Around Town

Artists gather to share ideas on future city projects

WESTFIELD-Just outside the ArtSpace studio at the Mill at Crane Pond on the evening of June 24, there was excitement in the air as local artists gathered for a “meet and greet” to share ideas about the future of art and cultural opportunities in the city.

The event was hosted by ArtWorks Westfield and Crystal Miller, owner and instructor of ArtSpace, who provided tours of her studio. Miller’s art director, Laraine Percoski, was also on hand to greet artists and discuss instructor teaching options.

Crystal Miller, owner and instructor of ArtSpace at the Mill at Crane Pond, welcomes attendees to an Artist Meet and Greet on June 24. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

“ArtWorks Westfield was launched based on feedback gathered at community open forum meetings back in late 2015 and early 2016,” said Bill Westerlind, president of ArtWorks Westfield. “Just over five years later, we decided to continue the grassroots tradition of community feedback and suggestions to chart the course for the next five years in the growth of art and cultural experiences in Westfield.”

Westerlind added that the Artist Meet & Greet evening served that purpose “very well.”

Miller shared a similar sentiment.

“I’m delighted to see all of you tonight,” said Miller, adding, “ArtSpace is an open space for artistic expression in its many forms.”

Crystal Miller, owner and instructor at ArtSpace at the Mill at Crane Pond, and Laraine Percoski, art director and instructor, welcome attendees to the ArtSpace studio during an Artist Meet and Greet on June 24. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

Miller noted that instructors are welcome to conduct creative classes for area residents of all ages, and studio time can be rented out for photography, meetings and private events.

“We need to respond to the needs of the community so let’s talk about ways to have fun and offer a variety of artistic opportunities during the day, evening and on weekends,” said Miller.

Westerlind concurred.

“This meeting corroborated our founding principles of bringing creators and community together to unify our community and participate in positive and uplifting cultural experiences,” said Westerlind.

Throughout the early evening, artists networked and shared experiences with each other and offered feedback on projects they would like to see in the future.

Among those attending the gathering was Edmond LeClerc, originally from Westfield and now resides in Greenfield.

“This town keeps calling me back,” said LeClerc, who had several art pieces on display which captured the feelings of isolation in 2020 and the experience of an “alien virus.”

Edmond LeClerc was among the artists displaying their work during an Artist Meet and Greet on June 24. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

“I enjoy starting with a doodle and then expanding on it until an image is created that then creates an inner dialogue,” said LeClerc.

Westfield resident Shauna Allen was also in attendance and is eager to join the local arts community. Allen, a master watercolorist and seamstress, also works as a medical illustrator providing learning aides to physicians and pharmaceutical representatives.

“I have a lot of event organization skills and look forward to being a resource of information and becoming more connected to the arts community,” she said.

The family of Sara McKendry-Cabana also attended and enjoyed viewing the artwork and engaging with fellow artists.

“I enjoy painting and drawing whatever comes to mind,” said Lucien Cabana, 11, noting she has learned a lot about art from her sister who has conducted classes at ArtSpace.

Lea Cabana, 8, also shared her sister’s enthusiasm for attending the event with their mom.

“My mom’s work looks very realistic,” she said, adding, “I enjoy acrylic painting of sunsets over a lake or an ocean and will be moving on to oils soon.”

Artist Sara McKendry-Cabana brought her daughters, Lea, Lucien and Teila to the Artist Meet and Greet on June 24 at the Mill at Crane Pond. They are seen looking at the watercolors by Denise Calvo-Berndt. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

Teila McKendry, who conducted virtual classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, said it felt great to be back in the building.

“I have done art classes for kids and look forward to more in-person sessions,” she said.

As the evening wound down, everyone in attendance was encouraged to seek out the many opportunities available in the city as well as considering becoming involved with ArtWorks and ArtSpace.

“We are excited about the many art and cultural possibilities and opportunities as we move forward out from under the cloud of COVID and back into in-person events, activities, engagements and experiences,” said Westerlind.

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