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Saturday, October 13, 2012

imagine/Northampton's Very First Arts Night Out Exhibition, October, 2012.

Wow! We've been wanting to do this for a long time! Being able to connect to the community through art has been one of our core values. We've had a Poetry reading, a Place and Possibility Seminar, a short film and dance experience, and we formed 1FlightUP and played jazz in clubs, but we've wanted to do more. It's taken us awhile, but last night we began the journey by becoming a gallery space and participating in Northampton's Arts Night Out. The second Friday of every month, 37 galleries, restaurants, retail stores, and food establishments offer some of their space to showcase artists. We're number 14 on the list. The city fills with all sorts of people having dinner, shopping, and visiting the "galleries" It makes the town come alive, and feel very vibrant.

Catherine Elliott, an old friend of ours from Simsbury and the BARN, graciously agreed to be our first artist. We've had the blessing of watching her grow as a painter over the years. She brought 19 small and large paintings, and transformed our space into an Art Gallery. Visitors remarked, young and old,  what a great gallery space this is, and how beautiful Catherine's work is. They used words for her such as: "peaceful and beautiful," "love, love. love," "intricate and beautiful," "thoughtful," and my favorite, " you have a great vision, beautiful work."

We had no idea how people would react to her work or our space. We're rookies at this, being our first time and all.The evening started slowly. Imagineurians Jenn and Kristen at 6PM or so went and stood outside our front door on Main Street and told people there was art to be seen upstairs. No one associated imagine/Northampton with being a gallery. A number of our guests said they'd walk by before and wondered what the heck we were ... a church? What kind of church has a weird name like that? Indeed.

So they started coming up the stairs and into our gallery. There were students, couples, and retired folks, many from Northampton. We had people who knew art and people who were just curious, and enjoying an evening out in Northampton. We got to meet some jazz musicians our age who have had the great blessing of being able to pursue their art for decades. We met a woman who weaves tapestries, an art form dying out until the 1950's. She has been working for years, among other pieces, on a large tapestry commemorating the Holocaust. She's part of a Guild of American Tapestry Weavers, and may be one of our next exhibitors. She was intrigued by being able to do so. We also met illustrators, and teachers, young people seeking alternative spiritualities and communities, a postman, culinary arts trained professionals, and photographers. They all loved Catherine's work and our space. Even our landlord, showed up! The guests we knew brought friends.

It all felt so right. As I mentioned, we've wanted to connect this way. Getting to know folks and talk to them is the primary way to build relationships through which we might be able to love, serve, and share the hope we have in Christ with them. We felt part of Main Street in a new and fresh way last night. We were contributing to the good of the city. We have credibility now because it was well-done as a gallery space. people are becoming aware of us. And we got to talk to some genuinely lovely folks.

Then there was the food. We do food with great passion and excellence; always have. We decided for the reception to have hors d' oeuvres, red and white wine, cider, coffee and tea, and chocolates. It wasn't over-the-top-fancy, but as you might expect, the table was lavishly appointed with delectable cheeses, meats and sophisticated pastries, hot and cold. Imagineurians Tricia McDermott, Amelia McCain, and Wednesday contributed, with Tricia leading the way. The quality of the food caught people's attention and were overhead to say, we offered, "the best hors d' oeuvres of anyone that night." We firmly believe attempting excellence in everything we do, as much as we are able, reflects the beauty, goodness and  glory of our magnificent God. People notice. They scarfed up the what was presented.

Some of our guests were also curious when they found out we were a church. They also took our materials and asked what we were about. Sometimes, it felt a little awkward, but for the most part, because of the atmosphere: a beautiful space filled with beautiful art, scrumptious food, jazz in the background, and imagineurians who are gracious, warm, and friendly, people interacted. I think we "blew some categories," for a few people. We want to do that, but with grace and simple elegance.

I need to thank Jim, Jenn, Kristen, Trey and Amelia, and Tricia for helping make our first Arts Night Out exhibition a success. We created the atmosphere we wanted (Tricia had the lion-share of that), had art which engaged people (thanks, Catherine!), connected with some folks (thanks all of you), and felt we held our own with the other spaces in town. We're not professional gallery owners, for sure, but many people commented very affirmingly on what we presented, and where we presented it, so we know God is in it. Sure we have a long way to go, but it was a wonderful first start, and we are very grateful.

So for the next two Friday and Saturday nights (October 19 & 20, 26 & 27) from 6-9PM, we'll be open for you to view Catherine's paintings. If you know folks who are interested in buying original work, invite them to join you. Make it a night out! We'd love to see you all!

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