16th annual Colorscape Chenango in Norwich this weekend

An estimated 13,000 to 15,000 spectators are expected to attend the 16th Annual Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival this weekend, which traditionally brings some of the finest local, regional and national artistic and musical talent to the county.

Featuring a wide variety of artwork expressed through a number of mediums, the two-day festival has nearly tripled in size since its inception, according to Colorscape Executive Director Peggy Finnegan.

Artistic offerings from approximately 90 juried artists will include oil and watercolor paintings, ceramics, basketry, pottery, jewelry, clothing, woodwork, mosaics, glass and fiber works and more, an experience Jeffery Gale of the South New Berlin-based Black Ash Splint Basketry called an “important part of our local heritage of craftsmanship.”

“What I love is the opportunity, being a craftsman that lives in this area, to visit with everyone and discuss my craft and let them know there’s someone up in these hills working in this traditional form,” said Gale, who’s been an exhibitor since year one of Colorscape. “Rather than going to the far reaches of the world, I get to talk to people right here in our community about this part of our culture, our heritage and our history.”

In addition, those in attendance have numerous opportunities to experience the actual artists at work, as many perform live craft demonstrations throughout the weekend, reported Finnegan.

Other activities featured at the two-day festival will include the Student Art Exhibit, Competitive Poetry Slam – from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Café Connection – a variety of Hands-On Art Projects for all ages, the Dance Stage with Amber and Mikey Perkins and of course, the Culinary Court.

New to the festival this year – according to Finnegan – the H.E.A.R.T. Healing Arts Booth, Central New York Bounty, offering produce and packaged food items for festival-goers to enjoy at home, and Cinema Art at Howard Johnson.

“Trouble the Water,” Colorscape’s first Cinema Art offering and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Howard Johnson Ballroom, said Finnegan. The award-winning documentary on Hurricane Katrina is rated R and seating will be limited to 200 people.

As has become the norm in the past decade, Colorscape Chenango will also feature a wide array of musical talent on the NBT Main Stage, including performances by local favorite L.J. Gates, who said he’s “honored and humbled by the opportunity,” the Horseshoe Lounge Playboys, The Hickory Project, Aztec Two-Step, pianist Bob Malone, McPeake, Sara Milonovich with Daisycutter and returning favorites Professor Louie & the Crowmatix and The Horse Flies.

Children’s Stage performances will include Elizabeth Orleski and Kam DeLong of Drumzzone, an acoustic performance by Rex March Fowler of Aztec Two-Step and interactive percussion and acoustic workshops.

“Ken Millett is such a pleasure to work with and he does a great job lining up the entertainment, making you feel so much at home and all of the musicians play at their best due to that,” stated Professor Louie, who performs at a number of national and international festivals with the Crowmatix. “It’s always such a nice feeling to know that Norwich has embraced music and art together for people to enjoy at no admission.”

Millet, Colorscape’s music coordinator, said he believed the experience for those attending is an “emotional one,” and the festival’s increasingly strong draw can be attributed to the fact that, “we bring people from all over who come for the music and are used to paying $15 or $20 to see acts which we are offering for free.”

“I think our audience has grown, the reception has grown positively and people have come to expect an excellent show,” stated Millet. “I’m always amazed at the receptivity to new music, – they may have never heard it before but once they have, they love it.”

Millett said he’s “really looking forward” to all of this year’s acts, and pianist Bob Malone in particular, who he called an “outstanding pianist and songwriter who’s kind of a mix between Dr. John and Elton John, if you can imagine that.”

The Main Stage will also feature a special 9/11 tribute, according to Millett, beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturday, which will feature a mixed-group of Colorscape musicians performing “three or four airs” followed by a rendition of the classic “Amazing Grace.”

The performance, which Millett said should “prove to be quite moving,” is a chance for all in attendance to “celebrate the hopes, dreams and aspirations of those who lost their lives” in the attack on the World Trade Center.

Another favorite for Millett, the 11 a.m. Sunday Gospel Show.

“For some people this is something they look forward to all year and it’s something that means a lot to them,” said Millett. “The first time I saw the Gospel Show, I noticed everyone had these little white carnations and I figured someone must have handed them out. It turns out they were all holding napkins and handkerchiefs – they were in tears.”

While the continued success of Colorscape can be ascribed to many factors, Finnegan said the primary reasons are simple – the support provided by community businesses and individuals, the festival’s membership program, the artists and musicians and the approximately 200 volunteers who donate their time on a yearly basis.

“It’s really amazing and reassuring to see all of the people come out year after year,” said Finnegan. “The arts, in all aspects, are vital to our quality of life and we hope to see everyone come out and join us once again at Colorscape.”

There is no admission for the two-day Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival, which will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday in East and West Parks, rain or shine. For more information visit www.colorscape.org.

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