The Hippo


Feb 27, 2020








From the Merrimack preliminary at Ribfest. Studio Mark Emile photo.

Nashua Downtown Arts Fest

Where: French Renaissance Park off Water St., Nashua
When: Sunday, Sept. 7, from 1 to 8 p.m.
Admission: Free

Cultural collaborations
Nashua festival celebrates city’s arts community

By Kelly Sennott

If you know Nashua and you know its art scene, then you know it’s overflowing with committees, commissions, nonprofits and organizations dedicated to the promotion of art and culture, particularly downtown.
But for one day, Sunday, Sept. 7, at the French Renaissance Park off Water Street, a number of them come together for the city’s inaugural Downtown Arts Fest: Cultural Canvas. Among the many collaborators: Positive Street Art, Downtown Art Movement, Leadership Greater Nashua, the Nashua Ethnic Awareness Committee and the Nashua Arts Commission. 
“There are all these different arts organizations in Nashua. … And they all have separate events. … We wanted to create this umbrella event, to build art awareness and create collaboration with other active arts organizations,”  said Alison Bankowski, co-founder of the Downtown Art Movement and board member of of Positive Street Art. 
Bankowski said PSA also liked the idea of bridging their very young organization, bubbling with young mural-painting, street-dancing kids, with older organizations composed of more established artists. 
The festival occurs from 1 to 8 p.m., but the main event starts at 5 p.m., spearheaded by Leadership Greater Nashua’s Our City: Live Art Battle, in which eight competing artists — including Brian Hubert, Adam Chouinard, Nathan Theriault, Brand Rockwell, John Stein, Gilbert Gaudier, David Hucklebee and Lee Colon — will create work, live, for a $1,000 cash prize. Second place will earn $500, third $250. 
The competition works like this: artists will have an allocated time period to create a work of art, closely watched by two judges and a full audience. They can use any medium and any materials. (At least one artist is bringing his own canvas.) Preliminary events occurred in Nashua, Merrimack, Manchester and Lowell, from which two representatives were drawn to compete. During these rounds, the winner was judged by a roaring audience, but this weekend, judges will decide.
For the competing artists, it requires creativity, adaptability, versatility and showmanship. (“One artist used a candlestick and flame to make his painting smokey, which was intriguing,” Bankowski said of one of the preliminary events. Audiences loved it.) It also demands utmost concentration, said Lee Colon, one of Lowell’s representatives.
“I was totally focused in the situation,” Colon said of the competition during a phone interview last week. “I ended up putting my canvas on top of a box, leaning over the canvas while I was painting.”
He was quite sore the next day. 
“I was wondering why my back and legs were hurting the next day. They didn’t hurt at the time while I was painting. … But my wife was there with my daughter and later told me I’d been doing squats for an hour and a half.”
Colon calls himself a second generation graffiti artist. Originally from New York City, his medium is aerosol paint. He’d previously had work at the 5Pointz Art Center on Long Island and Bushwick Collective in the city, but had never participated in something quite like this. He won his round, despite having been unable to finish his piece within the 90 minute time frame.
He and another artist who made the final round, Brian Hubert of Nashua, were particularly enamored in how kids responded, and they hope the event inspires youngsters to take their own art to the next level. Part of the aim, Bankowski said, was to mix PSA’s collection of emerging artists with other organizations’ more established.
“The coolest thing is that I could interact with my audience,” Hubert said. “PSA has a street dance team, which has some kids between 7 and 10 years old. Seeing these kids come up and ask why you paint this way is awesome.” 
The finished “Battle” pieces will hang at the Currier Museum of Art Oct. 4 through Nov. 17 and will be featured at the Currier After Hours event in November.
Among the visual art competition will be an outdoor gallery with local artists, music by DJ Danjah and artists Matt Jackson and Randy Class. Scurried between will be dance performances by PSA Hype and Thrive (the adult and kid PSA Dance troupes), a poetry slam, kids’ activities, a free paint social, face painting, belly dance performances, dance workshops and a cultural couture fashion show.
For food, there’s a cultural cafe with eats by Agave Azul, The Gyro Spot, Kurry Masala and Portland Pie, with tastes from Greece, Mexico and India. Proceeds will go to PSA and DAM, with the aims in finding a home location for the pair.
“I think an event like this, that highlights talents and strengths of Nashua’s people, is great for the community,” Hubert said. “This event is not only bringing in the young generation, but a middle and older generation. You have people in their 60s and 70s having cocktails with people in their 20s, and they’re all talking about the same thing: how art brings happiness into their lives.” 

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