Canal District Art Walk: The start of a new tradition
Story and photos by Sloane M. Perron
Local artists, musicians and authors gathered April 19 for the first Canal District Art Walk. Now, it looks like Worcester has a new tradition – one that features street music, spoken-word poetry and art.
Occurring every third Tuesday of the month from 6-9 p.m. through October, the goal of the event is to promote the arts while highlighting the unique venues located throughout the Canal District. Hosted by the Canal District Alliance, the art walk was organized by volunteers Shaun Cannon, Scott Fair and Jamie Dillion. The idea for this unique festivity came during one of Wycked Java’s Thursday Art Nights. Owner Fair and fellow co-owner, Joetta Ripley, noticed someone playing music on the street, and the idea for the Canal District Art Walk was born.
Cannon and Fair said the concept of art walks is very popular in major cities throughout the United States. According to Fair, the Canal District Art Walk was “really for the local artists,” since there is no charge for the use of venues or displays. In fact, the prospect of having an event that focuses on artistic expression, in all its forms, has already drawn in surrounding art guilds, which are planning to participate in future art walks. Fair said the art walk also brings artists from the Blackstone Valley into the Worcester area. Fair hopes that as this free event grows, it draws crowds from Boston and Providence. He believes that the Canal District Art Walk “has the potential to become the signature event of Worcester.”
The Canal District Art Walk has received an outpouring of support. Even before the event took place, about 51,000 people looked at the group’s Facebook page and local artists eagerly signed up. After the event’s success, it is already growing. The walk will feature a pop-up gallery on the eighth floor of the Edge Building.
“Worcester needs this,” Cannon said.
This sentiment was shared not only by the 24 artists who took part in the art walk, but by attendees who strolled up and down Water Street and entered businesses to look at the fine art.
Aaron Powers, an artist from Fitchburg who specializes in silkscreen illustrations, displayed his work in Blackstone Tap. Powers first heard about the Canal District Art Walk through Facebook and said, “I was interested because I was not aware of anything going on in this part of Worcester.”
Mike Kangas, of Webster, gave a painting demonstration outside the Blackstone Tap. He and his girlfriend, Amy Abbot, run Bizarre Koffin Art, and saw this event as a way to directly connect with the public. “I was really excited about the art walk. This is a great opportunity for people to see my work,” he said.
Artists of all mediums and ages participated in the event, including Darlene Schwartz and her 10-year-old daughter, Samantha Schwartz, who are both painters. Darlene Schwartz recently moved to Worcester and runs the community studio ArtReach on Boylston Street. She first heard about the art walk through Dillion.
“I feel like there are a lot of artists in Worcester and not a lot of places to display them,” she said. “I think this is going to be huge.”
Owner of Wings Over Worcester, Laurian Banciulescu, attended the art walk and stopped at Lock50, which opened officially in May. Banciulescu described a sense of camaraderie among the local business owners in the Canal District: “We are just here to support local artists and the community.”
Lock50 owner, Ed Russo, agreed. “I think it is great for the street. I think it is great for the community.”
Sasha Paige, of Worcester, attended the event with her friends, Kelsey and Leah Penny. Paige said she particularly enjoyed “the openness and just the general free environment. Everyone was very friendly and talkative about their artwork.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/ArtWalkCanalDistrict.