Friday, August 22, 2008

Norman Rockwell Weekend Showcases
Maine Artists

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist

Many things bring back memories of a time when America and the world were slower paced, less complicated, more straightforward and identified by small town living.
Certainly a champion and recorder of that era was Norman Rockwell, whose paintings or illustrations were on display regularly on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
Last weekend Rockwell’s work was honored in a festival at the town hall that featured modern photographic representations of the artist’s work, paintings inspired by his illustrations, and a series of short plays based on those works at the Town Hall.
Norman Rockwell Weekend was the brainchild of Danie Connolly of Kennebunk, an events planner and admirer of Rockwell’s work. The celebration featured the work of photographer Liam Crotty of Kennebunk, eight Maine playwrights including Ms. Connolly, two of whom were from Kennebunk, and 12 artists including Ms. Connolly, all but one of whom was from Maine and six of whom were from Kennebunk and Kennebunkport.
“It was lovely,” Ms. Connolly said early this week. “We had a never ending flow of smiling people,” many of whom were “revisiting memories from the past.”
More than 2,000 people attended the town hall event, many of them coming to the opening reception Friday night and bring back friends, neighbors and relatives for a second look Saturday.
“It was fabulous,” Tina Ambrose, the art director of the weekend said. “The crowd just kept coming. It filled town hall.”
“We never thought we’d get that many people,” Ms. Connolly said.
“I was blown away by the turnout and enthusiasm,” Crotty said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
A representative of the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., talked to the group about recreating its creation at the museum sometime in the future.
The plays were limited to no more than 15 minutes in length and had to either begin or end with a familiar Rockwell illustration selected by the writer. Other than that, and allowing no obscenities, the writers were on their own.
“We had a nice little cast of actors,” Ms. Connolly said, and “the energy was terrific. Everybody went home with a smile on their face.”
Crotty began doing the photographs in March and had a total of 17 on display at the weekend.
“It was a blast,” Crotty, a longtime fan of Rockwell, said of the weekend.
The models in Crotty’s photographs are all from Maine, including members of the Portland Sea Dogs baseball team, the Boston Red Sox Eastern League affiliate, who Crotty said were extremely generous with their time.
His work will be on display at the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge and the Worcester, (Mass.) Museum in the future.
The 17 paintings were not representations of Rockwell illustrations but were inspired by his work.
“They were inspired by Rockwell,” Tina Ambrose of Kennebunk, the weekend’s art director said. While most of the painters were on the realism side, she said, some of the paintings “were very interesting. Some were really totally different.”
The playwrights who contributed to the weekend included Ms. Connolly and Dana M. Pearson of Kennebunk, Clare Melley Smith of Cape Elizabeth, Laura K. Emack of Prospect, Dr. Delvyn C. Case Jr. of Cumberland Foresides, John Rizzo of Harrison, Carolyn Gage and John Linscott of Portland.
Maine artists contributing work included Suzanne Payne and Paul Bonneau of Kennebunkport, Steve Hrehovcik. Ann Livermore, Ms. Ambrose, Ms. Connolly and Heather Hill of Kennebunk, Natalie Skelton of Ocean Park, Josh Dallaire and Nancy Brackett of Portland, Iona Desmond of Old Orchard Beach.
The weekend was modeled after the Pageant of the Masters Ms. Connolly saw in California years ago. That presentation is done outdoors, something that couldn’t be accomplished in Maine’s unpredictable weather.
She said the group is considering doing a Christmas version of the Rockwell Weekend but nothing has been finalized as yet.

Caption: “Bottom of the Sixth” by Liam Crotty. (Liam Crotty photo)