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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Art in Utica?

The second annual Bagg's Square Festival of The Arts was an ambitous event to say the least. The people behind it (Art on The Run, The Resonance Center) spent the better part of a year to make it happen. The many vendors, artists, performers and attendees that participated in the three day festival validated the need for creative avenues of expression. Not only as an artist but as an appraiser or fan of art. The people in attendance served as a barometer. A way to measure the demand for originality and creativity here in Utica.

Friday: Day one

Friday May 30th the second annual Bagg's Square Festival of the Arts began. All the preparation and planning leading up to this evening guaranteed a thorough and organized event.

Friday was an introductory night. The streets were not blocked off, there were no stages or live music. Instead the participating storefronts along the street were temporarily transformed creating a vibrant atmosphere and attracting a colorful crowd. Installation pieces and simpler more traditional works of art were displayed in every business with a few exceptions.

106 Genesee St, Utica Monday Nite's storefront, was the scene of a photo exhibit. At least sixteen local photographers participated creating a room full of expression. Some photos were deep, technological pools of understanding and provocative imagery, capturing poignant poses and expressions, others were shallow afterthoughts. Visions from a mental cable remote.

Kurt Williams, Anthony Garito and Meagan Sample are exempt of any criticism.

A couple of doors down at 100 Genesee St. (aptly dubbed 'The Film Palace') Vince Brown a local filmaker, hosted Hobo Filmfest. Many people were attracted by the installation piece in the display window of the storefront. The piece, named Queen Victoria's Psychedelic Crystal Palace was...more on that later.

The featured director of The Hobo filmfest, Shawn Lukitsh from Agency Films, showed a number of documentaries about the hobo lifestyle. "I have an interest in trains and the 'hobo' culture" he said.
Lukitsh has taken a interest to another level having traveled thousands of miles as a 'hobo' and personally documenting the lifestyle for himself. His knowledge of the culture and the people within it leant an air of authenticity to the films he chose to play.

The railway with it's boxcars and miles of track is as much a star in these films as the many grizzled characters that grumbled through their part of the tale. The Bill Daniels documentary on Bozo Texino, a famous railway 'hobo artist' was the highlight. The feature film, titled 'Hobo', was a documentary by John T. Davis an Irish National with a passion for hobos that might rival Lukitsh's.
A subculture indeed.
The old Resonance Center was also lit up. Artwork adorned every wall. Paintings and sculpture filled the room. People milled about checking out the work by some of The Mohawk Valley's best artists. I heard a lot of 'wows' and 'what's this'? by the end of the weekend.

Saturday : Day Two

The day started with a pessimistic warning from the weather man.
Rain all day.

That didn't stop 3/5 of the scheduled vendors from coming and filling their coveted spots along Genesee St.. But it stopped the rest. " A lot of paying vendors didn't even bother to come out because fo the weather warnings" shared one of the event organizers under a clear blue sky.

The visible gaps left by absent vendors were filled with frollicking kids and curious adults. The latter wondering what to look at next. A large group from The Mohawk Valley Center for Refugees looked particularly lost. They were looking for food. Ioanna ( pronounced yuwanna) Balint, chaperone for the future citizens successfully located two different booths. Eating steak sandwiches and salt potatoes is one of many great ways to become American.

The patches of rain throughout the day actually provided periodic relief from the climbing temperatures. And despite the showers the water dried up before I finished my third hot a row.

There was also music. A roster of local bands were sceduled to perform on the two stage areas set up on Genesee and Whitesboro St. Due to some last minute beaurocracy the Mainstage had to be moved effectively shelving and moving some of the performances. "These things happen" said Chuck Tomaselli one the event organizers. "We simply have to look for solutions" he added.

At the time of the first move Tomaselli had no idea the logistical nightmare that was developing. The electricity from the alternate location was not adequate for the sound technician. So, with bands frothing at the mouth in anticipation to play and a growing crowd the frustrated sound tech packed up and left.

"We can do this" Tomaselli was overheard saying.
After a few hours the stage was moved again and stand-in sound tech, Jerry D from the Rusty Dove's used last minute equipment provided by Big Apple Music. "We got Devin Garramone in on time" said a surprised and triumphant Adam Spiridillozi.

The Grammy nominated Garramone represented the seasoned best out of a strong roster of talent assembled for the fest. Whitesboro's answer to the Jonas Bros. Intermission could be overheard jamming their almost perfect covers. The Sauce perhaps the area's most interesting project belted out a sampling of pure musical talent.

The Sauce's Chris Woods and mono-nomed drummer Blake have definitely nudged open a spot on the local music scene. Woods is a musical wizard finger popping his bass in a zone reserved for shamans. Blake, the drummer, acts as a translater holding back and rolling with him adding a perceptive structure to Woodses immense talent.

