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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Of Light and Dark and Reveille: Opening Reception for Artist Bella Halsted and Sculptor Ben Westbrock.

On Friday, October 11th ,  our imagine ART Gallery hosted the Opening Artist Reception for Amherst painter, Bella Halsted, and Northampton ceramic sculptor Ben Westbrock. We met both Ben and Bella when they, at different times, traipsed up the stairs into the gallery to see what there was to see. I was the first to meet Ben. He stopped by in the summer and after a conversation at one of the ARTS Night Openings, returned a few weeks later to bring me a packet of pictures showing his work. they sat around for a month or two and Tricia contacted him after she's talked to Bella and they thought it right to do a joint show with Ben. One cool thing about this show both Ben and Bella are in their 70's and they are local. Ben is the shorter gentleman with the beard on the right in the first picture. Bella is the lady with the turquoise jacket in the second picture:


As with all opening night receptions for a new show, we're never quite sure who'll be showing up. What we can say is the numbers are increasing steadily since we began! We noticed a bit of a difference with this show. The pace of guests coming to see the exhibit was steady once it began. The gallery was full until right up to the end. Even after I closed up shop, a father and his two kids knocked on the door saying they'd heard they needed to see this exhibit so he wanted to know if I'd open up. Of course, I did.

As she has done before, imagineer Jenn Swick stood out front telling folks about the exhibit. Many of them hadn't been up to the gallery before, so she single-handedly was responsible for introducing all these new folks to the space. A number of the guests were friends or family of the artists. It seemed many of them came too. Some of our friends were there as well, including Bob and Barbara Japenga who we served with in the retreat ministry with at the Center For Renewal in Simsbury. It was a lovely surprise to see them. It was also lovely to see and visit with Bruce Mills and Tamar Shadow. Tamar was a key exhibitor and instigator of the very well-attended TWINE show we did last spring. They were out and about and stopped in. It's always great to see them. Scott Jackson and Leah Gregg also stopped by as they have at more than a few of our shows. We've known them since almost the beginning of being here.

I also recognized faces of people who've been to our other shows. There were some wonderful comments about the peace and "specialness" of the space and  how calm it feels. One faithful supporter said it was her favorite gallery (a couple of others said that too) and she's been to all our shows. She had tears in her eyes and apologized for getting emotional. People all raved abut the food calling it the best gallery food in the city. That happens every time because Tricia takes such care to make it wonderful, not just snacks. All in all, I counted 200+ by the end of the evening, Ben and Bella sold some work. We pray for that.

If you came into the gallery you'd have seen a combination of Ben's and Bella's work. What you'd notice would be all the vibrant color and interesting shapes on display. Tricia has a knack for hanging pieces; she's affirmed all the time about that by the artists. Bella's paintings are abstracts with bold colors and shapes of landscapes. With some, she does watercolor studies first so you would've seen seen both. Doing it that way helps you see into how she sees. And she tied many of them to a poem; something she's written or something by famous poets such as Wendell Berry or William Blake. Having a light on her work made the colors pop with strength and vibrancy.

Ben's ceramic sculptures also popped with color, texture, and with movement. Many are whimsical. All are abstracts, but not unrecognizable as something familiar. They have substance and clear form. Some look like sea creatures or cartoon characters. Some look like tools or body parts or knights. Others are abstract designs to be hung on a wall. They are well-made, evocative and you'd want to touch them. They catch your eye right away and you'd wonder what they are:


We are now a year into this and it feels like we are just getting anchored in the town. People often say, I didn't know you were here, even though we have been showing up almost every weekend since a year ago in September. There is much we still have to learn about being more public as a church and a gallery. We'll get there. I remember, we knew nothing about how to do most of this when we came to plant imagine/Northampton. The imagine ART Gallery was not even a thought. But here we are after a years and artists are beginning to ask if they can bring their  work in. Recently, I had two folks tell me we have a great space and this is a great exhibit. They both are connected to galleries one in Holyoke and one in Watertown. Some are fascinated we are a church.

May God accomplish all he desires through the gallery and the church we were inspired by him to start. I can imagine it. His being glorified by what we do here would be an exquisite joy for us.

If you haven't come out this Friday or Saturday to see Gordon College Professor of Art, Jim Zingarelli's "The 4/4 Series" of paintings and sculpture:



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