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Annual Westport Fine Arts Festival unites community by Lea Rivel '22

This memorial day weekend, Westport held its annual Fine Arts Festival. Spectators gathered downtown to walk the streets and view the work of both local and out of state artists, even in the midst of heavy rainfall. The community has opened up after the pandemic and it was evident that people were glad to be back out and about.

As seen by the community members in attendance, the artists’ passion for their craft and happiness to be surrounded by other artists and spectators alike shone on the artists’ faces.

Stuart Yankell, an acrylic and oil painter has set up a booth at the festival for years now, and has noticed that it’s always a great turnout, even this year in the rain.

His personal inspiration for many of his pieces seems to correspond with the themes of the festival this weekend: ones of joy and gathering.

“I like celebratory themes, themes that showcase people celebrating life,” Yankell said. “Music, dance and people together in restaurants are something that I’ve enjoyed a great deal.”

Donna Grande, an oil and pastel painter, creates art that is simply inspired by the world around her: nature, people congregating and the spirit of the places she finds herself.

She believes the festival experience is amazing, due to the way that she can connect her personal experiences to a wider audience through her work.

“I’m always really gratified [at the festival] because the end result is that my paintings have a happy home to go to,” Grande said.

Peter Bowe, an artist as well as an environmental science teacher, is continually inspired by both the natural world and the passion of other artists around him, and has had a great experience at the event.

“I think people are just excited to be back out, you know rain or shine, literally,” Bowe said. “People are excited that it’s getting back to normalcy, which is really a good feeling.”

He is one of many artists who realizes what impact any artist and their work can have on people.

“You could write about saving a salt marsh, but through art work, when you create a beautiful piece of work that represents nature, it gives people a reason for wanting to save said salt marsh,” he said. “And so through the artwork, you’re communicating ideas, feelings, and expressions about nature: the great side but also some of the not so great side.”

Joanne Mortimer, a spectator at the art festival, attended the event downtown despite the poor weather.

“It’s a little wet, but there’s nothing like art and seeing everyone’s gifts and talents to warm your spirit, especially after this year,” Mortimer said. “It’s really nice to be here and have [everything] flourishing again.”

Viewers of the art clearly valued what this festival means to the town and its residents, especially after the many months the town has spent inside due to the pandemic.

“[What captured my eye] is the spirit of the artists and how it persists through everything,” Mortimer said. “Here’s this day that we were all waiting for and hoping for sunshine, and everyone is set up and showing their talents and beautiful art even in the pouring rain.”

All photos by Lea Rivel '22