Local hip-hop innovator AM Breakups made it back from their northeastern tour to perform as well. "It was great man ... people were like: 'you're AM Breakups?'. shared a happy Maris Meilnick.

Before I left I had to get a good look at Queen Victoria's Psychedelic Palace again. This installation was cleverly set up in the storefront of the 'Film Palace' at 100 Genesee St. Two signs one on each facade of the display windows read: Peek Holes.

With a peek in one of a dozen holes one can get a glimpse of the nightmarish, and disturbingly appealing scene that was painstakingly set up by creator Alex Yeager and Tina (she bolted before I could get her full name). The angles are everything in this piece. Vials with strange colored liquids, a mannequin head. Is that a Ken doll? It was a managerie of sideshow oddities that will never be seen in the same space ever again anywhere.

The festivities continued on till late night where it was rumored that: 'everyone in the art scene was there- dancers, poets, actors and musicians'. But no writers.

Sunday: Day Three

The crowd was much more intimate for the third day. It was all about the food and fundraising. The Lomeo Brothers belted out a timely set of Blues standards, at times accompanied by well timed trainhorns provided by freights that periodically pass through Utica.

The blues harp takes on a whole different role when heard in tandem with a distant, approaching train. As if The Lomeo's weren't enough the weather was great and so was the food. A modest number of people who stopped by to support a good cause sat through and enjoyed the live performance put on by The Sir Philip Sydney Association for Local Writers.

This group of writing enthusiasts has been together for less han a year and they have already decided to expand their artistic horizons to include live theater. The festival provided a venue for their first live performance.

The group had to reschedule due to Saturday's last minute stage move but they still delivered a humor filled show. Walter 'Bud' Wadas wrote, designed the set and directed for the group. His original script, On The Stoop inspired more than a few chuckles. " I am just glad we pulled it off" a relieved Wadas admitted. Everyone 'pulled it off'. It was a great weekend.


Spartacus said...

Dave, thanks for this long and winding narrative of the Utica Arts Festival. Down here in Lindenhurst, we get street fairs and rides for the kids and vendors selling everything from likenesses of Elvis on velor to re-prints of 1956 Mickey Mantle cards. I'll admit, I'm a bit jealous of the Utica gig, and you'll make me even more jealous if you tell me there were vendors there selling sausage and pepper subs and zeppoles. That alone is worth the drive there net year.

David B. Dancy said...

Spart there was sausage & pepper subs with the choice of hot or sweet peppers. No wonder this place ranks in the top five for the highest rates of heart disease in America.Burgers chicken pulled pork. They do not fuck around. i stuck with hotdogs chicken and salt potatoes...I almost bursted, not even enough room for beer. I was drunk on food.

David B. Dancy said...

What is a zeppole?

KELSO'S NUTS said...


I'm here on old business. To pay off a debt. You were right about Obama, but I wasn't wrong.

From the second he gave that speech on race in Philadelphia, I got it. Obama is -- whatever his political skills are and he's still learning -- the best thinker in American poltics in my lifetime. I really bugs me that the one guy I could vote for in an election without a single reservation is not available to me because I can't vote in US elections anymore.

I know I'm right now and I wasn't wrong then, I just didn't understand the man's ability to play the broader game at the master level.

It all made sense to me when another Obama supporter (who voted for Clinton in the GA primary) whose opinions match mine pretty closely answered my question. I put it to him this way. "We both agree that Obama is the most sophisticated thinker in politics to come along in our lifetimes anyway, right? We both agree that we didn't see it until Philadelphia but have seen nothing but brilliance since. Furthermore, we both agree that everything the guy said and did from 2004 until he lost Ohio made us very uncomfortable and made us feel like he belonged in the Republican Party, right? So, why didn't we see the real Barack Obama until March?"

His answer was so simple and elegant that I felt like a jerk and an idiot.

My friend said to me: "the man wanted to be president, didn't he?"

Spartacus said...

Dave, sorry I didn't respond to this sooner. Yeah...I hear what you're saying about the S&P heroes and all those other foods that are just no good for you. But damn it, if doesn't taste so f*ing good.

So what's a zeppole? It's a Sicilian pastry that is essentially a deep-fried dough ball covered in confectionery sugar. On the outside, they look like powered doughnuts without the hole, but if they're made right, they are more like croissants. Here's a link a site that offers a better explanation than I can.

David B. Dancy said...

Sounds good Spartacus hows about rice balls

Spartacus said...

They have those too, bro. Next time there's a street fair, I'll snap a pic and post it.

Meagan Sample said...