There is something about this Champlain Valley that inspires artists of all genres. Far be it from me to understand precisely how and why, though I suspect it has a lot to with the abundance of scenic beauty, incredible vistas, the flora and fauna. One feels connected with the earthy natural elements here. Mother Nature continuously flashes a new colorful canvas, sculpture, song, perfume or performance for us to enjoy. You only need to pay attention and tear away from the flat screen a moment to witness it and become inspired yourself.
To anyone with a creative spirit, these natural displays of art get the juices flowing, spark the imagination, or ignite an expressive fire. All along the Adirondack Coast are opportunities to see and experience the outcome of such influence. From live theatrical performances at the Depot and Essex Theatres, to first class musical performances at Meadowmount and in Ballard Park, to the great artwork housed at our many museums, adorning our monuments and on exhibit in our galleries, the arts are truly alive in the region.
Going on right now is one exhibit, aptly named “Spirit of Place.” This exhibit is being held at the Westport Heritage House right at the hub of the hamlet in Westport. The “house” is actually a converted church adorned with some original stained glass and fine architectural detail; a work of art in itself. The chapel area of the building seats 113 and is known for its superb acoustics. Often musical performances are held here. It also serves as the rain location for the Soundwaves summer concert series held Thursday evenings in Ballard Park across the Main Street - 1st class jazz!
The “Spirit of Place” exhibit will run through September 7th; I stopped by on its opening day, July1st. Weather was not ideal for outside excursions as it had rained and poured off and on periodically all day. It was a good day for an inside adventure, but I would have gone regardless of the weather. I wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to view so many regional artists’ work in one setting - 34 artists to be exact. The entire activity/meeting room of the Heritage House was adorned with a wide variety of art work: paintings, photographs, sculpture, collage, tapestry, and more.
The exhibit is also a silent auction, acting as a fund raiser for this not-for-profit visitors and community center. Admirers of any piece may place a bid until August 8th at 3:00pm. If you simply must have the piece without risk of losing to a higher bid, they offer a Buy & Take opportunity. Pay the full value as indicated by the artist on the descriptive card for each piece, and you can take it home with you right then and there. This is one reason why I wanted to get there on opening day, otherwise who knows what I may have missed!? 70% of all sales go to the artist, the balance goes to support the operational costs of the building. Nothing goes to staff since they are all volunteers, despite that it is open every day throughout the summer (excluding Tuesdays) from 10:30am until 3:00pm, and Sundays from 1:00pm until 3:00pm.
Beyond the Art Show
One mission of the Heritage House is to serve as a visitors’ center offering regional information and wayfinding to our guests prowling the Adirondack Coast. The building also serves as a bit of a museum or heritage center, revealing intriguing facts of Westport’s history. In addition, it is a great gathering place available to groups, organizations and individuals who may want to make use of the large room for a class, meeting, or event. Right now that large room is the gallery space for the “Spirit of Place.”
I never fail to be impressed with the talent we have in this region. My attention was captured as soon as I entered the door. I worked my way around the room trying to note every detail and artistic expression. Some work made me smile, for others I “ooh”-ed, “ah”-ed , raised an eyebrow or squinted in scrutiny. I felt a certain sense of pride because these incredibly skilled individuals are from “my neighborhood,” so to speak. Many of these artists I have met. Seeing their work expanded the personality I was familiar with and also put the personality and face with the specific piece, adding another dimension. I will be attending the Meet the Artists Reception on Thursday, July 16th between 5:00pm and 7:00pm so that I can apply the same to all artwork on display.
To further expand the experience, the “Spirit of Place” has scheduled Artist Studio Tours on the last Saturday of the month, specifically July 25th, August 29th and September 26th. Between 10:00am and 4:00pm local artists will open their studios and creative spaces to the public, allowing a privileged opportunity to see the how, why and where of each piece. This is a backstage opportunity you won’t want to miss. The Studio Tours are self-guided and maps will be available at the Heritage House, downloaded off their website, or by calling 962-4590 once artists confirm for this season.
As I exited the building and exhibit, the sun popped out for the first time that day. It was as if Mother Nature was smiling and very pleased with her influence and these “Spirit of Place” renditions.
Don’t Stop There
Celebrate all the arts along the Adirondack Coast. Check out all the Lake Champlain Region galleries, museums and great works of art. Watch our events calendar to catch a live theatrical performance, or a Meadowmount, Soundwaves or other summer concert. Find your own “Spirit of Place.”
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