With more than 150 visual and performing artists represented at 36 venues, ArtsFest 2021 was the New Rochelle Council on the Arts’ biggest arts weekend yet. From October 15 to 17 the annual festival filled New Rochelle and Pelham with art exhibits at nine locations, ten open artists’studios. and live music, films, dance performances and more at restaurants, theaters, galleries and open-air locales.
“ArtsFest was created to help keep alive the rich tradition of the arts in the New Rochelle-Pelham area,” said NRCA President Theresa Kump Leghorn, “and to remind people of all the ways the arts are present right here in our own backyards. ArtsFest highlights the artists right here at home, and this year it was a joy to see the way we draw audiences and arts lovers from our communities and beyond!”
Highlights included the free ArtsFest Music Festival at a new pop up venue, NewRo Parc, with eight bands performing over two days, and the free ArtsFest Dance Festival held at the VAEA (Venezuelan American Endowment for the Arts ) on Main Street, which featured nine different dance groups performing everything from hip hop to tango. In addition the ArtsFest Artisan Market featured 26 artists and craftspeople on the grounds of the Thomas Paine Cottage, which also hosted a Colonial Tavern with live music and spirits on Friday evening and a weekend of family activities.
Popular draws in Pelham included the Pelham Art Center, which offered a full schedule of exhibits and activities all weekend, and The Picture House, which kicked off their German Film Festival with a festive Oktoberfest evening.
Fran Cisco was among the artists who opened their home studios to the public for the weekend. “ArtsFest was a blast!” she said. “It was my first year of having my home designated as a stop, and all three days brought people excited about art and about New Rochelle and Pelham!” Cisco had seven artists showing their work at her studio and she said they made both sales and – equally important — new contacts.
Another popular stop was Highbrook Studios, an artists collective in Pelham that provides working space for painters and multi-media artists who were on site showing their work all weekend. Visitors were able to meet artists both inside and outside the studio: Self-taught artist Emanual had his easel set up curbside, while large format painter Marie Hines Cowan displayed some of her canvases under the adjacent Highbrook bridge.
“We had a great time,” said Scott Seaboldt, a New Rochelle High School art teacher who is also a working artist and part of the Highbrook Studio collective. He noted that the annual “Clothesline Sale” of inexpensive works on paper displayed in front of the studio was a hit, as were this year’s custom tote bags (featuring Maasai the studio cat) printed by MESH. He estimated that around 200 visitors stopped by and were guided through the studio’s four levels by students from New Rochelle High School who volunteered as docents. “We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and then slept through the next week!” Seaboldt said with a laugh.
New Rochelle High School was also represented at ArtsFest by a troupe students who performed songs and monologues on the patio at Starbucks Wykagyl location: Working with support from NRHS teacher Anthony Stirpe, students from the TheatreWorks group and PAVE theater performed “Venti on the Veranda.” Aileen O’Leary, a senior, sang “What Baking Can Do” from Waitress; Jeba Karim, a senior, delivered a monologue called “Bubble World;” Elena Wasserman, a sophomore, sang “Ring of Keys” for Fun Home; Wasserman and Sneha Verghese, a junior, sang the duet “What is This Feeling” from Wicked; Molly Smith, a senior, performed the monologue “Cool Girl” from Gone Girl and Nate Dower, a sophomore, delivered a monologue.
New Rochelle High School alumni were also part of ArtsFest: Artists Rebecca Feldman (Rebecca Drew Designs), Andrea Leghtmen (WYNNEN Wrist Collections), Selena Lozano and Maria Reyes (Maria’s Funky Jewels) sold their work at the ArtFest Artisan Market, and NRHS alumnae Colleen Maria, Rebecca Mills and Victoria Rolett exhibited works at Highbrook Studio. In addition Rollett had some of her work on exhibit at Diner Brew Co., while Lozano showed her larger paintings at the new Town House Restaurant.
Both branches of New Rochelle’s Public Library were part of ArtsFest: The group Arch For Kids offered an afternoon of building fun at the Huguenot Children’s Library, while the Main Branch hosted multiple events including performances by the Ajkun Ballet (excerpts from Swan Lake) and READ650 (a spoken word event called Haunted that featured 12 writers sharing eerie tales) as well as an evening of cabaret music. The Main branch was also the site for the New Rochelle Art Association’s juried exhibit and the group’s popular painted rock scavenger hunt.
Gospel singer DeLonna Jones, whose groups God’s Blessin’s and One Accord performed at NewRo Parc, said the group had not performed together since before the COVID pandemic: “It’s been a while since we were all together and it felt amazing being able to share the day in a wonderful atmosphere with wonderful people.”
“We’re very grateful to the generous sponsors who make ArtsFest possible,” Leghorn said. “By supporting ArtsFest, they are investing in one of the highlights of the year, and part of what makes New Rochelle and Pelham such special places to live, work and visit.” ArtsFest sponsors included ArtsWestchester, Gwendolen Appleyard Trust, Charles Fazzino, New Rochelle IDA, L + M Development Partners, Mill Creek residential, Wilder Balter Partners, Twining Properties, Alvin & Friends Restaurant, New Rochelle Downtown Business Improvement District, R Patisserie, RXR, and in-kind sponsors AJ’s Burgers and Empire Harley Davidson.
The all-volunteer ArtsFest Steering Committee included Chairperson Theresa Kump Leghorn, Artisan Market Co-Chairs Selena Evans and Beth Feldman, Dance Festival Chair Monia Deane, Music Co-Chairs Dave Fabris and Monica Uhm, Classic Car Show Co-Chairs Alan Cohen, Nick Pagani and Michael Dandry, Social Media Chair Ken Valenti and Volunteer Coordinator Margaret Chadwick. Committee members included Marisa Boan, Alexi Brock, Clayton Bushong, Jerry Chadwick, Amy Cole, Barbara Davis, Leslie Demus, Richard Errington, Linda Fauci, Lynn Moloshok Green, Lisa Itzkowitz, Juliana Leghorn, Karel Littman, Sarah Longstreth, Julie Maner, Charlotte Mouquin, Anthony Paolercio, Victoria Rolett, Scott Seaboldt, Karen Keller Selman, Suzanne Tanswell, Stephanie Tomei, and Catherine White.
About the New Rochelle Council on the Arts.
Founded in 1975, the mission of NRCA is to encourage the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts. Over the years NRCA has sponsored art exhibitions, theatrical productions, dance recitals, film screenings, lectures, spoken word events, concert series and public art. Find out more www.newrochellearts.org.
NRCA is proud to be a grantee of ArtsWestchester with funding made possible by Westchester County Government with the support of County Executive George Latimer.