I'd seen signs advertising upcoming Saturdays for ArtWalk Easthampton throughout the summer and always wanted to check it out, but it just never worked out for us. It's held every 2nd Saturday of the month and this particular 2nd Saturday (yesterday) turned out to be a beautiful day to be out and about. I was expecting the ArtWalk to be a lively, decent-sized crowd of interesting artists and art-fans out enjoying good art, good weather and maybe some good food and drink.
We headed down to Cottage Street a little after 5pm. We weren't exactly sure where we were going, but it turned out to be very easy since all of the stores and galleries had convenient "ArtWalk Easthampton" flags hung outside.
We started our art walk at Off The Map Tattoo, which was the first shop on Cottage Street with the flag out. It was a somewhat odd first experience, we walked in to see someone being tattooed in the front "bay," a woman at the front desk clicking away on her iMac and a few paintings hung on one wall. All the woman at the front desk said was "That's weird. Usually people come to us last." I really don't remember who the artists were, but recall thinking the art fit the location in terms of its graphic novel/tattoo-inspired qualities.
After a bit of a rocky start, we headed down to KW Home where an artist was displaying nature photographs. Again, it was a strange experience when we walked in and no one spoke to us, though the artist was clearly on hand to "present" her work. The photographs were OK, but we appreciated the opportunity to check out KW Home's wares more. (We rarely have the opportunity to check out the Cottage Street shops during normal business hours.)
I could tell that Mr. valleywriter was losing interest, so we headed to the next stop on the tour. Again a woman was showing her photographs, this time at the ReMax Realty office. Again, the artist was clearly there, but no one spoke a word to us as we entered. We politely admired the art on the walls and quickly moved on, out of the cramped, uncomfortably silent confines of a real-estate-office-turned-art-gallery.
At this point even my interest was lagging, but up next was La Casita Azteca, the new Mexican restaurant that's due to open soon.
When we entered the gates leading up to La Casita Azteca, we were warmly greeted by several people. The owner's wife apologetically explained that they were still setting up the restaurant and were running a little late for ArtWalk. Nonetheless, she showed us around the restaurant, shared the menu with us and encourage us to return next week for the restaurant's official opening. Although we didn't actually see any art at this ArtWalk location, it was honestly the first experience that resembled what I'd expected - people having talking, enjoying themselves and sharing in our community.
Heartened by this experience, we headed to the next stop, the Nashawannuck Gallery, with renewed energy. This location was buzzing with activity and art.
There were photographs, watercolors, ceramics, glass work and oil paintings from a wide range of local artists. Much of what was there was part of the regular gift shop, but there was also a special showing of Greg Stone's driftwood bird carvings and blues & baseball oil paintings. We spent quite a while roaming around the Nashawannuck Gallery before moving on to Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream, where watercolors were on display. Mt. Tom's was empty, the crowd was gone and our energy waned with it, so I grabbed a cone of heath bar crunch (delicious, as always!) and we headed back to our car.
While there were many more locations on the ArtWalk Easthampton list, we felt that we'd seen enough. We were a little disappointed that, except for 2 places, we spoke to nearly no one and felt little of the community atmosphere we'd hoped for. For future ArtWalks, I think it would be helpful to have artists on hand - and engaged - if they want to make this venture a true success.
I wonder if it was just a result of this being a long weekend and people being out of town. Or perhaps it was just an odd off-day for most. In any case, we'll probably give it one more try. But next time, I'll try to go with no preconceived notions. Worst case scenario, I'll just get another delicious scoop of Mt. Toms!