Art in the Orchard returns to Easthampton

Needless to say, this has been a difficult year for artists of all stripes. Even visual artists, who could still do their work from home, were excluded from many galleries and exhibitions for much of 2020 and earlier this year due to the pandemic.

These days, some galleries and museums are still limiting visits due to lingering concerns about COVID-19, including the highly contagious delta variant. So if there is one place where art can shine endlessly, it is outside.

This makes the latest iteration of Art in the Orchard, the biennial installation in Easthampton, all the more appealing. The exhibit, at Park Hill Orchard, started in 2011 as a sort of experiment: place art among the trees and fields and see what happens.

Since then, Art in the Orchard has become a staple every two years on the Valley’s art calendar, drawing over 30,000 visitors to Park Hill, where they can hike a trail through the park to see 25 or more installations. inventive, of various make-up: freestanding metal sculptures, mixed media pieces hanging from trees, art on fabric, horses and other animals created from twisted pieces of wood, etc.

This year, the sixth of the exhibition, is no exception, as the art – 30 pieces – ranges from a giant family of owls carved out of hay, to a huge metal cube, to a mixed piece including hollowed out concrete balls. This work will be exhibited until the end of November.

Art in the Orchard 2021 was scheduled to open on August 1, but the artwork is not expected to be fully installed until August 16. Jean-Pierre Pasche, co-founder and key organizer of the exhibition, says the heavy rains in July saturated much of the ground in Park Hill, making parts of the orchard inaccessible to trucks and heavy equipment and delaying l installation of many parts.

But much of the artwork has now been installed, and visitors are welcome to come take a look before August 16, said Pasche, owner of Big Red Frame and Elusie Gallery in Easthampton (well that a fundraising rock concert, “Thunder in the Valley” on August 14 in the nearby Molitoris orchard may make parking difficult that day).

Pasche said he and other organizers received nearly 100 nominations for the exhibition, many of them first-time applicants. Some of the art was inspired by COVID-19 and the quarantine and isolation that the virus required.

The recent increase in COVID infections from the delta variant is a concern, Pasche noted in an email, “that’s why we won’t have an official opening day, to avoid generating large crowds. “.

Visitors will be asked to wear face masks near the orchard fruit stand, he said, and if they are part of a crowd watching the various performances to be held at the property later this year.

Otherwise, Pasche said, he expects a lot of distancing: “We are lucky that AiO is running for almost 4 months so that visitors can be spread over a long period of time. And over a vast territory too. So, it should be a sought after destination for these reasons.

Art in the Orchard 2021 also features a new “Big Red Frame,” an iconic wooden construction that so many visitors have posed for photographs on over the years that it has had to be replaced, Pasche said. He ran a Kickstarter campaign in June that quickly raised over $ 5,000 to build a new, more robust framework – and it’s now in place.

Bring art

Artists like Joe Chirchirillo from Bennington, Vermont, are happy to have the opportunity to present their work to the public once again.

“It’s been a long year, hasn’t it? Chirchirillo said one morning in late July as he worked with Park Hill co-owner Russell Braen to set up his metal sculpture, “Earth Arch # 2,” in a field at the west end of the orchard. , near the edge of thick wood.

“It’s good to be back,” added Chirchirillo, who has previously exhibited at Art in the Orchard.

Braen, driving a tractor with a forklift, hoisted the top of the arch of Chirchirillo from the artist’s van, then maneuvered it onto two pillars that Chirchirillo had built with old machine parts – some salvaged of a vintage John Deere tractor – and steel bars.

“This one is in the right place,” Chirchirillo told Braen, as he screwed one side of the arch to the top of one of the pillars. “We have to check the left side, but I think we’re almost there.”

About 40 yards away, Dave Rothstein and Carlos Miguel Ramirez Pereyra were working on the massive “Hoo Goes There?” sculpture, made from hay lacing and wire, which depicts three owl heads, one on top of the other.

Rothstein, who lives in Florence, is well known for his exotic snow and ice sculptures – he is also a photographer and illustrator – but he said he enjoys the experience of sculpting something different, in hot weather and in a magnificent setting (despite the rain in July).

The other day, he said, he went out into the orchard to find a red-tailed hawk sitting on his owl-inspired sculpture: “It seemed very fitting.

Across Park Hill Road, in a field that offers superb views of Mount Tom, Worcester artist Philip Marshall installed a more modest-sized sculpture, “Distant”, an abstract design of wide bars of steel, some curly and some straight. , all painted in bright yellow.

Marshall, who also paints and draws, in a sense combined his interests to create “Distant”, which he said was inspired by the physique of a model he had drawn in charcoal.

As he explains, he was drawing a lean but strong physique man – a climber – who was sitting on a chair. “I stood up to grab more paper, and when I looked at it again I almost felt like it was part of the chair,” Marshall said. “So I went back to my easel and sketched a sculpture instead. “

With this explanation, “Distant” takes on a different dimension, as a metal bar coiled at the bottom of the sculpture and a straight bar which extends at a 45 degree angle to the ground, can replace the model’s legs, while that a smaller curved bar could represent one of the model’s arms, resting on the arm of a chair.

Not far from the orchard fruit stand, valley artists Beth A. Crawford and Robert Dickerman had just completed the installation of their new work, “PI + LOVE,” with the help of their son, Noah Dickerman: three large concrete balls on the ground and, above the head, several metal rings, drawn from old barrels and suspended in loops from a tree.

“I love the circles, how they represent the way things come back, the whole cycle of life,” Crawford said. “We do a lot with circles.

She and her husband work under the tag name “Yellow Dog” and exhibited at Art in the Orchard in 2017. They plan to be part of other outdoor installations this year and now hope to make art an even bigger part. of Their Lives: Crawford is a former Franklin Probate and Family Court judge, and Dickerman is the former Dean of Science and Engineering Transfer at Springfield Technical Community College.

“We hope to have a productive retirement,” Crawford said with a smile.

For more information on the exhibit and on Park Hill Orchard, visit

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at [email protected]

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