Somerville’s creativity makes ArtBeat bloom

On July 20, 2011, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By Carrie Stanziola

2011 ArtBeat was a cornucopia of sensation, bringing visitors to Davis Square, delicious food, great music, and the added delight of bringing them closer to the community.  The Somerville Arts Council tries to keep ArtBeat fresh every year, so it does not fall into the trap of being a “cookie-cutter” festival, said program manager Rachel Strutt.  Of particular note this Saturday, July 16, were ArtBeats “nomadic performance artists”, including Sandrine Schafer, who wandered through Davis Square fitting herself into small spaces. Strutt adds that Somerville’s sense of humor comes across in the festival.

One of many notable live music acts was the Somerville Symphony Orkestar.  Although billed as Russian/Funk, the group’s music transcends that label to encompass Gogol Bordello-inspired “Gypsy punk”, funk and Ashkenazi klezmer.  Band member Joel Edinberg notes that although he has had formal training in Connecticut and upstate New York, he is self-taught in the klezmer and Balkan styles that infuse Orkestar’s work.

Also present were a variety of booths representing a variety of stores and artisans, including Magpie, White Sparrow Bindery and Pansy Maiden.  Laura Collins, the woman behind Pansy Maiden, was looking for a “creatively invigorating” form of self-expression, which lead her to her bag-making business. As an added bonus, her bags are accessible to the animal rights crowd: Collins produces vegan bags of the highest quality that will not crack.  Furthermore, she does not use wool, and the glue is animal free.  Collins said that the detergent she uses is not tested on animals, and mentions that many are unaware of the animal byproducts contained in some detergents. Collins, who does one or two arts and craft shows per month and more during the holidays, operates her one-woman business out of her home in Medford.

Lisa O’Neill, a staff member at Magpie, a Davis Square-based gift store, stresses that all of their products are handmade by local artists and artisans.  Displaying a similar social consciousness, Magpie uses recyclable and reused materials.

Particularly interesting was White Sparrow Bindery, a two-woman business which produces hand bound journals, photo albums and miniature books.  Bexx Caswell and Katherine Westerman studied book binding together, and are in their third year of business.

Also represented in the affair was the CAC, or the Center for Arabic Culture.  Led by Noor Dughri, CAC has been promoting Arabic culture and fighting stereotypes since 2006.  CAC showcases Arabic music, language, and poetry as well as promoting Arab artists.  Dughri, of Libyan descent, adds that the center is secular and non-partisan.

On a more serious note were booths representing Horizons for Homeless Children and FNE.  Horizons representative Fiona Anderson came to ArtBeat looking for volunteers to play with the children living in the shelters, most of which are located in Dorchester and Roxbury, though several are in Somerville and Cambridge.  Horizons seeks volunteers who can commit to participating two hours a week for six months.  Anderson succeeded in drumming up support for her cause, as there were numerous signatures on the volunteer sign-up sheet.

FNE, or Friends NE, facilitates and works with groups in Haiti, Nicaragua and Peru.  Wadson Michel, who spearheads FNE, notes that all the profits from the organization’s merchandise, including “I Love Haiti” t-shirts, goes directly into the work the group does.

No matter what your interests, the Somerville Arts Council put together a festival that was sure to delight all who came.


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