by Chris Ricci and Joey Phoenix
The 2015 Salem Arts Festival kicks off this weekend with a well-rounded and diverse series of exciting events including installations, music, performance, galleries, a street fair, and much more. Over the past few years, the Salem Arts Festival has been growing both in size and ambition, thanks to a collaboration between Salem Main Streets and Salem-based institutions, including Salem State University’s Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, The Peabody Essex Museum, The Salem Arts Association, and Creative Salem. Last year’s Hoop Installation “HulaArt” garnered statewide attention, and has raised the bar for 2015’s city-wide installations. This year’s Salem Arts Festival not only promises to be one of the most lavish in Arts Fest history, but it also boasts one of the strongest lineups, offering fun and entertainment for everyone.
On Friday night at 6PM, the 7th annual Salem Arts Festival will open with a reception at Old Town Hall. The event will feature an exciting lineup of musicians and performers, including Salem’s own Briana Paquin and Siren of the Circle, that will set the tone for the rest of the festival.
Old Town Hall is just one of many locations that will play host to happenings throughout the weekend, events will also take place along Front Street, in Derby Square, and on Artists’ Row.
Perhaps one of the most anticipated installations of this year’s Arts Festival is Front Yard Street Art, headed by Kate Gerolamo-Babcock and Sarah Babcock, in conjunction with Salem Main Streets. This massive community art project is an artistic “green space” comprised of yarn, felt, thread, and various other fiber implements, all constructed by hand. The installation will cover a large portion of Front Street, and the community is encouraged to add to the project with their own fiber creations over the course of the weekend.
Another eye-catching installation which will be on display this weekend, and throughout the summer, is an ambitious project by artist Liz LaManche of Earthsign Studios: Salem's Connected World. The installation is a companion piece to the successful Boston-based installation “Connected by Sea.” The Salem city wide tattoo project stretches through the Old Town Hall area, with individual pieces drawing on designs from Salem’s ethnic and nautical history, as well as cultural implements from across the globe.
Artist Street Fair
One of the highlights of the festival is an enormous street fair which will occupy large portions of the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall, Derby Square, Artists Row, and Front Street. Creative Salem will have an interactive station on Front Street, at the opening to Artists’ Row, which will have a number of unique offerings. There will be a pet photo booth, hosted by Salem Pet Photo, fine art and gifts by Deanna Jacome, Fiber works by Allison White, a pop up 3x5 maker station, caricaturist Josh Madruga, and more.
Old Town Hall
Set in the center of it all, Old Town Hall will play host to a series of events that you won’t find anywhere else. Throughout the event, a juried gallery will be presented inside of the Old Town Hall, with the exhibit running until the end of the Festival. History Alive!, sponsored by The House of The Seven Gables, is a unique new theatrical experience which allows attendees to engage with historical events in a way that is beneficial to both those who watch and those who act. History Alive! will be presenting “Cry Innocent,” a story set in 1692 where the attendees are members of a Puritan jury witnessing the trial of accused witch Bridget Bishop. Attendees will be able to fully participate in the trial, cross-examining witnesses, hearing testimonies, and deciding the ultimate verdict. Tickets are limited, and for more information, go to cryinnocentsalem.com. Also featured at Old Town Hall will be the Aurora Borealis Dance Company, which mentors young dancers in the Boston area and helps them use dance as a medium to discover what art really is. Linda Peck will be presenting an engaging street performance around the Town Hall area, while Jackie Bowden’s masterful choreography will be brought to life by students of the Salem State University dance department.
After a long off-season, Artists’ Row has reopened to the public this week with an impressive list of artists-in-residence, including Boston Woodturning, Witch City Wicks, Art by Sheila Farren-Billings, Salem Food Tours, and many more. Yet, the row itself isn’t the only reason to check out this part of the city this weekend. Artists’ Row will also play host to a series of musicians, short plays, and performances during the course of the festival. Some of the offerings include music by folk singer-songwriter Jennifer Evans, DJ JAMINIC, The Whisky Sippers and more. On Sunday at 2:15, the Ridiculous Project will be putting on a short performance, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet featuring music by David Bowie. Following the Ridiculous Project will be the performance of Up, a play by Michael Jaros.
If you’re a fan of music, then Derby Square is the place to be. Throughout the festival, the vast majority of musical acts will be populating Derby Square, and will be providing the perfect musical backdrop to the entire festival. Local outlaw country music legends The Bordellos will be bringing their unique twangy sound to Derby Square along with the blues rock stylings of The Brooks Young band. For fans of funk, The Othership and Poppa Cigar will be laying down some sweet grooves along with the Boston-based instrumental funk group True Monks. A 11,000 mile road trip across America resulted in the formation of the folk-trio The Corteries, and you’ll get a chance to check out their unique sound on Sunday. Other rock bands set to perform include Jumpin Juba and Absolute Gentlemen. With the unique electronic collaborative project Machine 475 closing out the festival, Derby Square’s revolving line-up of musical acts has something for everyone.
The Salem Arts Festival, which will run from Friday June 5 - Sunday June 7 and supported in part by a grant from the Salem Cultural Council, draws more than 4,000 visitors each year, and provides opportunities to highlight the existing artist community and encourage general community participation in the arts.
For a full map of the festival: http://salemartsfestival.com/events-map/
For full schedule of events: http://www.creativesalem.com/salem-arts-festival/