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MWPAI Arts Festival to be bigger and better than ever

Nicole A. Hawley
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 7/10/22

From art prints created by an actual steam roller to “smoke painting,” the annual Sidewalk Art Show and performances by local artists, this year’s Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute …

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MWPAI Arts Festival to be bigger and better than ever


UTICA — From art prints created by an actual steam roller to “smoke painting,” the annual Sidewalk Art Show and performances by local artists, this year’s Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute summer Arts Festival promises to be bigger than ever, featuring events and activities for the entire family.

The event show dates are scheduled from Tuesday, July 12 through Sunday, July 17.

“The arts festival is our way of hopefully inviting the community to enjoy everything the institute has to offer — putting our best foot forward for everything we do here,” said Bob Mortis, director of performing arts and special projects manager. “There will be gallery experiences and things to do for families, educational opportunities, classes and performances. We invite the community in and embrace their participation.”

Each year the cornerstone of the festival is the Sidewalk Art Show and in recent years, visitors have been able to participate in the judging — making notes and casting their ballots for the special People’s Choice award.

The show features more than 200 works by local artists in a colorful array of media, open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Sidewalk Art show is a juried exhibition where artists may submit one piece of their work created within the last five years. The submission must be an original and cannot previously have been shown at the Institute or the School of Arts Annual Exhibition.

Mortis explained that the annual show is open to artists residing within a 40-mile radius, and in recent years, community members have enjoyed the opportunity to help select the People’s Choice award winner.

Participants will “write the numbers of the works down, write notes, and the ballots come back with scribbles,” Mortis noted.

“It’s nice to see people taking a hard interest in that process, and sometimes the notes are great — most people wish they could vote for more than one.”

He said, “As someone who’s been part of the voting process for a number of years now, the front-runners start to emerge after a day or two. It’s surprising that the top two or three artists in each category take a lead and stay up front. The talent is so obvious in some works, that they really shine.”

Also featured during the festival is the MWPAI Pop-up Library, which highlights the services provided by the arts institute library, and is open to the public.

The head of research at the MWPAI Library will be available for members, students, as well as the public, for a showcase inside the Root Sculpture Court. There will be a selection of books to peruse and attendees will be able to ask questions about what resources are available at the library.

The Pop-up Library “touches back on our campus, but it’s very accessible, and library staff are always helpful and will assist with any art questions or reference needs,” Mortis explained. “We have weekly visitation and participation at the library is solid, not just when students are here on campus. The library even has recordings, videos, movies and CDs to borrow and has quite a bit to offer.”

Each evening of the festival at 7 p.m., local and regional stage performers and musicians will be showcased on the festival stage.

“We try to pull entertainers from the community to highlight the talent that is right here in our area,” said Mortis.

A special highlight of this year’s festival will include The Big Ol’ Steamrollin’ Print Invitational, with some prints eventually going up for sale post event.

On Thursday, July 14 starting at 10 a.m. off State Street, MWPAI has invited between 20-25 artists who will be provided with a 4-foot by 4-foot sheet of plywood and be encouraged to create a design. Mortis said volunteers will then ink the wood panels and place them flat on the pavement in the museum’s parking lot.

“Then we’ll cover the panels with canvas and then roll over them with a steamroller — that will make imprints on the canvas,” explained Mortis.

“It makes large, beautiful prints that will be showcased at 4 Elements Studio (1607 Genesee St., Utica) on exhibition, and some will eventually be available for sale. There will also be a family craft going on at the same time, where participants can make mini prints, and there will be a DJ there to share some fun music.”

The annual festival keeps on growing, and new this year will be the Blue Sky Forklift Smoke Painting, featuring New York artist Rosemarie Fiore, known as a “pyrotechnic painter,” on Saturday, July 16.

Fiore was formerly an artist-in-residency at Utica’s Sculpture Space and she will be back in the area to highlight her pyrotechnic work.

“We worked with the city to close Genesee Street — the block in front of the museum — for the weekend so we could prep the space for Saturday,” Mortis said. “Fiore will use a forklift and sculpture tool of her own design, which fits over the forks of the forklift. The tool converts pyrotechnic smoke bombs down onto the pavement, and the pigment in the smoke canisters allow her to make imprints and drawings on the pavement.”

A DJ also will perform as Fiore creates her block-wide masterpiece.

“It’s really fun to watch. It takes a couple hours to create — it’s temporary art — and festival attendees can watch it being made and then they can enjoy it for a day or two, and then it’s gone,” said Mortis, noting that the artwork will be removed from the street post festival.

Rain date for the activity will be Sunday, July 17.

“The city has been very supportive of the event and with granting the necessary permits to close the street, and to add signage to make it all happen,” Mortis added.

The festival will be capped off with the annual Antique Car and Motorcycle Show starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, July 17. The reservation period to participate in the show has been extended for vehicle enthusiasts to July 14.

After scaling back some activities for last year’s MWPAI Arts Festival during the pandemic and having to cancel the 2020 show, Mortis said the arts center and museum is excited to add new and exciting events to the 2022 lineup.

“We did do the festival last year and scaled back some events because of concerns with the pandemic, and it was a real joy to have it back, even in a limited capacity,” Mortis said. “But this year not only are we back in full force, we have so much more going on, even compared to before the pandemic. The Boy Scouts have even been invited to participate, and Troop 4 will set up a carnival on the museum grounds. Oneida County Youth Bureau will also have a chalk art contest, which we’ve never done before. There’s so much going on for families too, whether it be a craft time or story time. People can come and spend the whole day.”

While plenty will be going on under the summer sun, Mortis said the Museum of Art will also have plenty of activities inside, in addition to being open to tours of the Norman Rockwell Exhibition, the Sandra Z. De Visser “In Retrospect” Local Artist Showcase, as well as tours of the Fountain Elms period rooms and galleries.

Inside, “there will be a STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) workshop, and a meet-the-artists program for the artists who provide items for the museum shop who will offer demonstrations of what they do, such as drawing and jewelry making,” said Mortis. “And Mohawk Valley Bonsai Club will have a wonderful display in one of our conference rooms and during the weekend, they will hold a demonstration. The bonsai trees are so beautiful and lovingly created, and the club enjoys the exposure.”

On view in the museum and fountain elms

  • Norman Rockwell (Paid admission required)
  • Permanent Collection including Thomas Cole’s Voyage of Life
  • Fountain Elms Period Rooms and Galleries
  • Local Artist Showcase: Sandra Z. De Visser, “In Retrospect” 

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