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Mothering, Monsters, and Fashion: Easthampton's Burgeoning Art Scene

By Paul Rowe

Formed in 2005 and located in the heart of Pioneer Valley, the municipal arts organization Easthampton City Arts+ has developed into a hub for arts and culture.

Over the last thirty years, Easthampton has gradually evolved into an artistic destination of the Pioneer Valley. The last five years or so have seen a particular increase in community activities and pedestrian foot traffic. Quirky stores, restaurants, and performance venues have popped up in the area, injecting the community with a contagious artistic energy.

"The thriving arts community showcases Easthampton's character and contributes to the local economic development and livability, making it a unique and culturally rich place to live," says Easthampton City Arts+ Coordinator Burns Maxey, referencing the city's investment in fostering an arts community that connects its creative population while enriching Easthampton's cultural life.

Keeping many of its projects and events free and open to the public has helped Easthampton City Arts+ serve as a preserver of Easthampton's culture. One of these events, Cultural Chaos, is a street festival in the Cottage Street Cultural District that bustles with the sounds and sights of music, art, delicious eats, and even kids' events for the little ones. "We also host a BookFest in April and a busking (street performance) event in September. Also, for the past ten years, ECA+ has implemented public art projects including numerous sculptural Bike Racks and murals," says Maxey.

The exhibits and galleries ECA+ manages, including one at the Town Hall, feature group and individual exhibitions from local and regional artists. The variation of styles and mediums at these galleries, ranging from the traditional to the experimental, adds up to an enlivening experience for art lovers. ECA+ also manages a curatorial space out of a renovated mill building in Eastworks, where different curatorial projects pop up each month. "Some upcoming exhibiting projects include explorations into mothering, monsters, and fashion," says Maxey, indicating the diversity of these projects.

Among the many contributions ECA+ has made to the town's art community is the Art Walk, an ongoing event occurring every second Saturday of the month, featuring spectacles ranging from performances to exhibits. Maxey explains, "It gives community members and visitors a chance to experience our small city, meet people, enjoy a meal from a selection of great restaurants as well as see something new and unusual in a gallery, store, or a performance on the street." These Art Walks allow hundreds to thousands of people to "get their culture on," Maxey says.

Once a sleepy mill town, Maxey now calls Easthampton a "catalyst for revitalization" thanks to its artistic culture. Easthampton City Arts+ is at the heart of this burgeoning arts scene, constantly striving to support artists through funding while providing them with the space they need to work.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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