Saturday, June 2, 2018

Something New in Belmar

One of the important things that an artist has to learn is that some projects take time, and sometimes it takes a long time to create important things.  Tonight at the Boatworks we dedicated something that took a year, or maybe a decade, depending on how you look at it.   I'll explain.

The earliest years of the Belmar Arts Council were spent in various temporary, shared, and borrowed spaces.  Some of them literally no longer exist.  About a dozen years ago we moved into our current headquarters, the former Connolly Boatworks.  At the time it was an abandoned shell of a building, but it had a floor, walls, and a roof, plus plumbing and electricity. In the years since members have done a lot to fix up the building- redoing the floors, building and rebuilding interior walls, new ceilings, new doors, fixing and creating additions.  But that's just the inside.

There have been some municipal paving projects, and a lot of planting projects in the front, but our side yard, between the building and the municipal parking lot just to the north, has seen a lot of art activity over the years, too.  That first year in the building one of our big public projects was to create dozens of cast concrete creatures- bases, bodies, and heads that could be mixed a matched many ways, used for an event on Belmar Beach, where they seemed to emerge from the water to fill the sand, the event also including dancers, musicians, and storytellers.  (had no digital camera back then, but if I can find some old printed photos I'll post beach images here) The creatures eventually found their way back to our building where they can still be seen around the outside.  They were cast in vacuum-formed plastic molds, supported in pits dug in the sand in our side yard.

When we realized we very much needed additional space, we took advantage of existing apertures in our concrete wall to add an addition.  This now includes our education classroom, a huge closet, other storage, and a new side door, occupying a chunk of our side yard.

That side yard had been used to stage many things related to art going on in the building.  A lot of bands have played there, and we've hosted a lot of art demonstrations.

In 2010, that yard held a temporary skateboard ramp park (above) and in 2012, we had people using stencils (below) to paint designs on motor vehicles (at the owner's request- we are not vandals).

At one point our side yard held the old Freedman's bakery sign- here we see one of the round parts that used to hold the letters that spelled out BAKERY.

As part of yard and exterior improvements, we planted trees (above) and when they died, we removed the dead trees (below).  Being that the property had once been a boat repair shop, it's not surprising that the dirt and sand is contaminated with a lot of oil, and major plantings require digging through layers of asphalt and concrete.  Despite that, we have gotten a lot of things to grow over the years.

Alan the robot has been one of our most popular members for the past few years, having returned to our yard after spending time in another part of town.  All summer long people will stop by and take photos with him.

One of the more unusual uses of the space was a big community project in 2011- the creation of a mud mural.

Using an ancient cob building technique, it was constructed by volunteers using locally found bamboo, straw, and clay, and formed an outdoor vertical artwork.  And yes, those are more of our concrete cast creatures providing support around the base.

Despite being made from only natural materials, and existing completely exposed to the elements, it survived two hurricanes and numerous other coastal storms, before Belmar took it down to pave our new parking area.  Our unimproved side yard has been a very busy and well used space.

And yet somehow a new never before tried use was found for the space, a process that began over a year ago.  The idea was to create an outdoor sculpture garden containing a labyrinth.  Not so much a maze (the walls are only a few inches high), but such places are designed to give people a chance to walk around, contemplate and meditate.  In this case it is also the focal point of an outdoor sculpture garden.  Members Louise Krasniewicz and Jim Aberle were instrumental to the conception and designing of the labyrinth, but many many other people were involved in the process.

Plants and rocks were dug up and removed.  A large weed barrier was put down, held in place with gravel and stones, based on the planned design.  Many plants were added to mark the borders and walls.

And since this is part of a sculpture garden, large outdoor sculptures were place surrounding the labyrinth, with our friend Alan standing guard over the whole thing.  This all took a long time.

And that brings us to today.  The official dedication ceremony for our new labyrinth and sculpture garden was scheduled for 5:00 today.  Weather reports on tv and radio told us that rain was also scheduled for 5:00 today, not good for a planned outdoor event.  What would happen?

One of today's activities was the raffling off of part of the Freedman's Bakery sign that was given to us years ago when the bakery closed.  (I guess those big round letters are going to another purpose) Actually today was just the beginning of the raffle. Tickets will continue to be sold through the summer, with the drawing to be held sometime before Labor Day.  The winner will receive this large sign, a landmark in Belmar for many decades.

The rain held off, yet all the action early on was inside.   The sign in the front gallery, crowds sitting at our cafe tables in the back gallery.  What were they all looking at?

We had some live music going on- Jon Falk's Band.  That's him on the far left on stage.  They played a nice mix of classic rock that suited our not too young audience quite well.

Meanwhile, the mosaic mural project was continuing in our side education room.  Considerable work was done since last week, but it's not done yet.  The new goal is by the end of the summer.  

But after allowing time for people to arrive, the crowd was encouraged to go outside so we could get the main event going.

Louise Krasniewicz (with mosaic artist Linda Baran right next to her) gave a brief speech, mentioning how it was inspired, influences, and what the goals are.

Then Jim Aberle, who also did considerable work on the project, was called on to say a few words.

Then Belmar's current mayor Brian Magovern, who among other things praised BelmarArts as one of the most active centers of culture in the town.

Then we had an improvised ribbon cutting ceremony to make the day official.  Not that it's all done.  This labyrinth and sculpture garden is a work in progress.  Plants will grow, and more sculptures are expected to be added.  But here's a list of who is represented so far:

In the foreground, a piece by Alexandra Martin, and in the back (from left to right) works by Rich and Dorsey Lucas and Steve Harrison.

In the above photo- pieces by Lisa Bagwell (left) and Michael Miller (right).

That tall piece in the background is from Mike Grindell, and the round mosaic in the center of the labyrinth is by Linda Baran.

One of the nice things about an outdoor sculpture garden is that it's open all the time.  If there is daylight, you can see it.  But if you come by during regular gallery hours (W-Sat, 1- 5 pm) you can buy a raffle ticket and come inside to see the current Summertime, Summertime show.  And while you are outside, you can see something that we've never had in Belmar before.