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Solstice Arts Festival highlights local talent

SHIPPENSBURG – The 11th annual Solstice Arts Festival ushers in summer on Saturday, June 18, with a day dedicated to art, music, food and fun. The family-friendly event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Shippensburg Township Park on Britton Road. Admission and parking are free.

The event is sponsored by Shippensburg Arts Programming and Education (SHAPE), a nonprofit volunteer-run organization that also maintains a gallery space at 19 E. King St., Shippensburg. The Solstice Arts Festival and the gallery are two of SHAPE’s most visible efforts to promote the fine arts in a rural community.

“What we’re trying to do is give artists in the local area an avenue to share ideas with other artists,” said Anne Cherry, a member of SHAPE’s board of directors and acting arts vendor coordinator for the Solstice Arts Festival.

For participating artists, the festival means increased exposure to audiences who might not otherwise discover their art because the event draws a larger crowd than a gallery exhibition.

“If it’s in the gallery, you don’t have as many people coming through,” Cherry explained. “But if your art work is outside and you have people coming for food and other items, they get to see the art in addition to what they may be coming for. People go to a festival like this for many reasons. Some come for the music. Some come for the food. And some people come for the art.”

The Solstice Arts Festival is an all-ages, family-friendly event, and nowhere is this better represented than with the Art Wall, a fan-favorite of the festival. Large white panels are set up at the beginning of the festival, and attendees are provided with paint and encouraged leave their marks. By the end of the day, the wall is transformed into a large-scale piece of community-generated art.

“The Art Wall is for people of all ages,” said Cherry. “We have everybody from little kids to seniors who paint on that wall.”

What's new

Cherry estimates that about half of the vendors and performers have participated in previous festivals, but there are some new things to look out for, including two wineries and two children’s book authors.

“This is new for us this year,” said Cherry. “We’re getting into the writing arts, not just the painting or the music.”

Patti Van Brederode is a children’s storyteller, author and artist from Camp Hill who also teaches silversmithing at the Art Center School and Galleries in Mechanicsburg.

“It’s my first year there,” she said. “I’m not sure exactly what to expect because it sounds like there’s a lot going on. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

She has published two children’s books with a third that will be released by the end of this year, as well as several coloring books for adults. Her booth will also include a puppetry display and artwork.

“I make people happy,” she added. “I bring a little magic to their lives. I keep that sense of wonder alive for children and hopefully their parents, too.”

Also making their debut at the festival this year is Jan Zell Wines & Ciders, 251 Grant St., Chambersburg. Arnie Jansen, who co-owns the winery with his wife, Laura, expects to have about seven wines on hand for people to sample or purchase by the glass or bottle.

“Making wine is like art,” said Jansen explaining the pairing of art, music and wine. “It’s like any chef that has a restaurant has art in his food.”

The winery regularly hosts musical performances, afternoon painting sessions and a trivia night.

Returning favorites

One of the returning participants is the experimental electronic music collective Imbued Vagary, which has been led by Matt Norcross and M Scott McConnell since it formed in 1989. The group has a revolving roster of members, but this year – their fifth participating in the festival – they will perform their improvised electronic soundscapes as a three-piece band.

“We enjoy having the opportunity to be part of the festival each year,” said Norcross. “It’s nice to perform for the community where we grew up and to show our support of the arts. When we were growing up, we did not have organizations like SHAPE to help nurture and showcase the artistic pursuits of local residents. In this regard, we feel that SHAPE plays a vital role in the community so we are very proud to be part of the festival and to help support them.”

Tresa Paul is another performer who will be returning to festival with her “vintage pop,” which can include anything from the '30s through the '70s. She plays guitar and sings, and her repertoire includes selections previously performed by Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone.

“It’s one of my favorite festivals to play,” said Paul. “They use almost entirely local talent. You’re getting real photography, real paintings, real glasswork and real metalwork, and it’s all very beautiful.”

Keeping it local

Underneath the celebration, is a commitment to shopping local and supporting local artisans.

“It’s important to support your local businesses and your local people,” said Anne Cherry.

SHAPE shows this commitment through its satellite gallery initiative, where restaurants and cafes can incorporate locally-made art into their ambiance.

“It’s original work,” explained Cherry. “A lot of places go out and buy this printed stuff - you can buy fifty million copies of it - but when you’ve got original art work, that’s a different feeling than big-box art.”

Because SHAPE is an entirely volunteer organization, they are seeking extra help to make the Solstice Arts Festival a success. Volunteers are needed to help with everything from directing people to parking to setting up the Art Wall to helping out in the information booth.

If there are enough volunteers, they hope to assign some people to booth-sitting duties. Booth sitters will tend to vendors’ booths for short periods of time so that the owners can get something to eat or use the restroom.

SHAPE is also seeking sitters to volunteer in their gallery space on King Street so that they can be open for longer periods of time.

Cherry isn’t too concerned with whether people attend the festival for the art, the music or the food, because at the end of the day it’s about something bigger than all of those.

“Fun is probably the most important part of the Solstice Arts Festival,” she said. “Just come and have fun.”