Artists' Circle At Cataumet Arts Center

Artists socialize in the Cataumet Arts Center's gallery as part of the Artists' Circle, held quarterly at the Center.
- Artists socialize in the Cataumet Arts Center's gallery as part of the Artists' Circle, held quarterly at the Center.

The spring Artists’ Circle will be held on Saturday, March 15, beginning at 6:30 PM at the Cataumet Arts Center. The event will be an evening of art and socializing for artists and non-artists alike. “The way we bill the event is as an evening for ‘artists and friends,” said Andrea York, founder and director of the Cataumet Arts Center. “It’s left open,” she added, “you don’t have to be an artist if you just want to come and enjoy the art and the community.”

The format for the evening is casual. Following a potluck dinner a clipboard is passed around and anyone who wants to present can write their name on the list. The informality of it makes it less intimidating, Ms. York said. The studio space is reconfigured and an easel is set out.

Lately Cataumet sculptor Gary Tabor has been acting as master of ceremonies for the event, “He’s just so good at it,” Ms. York said. Mr. Tabor invites artists up, one at a time. Sometimes an artist will present two or three pieces of work, sometimes only one; sometimes it’s something half finished that they’ve been working on. An artist will speak about their work for five minutes or so. “It’s not a critique,” said Ms. York, “It’s more of an adult show-and-tell.”

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The artist will get a lot of interaction with the audience, Ms. York said. “People ask questions and make comments about mood or technique.”

There’s also a time during the Artists’ Circle for announcements when artists can let people know about shows that they are in, workshops they might be leading, or even just a great museum show they’ve recently seen and want to recommend. “It’s a nice networking event.”

Although the event had been going on prior to her involvement, Ms. York recalls that she first started attending the Artists’ Circle back in 1989, when it was still being held on the other side of the bridge in Onset. The event was originally started by artist Marcia Mellor, who was affiliated with the former Swain School of Design in New Bedford. Ms. York recalled that Ms. Mellor’s motives for starting the circle were to bring together academic artists who were associated with the school and local artists within the community. “Everyone loved it,” recalled Ms. York, “It broke down that barrier.”

Ms. Mellor eventually moved to Cape Cod and her new residence wasn’t large enough to accommodate the group.

The Artists’ Circle being held in Cataumet actually predates the Cataumet Arts Center, which was founded in 1994. Ms. York and Cataumet artist Alfie Glover recalled that the Artists’ Circle first moved from Onset to Cataumet in 1990 and was held in the space that would later be formalized into the arts center but at that time was being used as an old sail loft with studio space in the back.

From the beginning the circles were scheduled to coincide with the vernal equinoxes and summer and winter solstice and although they are now described by the season, they still coincide with those four dates.

Mr. Glover recalled that the first Artists’ Circle to be held in Cataumet was in celebration of the winter solstice and the group paraded outside in the cold to welcome in the days of longer light and the new year with lanterns and a large festive dragon’s head and tail that some of the artists had made for Falmouth’s First Night celebration.

Ms. York also recalled that Mr. Glover had made a life-sized cardboard fireplace, painted to look like red brick, “with convincing plug-in flames made from real logs, orange cellophane and light bulbs connected to a motorized rotating mechanism he found at the town landfill’s swap shed.”

“We brought it in to ‘warm up’ the studio space during the Artists’ Circle, and we cut out and painted striped cardboard stockings and hung them on it.” The faux fireplace became a favorite and humorous fixture in the early gallery space, Ms. York said.

Regarding the present Artists’ Circle, Ms. York wanted to stress that the event is not just for visual artists. Writers, poets, dancers, performance artists, sculptors, and musicians are also invited and encouraged to attend.

While the event is a perfect way for artists to meet and get to know one another, sometimes these introductions can go further than that. Artists’ Circles have more than once led to collaborations between artists who met at the event.

Another nice aspect of the Artists’ Circle is that it is based on the idea that there are no levels; someone who’s just taken their first drawing class is equally as welcome as a professional artist with 30 years of experience. “Wherever you are, everyone is interested,” Ms. York said.

Although it is usually adults, children have also participated in the event. Ms. York recalled one time when grandchildren of one of the artists performed Irish step dancing and other times that children brought ceramic pieces and paintings.

Even the potluck is a work of art in its own way. Everybody brings something to eat and you always wonder, “What if everyone brings brownies,” but that never happens, Ms. York said; it always works out. “It’s kind of magical.”

“It’s a good place for artists who are new to the area to get a sense of how much vitality there is within the local arts community,” Ms. York said, adding that for the most part artists live a solitary life and an important part of the Artists’ Circle is having others validate your art and in effect, your life.

Many people are working and raising families and also trying to progress in their art Ms. York said. “Whatever your circumstance, it doesn’t hurt to get a little dose of inspiration.”

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