nonessential, and deaccessioned treasures from the Atwood House collection from 10AM-2PM on the lawn of the museum.”
The Atwood House & Museum is open from June through October. In July and August, it is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10AM to 4PM.
ODELL GALLERY, 423 Main St., Chatham, (508) 945-3239, open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; website: http://odellarts.com
On a trip to Chatham you’d be remiss to overlook the buzzing art hive Tom and Carol Odell have built together over the last 40 years as husband and wife.
As Tom put it, “The story is almost too cute.” The couple met setting up adjacent tents at a local art fair and have been co-creating ever since. Their expansive property perched at the top of Main Street includes a two-floor gallery, a multi-level barn style studios in the back, an artist residence and their home. The historic Greek Revival house at the heart of their operation exhibits a large body of work. Carol’s abstracted landscape paintings, monotypes and rich, textured encaustics adorn many of the walls with Tom’s jewelry, sculpture and hollowware interwoven throughout. Looking at Carol’s encaustic, a story seems to emerge – a story from a familiar but far away land. It’s hard to resist the precious metals Tom has forged into bold cuff bracelets – fit for a queen on Game of Thrones. His work is both rough and elegant. Earthy and weighty.
CREATIVE ARTS CENTER (CAC) OF CHATHAM, 154 Crowell Rd., Chatham, (508) 945-3583; open Monday through Friday from 9AM – 4PM.
If the Atwood House is the treasure chest of Chatham, The Creative Arts Center (CAC) of Chatham is the petri-dish. Open all year round the Center offers classes and workshops in painting, drawing, pottery and jewelry with nationally acclaimed artists. With instruction from the likes of Mary Whyte, Daniel Keys and Don Demers – the Creative Arts Center is a rich resource for established artists as well as those just beginning.
Its current exhibition, “Alternate Views,” showcases works by CAC faculty and members. Executive director Angela Zoni Mault called for two separate pieces from each artist of the same exact scene, influenced by a different light, atmosphere or season. The same barn in the winter evokes a totally different emotion when depicted in the summer. The paintings, photographs and prints included illuminate the slow but dramatic shifts in color and contrast our surroundings have during different seasons or times of day. The exhibit is both fun and dynamic.
Don’t miss the CAC’s 46th Annual Festival of the Arts at Chase Park in downtown Chatham that features 120 Artisans and Craftsmen exhibiting their works on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, August 18, 19 and 20.
HEARLE GALLERY, 488 Main St., Chatham, (508) 945-2406; website: http://www.thehearlegallery.com.
The Hearle Gallery, established in 1985, exhibits many works by owner Debbie Hearle alongside the likes of Craig Mooney and Cindy Procious. Dunes, flowers and seascapes in oil and acrylic populate many of the canvases here. The summery, sometimes sportive pieces that folks often seek while on holiday at the beach can be found in this tightly-packed gallery right in the middle of Main Street.
CHATHAM FINE ART, 492 Main St., Chatham, (508) 945-0888; Summer Gallery Hours are 10AM. to 10PM. daily. Website: http://chathamart.com .
Just next door at 492 Main St., you’ll find Chatham Fine Art – owned and operated by Robert and Phyllis Totaro. Nestled in next to the famed Chatham Band Stand, the building has been continually operated as an art gallery since 1968 when it was first opened by Cape Cod artist, Marguerite Falconer. Representing approximately 50 artists, the gallery exhibits paintings and prints that reflect the natural beauty of the coastal area along with an intriguing selection of abstracts and still lives. While outdoor themes are plentiful, the work here tends to have a more modern perspective. Yes, you’ll find dinghies and dunes, but you’ll also get a whole bunch of bold and bright.