Bigger and better: Art in the Park adding music, more artists

By Terry Leavitt

CONWAY — Next weekend, Art in the Park will return to North Conway and organizers promise it will be bigger and more colorful than ever.

The one-day event put on by the Mount Washington Valley Arts Association will take over Schouler Park from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 5, in Schouler Park, and will display the work of more than 50 artists and artisans, including paintings and three-dimensional art, jewelry and pottery.

Not only that, but there will also be a music tent with local favorites Miss Maybell and Slimpickins, Dennis and Davey, and crooner Jonathan Sarty.

"It's right in the center of town in this beautiful park, with the train station right behind it. It's an exceptional venue," said Louise Perry, president of Mount Washington Valley Arts Association.

Some of the artists don't have galleries of their own, she said, and their work can be hard to find.

Among the artists and craftspeople registered for the show are oil painters Rebecca Klementovich and Kristen Pobatschnig (aka "The Femmes Fatales"); photographer Frank Ficken; pastelist Barbara McEvoy; potter Holly Johnson; and many, many more.

Art in the Park is a North Conway institution and has taken place in Schouler Park most summers for the past 50 years, some years being a juried event and some years open to all.

This year's event is open to all artists — not juried or limited to members of the arts association. And while many of the artists are local, some come from farther away including southern and western New Hampshire and Vermont.

"You'll be astonished by how great these people are and many of them are not juried. Many of them are already juried, but we did not make that a necessity to be in Art in the Park and that's why we have close to 50 artists and artisans in," Perry said.

The artwork will be for sale, and art lovers will have a chance to talk to the artists about their creations. Some artists are expected to give demonstrations, including Bill Crone, who makes wooden bowls.

"This year, we will have the best variety we've had in long time," Perry said, noting there are more than two dozen painters working in watercolors, acrylics and oils signed up.

Some are long-established artists, like oil painter Lucy Merrow, a member of the association who has taken part in Art in the Park for many years.

Merrow said she was pleased with the work that is being done to expand and promote this year's event.

"Louise Perry is doing a wonderful job as the new director. I'm very impressed with her," Merrow said. "She's gone in a new direction, and it sounds exciting."

Then there are the "Femme Fatales of the North," who have been earning widespread recognition across New England. Perry noted the duo were named in New Hampshire Magazine this year as being among nine women artists to pay attention to.

Other participants, like Mary Bastoni of Fryeburg, Maine, are new to the visual arts. Bastoni, who is well-known for her musical talents, began painting in watercolors and oils last year. "I'm ridiculously passionate about it," she recently noted.

A juried member of the association, Bastoni said it's her first year participating in Art in the Park. "I just think it's really nice for the community to come together, for artists to see each other's art and for promoting art in the valley. I think that's a big deal."

"We have some other stuff that you don't always see coming," Perry said. "We have a guy who makes carved fish. He's been there in the past. We have the Salvage Sisters. They do chalk-painted and refinished older furniture. They are up and coming as one of our participants. I have a guy coming who does beautiful blown-glass ornaments — just exquisite — and very reasonably priced."

Association board member and watercolorist Joyce Desmarais said, "We want to support art in general. There's all types of art — music is one, theater is another. We want to give them an opportunity to show what they do and to raise some money as well."

Rounding out the event will be food, awards and raffles.

"I think it will have a festival atmosphere," said Desmarais, adding she hopes the music will help draw new people to the event.

"This is an event that people look forward to every summer. And people are really excited about it this year," she said.

"A lot of people who are looking for original art know that they'll find some at this show," Perry said.