Easthampton Bear Fest 2009
In Hard Times Locals Come Out In Generous Support of Art

A townsman maintains a commissioned bear

by Angélica G. Huertas

Easthampton City Arts (ECA) is a local art organization that, according to their website, makes its mission to enhance “the collaborative efforts of the artist and business communities to increase economic opportunities for artists” and “the opportunities of local artists to showcase and market their work and to provide the public the opportunity to discover emerging and established artists.” Easthampton City Arts collaborates with other local arts organizations such as Art Walk Easthampton, and various local galleries.

Bear Fest benefits include “community involvement,
cooperation between artists, businesses, and local and state government”
John Polak, ECA Marketing Committee

The Easthampton Bear Fest was a public art event in which Easthampton City Arts (ECA) of Massachusetts obtained 35 life-sized fiberglass bears and paid local artists to decorate them. Once painted, the bears were made into a public exhibit, scattered and displayed throughout Easthampton. ECA received the sponsorship of various local businesses, banks, galleries, and media outlets, and is donating proceeds to public schools for arts education.

Site specific commissioned bears are found throughout Easthampton
as are many Easthampton Bear Fest branded objects

The Bear Fest has successfully integrated art into everyday life. In Easthampton, art objects are naturalized as part of the environment— a work of art graces the steps of a bank, the very capitalistic center of town, or the outside of a supermarket, where the purchasing of all of life’s necessary trivialities occurs.

Bear poses for a photo op with local children

But how does one go about soliciting monetary support for such an event? What would one have to say to these businesses to convince them that this type of event is worth the investment? Just how much money is actually available from local businesses in a small town such as Easthampton? And what can we take from the Bear Fest example for future arts fundraisers? I spoke to some of the people in charge of running the event to get some answers to these questions.

Art objects are naturalized situationally and throughout the town’s environs

One of the key differences between this event and, a benefit is that Easthampton Bear Fest, paid the artists $500 each for their work rather than asking artists to donate their work The proceeds for the event were thus split between the artists, Easthampton City Arts, and Easthampton public schools, mutually and financially benefiting both the organizers and the community. In addition, the artwork was on random display in many locations in the city. According to Briana Taylor, Coordinator at Easthampton City Arts, “The main appeal of this project was that it is public art. Being an arts organization we are very interested in creating a forum in the community for art and culture, something that would bring the community together around art. The Bear form that we chose is so engaging, to both children and adults and especially an audience that might not be used to looking at art. Everyone can appreciate it.”

Bear Fest related activities augment the exhibit

The Bear Fest managed to involve local businesses in more ways than one. In addition to making donations, businesses created and sold co-branded products to coincide with the Bear Fest. Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream offered a new flavor especially made for the Bear Fest, and Opa-Opa Brewing Company introduced their Country Bear Ale. Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream in particular “has seen increased profitability over his entire business due to the Bear Fest,” according to Taylor. But Bear Fest mania doesn’t end there. Spectators were able to vote for their favorite bear, and kids were encouraged to enter a “My Bear Story” contest. Related events are being held, including a “Create Your Own Bear Story” program with actress and children’s drama teacher Ilana Meredith, slated for Saturday, August 15th at the Easthampton Senior Center.

Painted bear tracks added suspense for pedestrians hunting art

All in all, the Easthampton Bear Fest raked in an impressive $50,000. Briana Taylor expressed her pleasant surprise at the success of the event in this way: “We were hugely satisfied by the response from the community and visitors alike. Attendance at the first day event was much more than expected, we think around 5,000 people came through the City throughout the day to the different events and to see the bears. It was just fantastic.”

Artists & Bears:

Jeffrey Calvi: Madam Bearterfly, Luke Cavagnac: This Bear is Worth One Thousand Words, Sara Chalifoux: Transoceanic Bear, Amy Davis: Paddy O’Bearen, Jo-Ann Denehy: Bear Hugs, Deshria: Rubber Ducky, You’re the One, Adell Donaghue & Justin Brown: Ursa Major, Jennifer Dorgan: Garden Bear, John Casey Douglas: Astronaut Bear, Michael Fitzgibbon: Aurora “Bear”ealis, Amalia FourHawks: A Bear With A Buttoned Down Education, Gary Hallgren: Wire Haired Bear, Elsie Hasskarl: Berry Bear, Beverly Hosmer: Ted E. Bear, Amy Johnquest: Clementine (the Circus Bear), Jim Johnson: The Bearon, Heather Kasunick: Garden Party, Mary Klaes: Master Essential, Silas Kopf: Aloha Bear, Gary LaCroix: Mountain Park Bear, Jill Lewis: Williston Button Bear, Michael MacTavish: Bearly There, Leah Moses: Bumble Bear, Dianne Murphy: The Gingerbear Man, Kim Parkhurst: Three Bears, Maria Parasiewicz: Peace Bear, Crystal Popko: Hiding Bear, Marcia Reed: Ursa Great Spirit, Ruth Sanderson: Papa Bear & Baby Bear, Greg Stone: Something’s Fishy, Christopher Woodman: Bear, Bath & Beyond, Jean Zampiceni: Mother & Child at Parade

Committees & Volunteers:

Event Planning Committee: Stuart Beckley, Amy Davis, Denise Herzog, Jen Moulton, Denise M. Riggs, Kim Schmitt, Carol Abbe Smith

Marketing Committee: Stephanie Gibbs, Trace Meek, Marcia Morrison, Jean-Pierre Pasche, John Polak, Briana Taylor

School Participation Committee: Stuart Beckley, Erin Binney, Cyndy Chamberland, Francis DiMenno, Michelle Geoghegan, Kim Hunt, Rob Orlando, Susan Pepin Phillips, Susan Pouliot

Easthampton City Arts Coordinating Committee: Stuart Beckley, Cyndy Chamberlain, Amy Davis, Ellen Koteen

Co-Facilitator: Sharon Keene, Marcia Morrison, Jean-Pierre Pasche, John Polak, Denise M. Riggs, Briana Taylor

Easthampton Bear Fest
Angélica Huertas for Artist Organized Art

#permalink posted by Artist Organized Art: 6/22/09 02:09:00 PM


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