The Day – Mystic Outdoor Art Festival changes location and adds a stage for the performing arts

The long-running Mystic Outdoor Art Festival returns this weekend after not taking place in 2020 due to the pandemic.

And he comes back with new elements and angles.

One modification is the new route. The kiosks will no longer be on the Groton side of the Mystic River Bascule Bridge but rather all on the Stonington side. Some of the booths and activities will be inside the Mystic Seaport Museum.

The route will follow the Mystic River, from Cottrell Street to Holmes, left onto Bay Street and into the Mystic Seaport Museum shipyard, where there will be a large number of artist booths. Entrance to the show will also exist via the seaport on Route 27, and people do not need to pay entry to the seaport to enter the art festival.

Another cool addition is a performing arts scene. The various offerings – ranging from musical theater to boogie-woogie piano to opera – will take place on the seaport green, starting at 6.30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and, in total, lasting around two hours each night. Again, people won’t have to pay for admission to Seaport to see the shows.

“It’s an adventure”

The festival, now in its 63rd edition, is organized by the Grand Mystique Chamber of Commerce. The room has a new management; Bruce Flax became Executive Director in March, and other recent additions include Membership Manager Morgan Yandow and Marketing and Events Specialist Solveig Persson.

Discussing the return of the art festival, Flax said: “To say we’re excited is an understatement.”

He adds: “It’s an adventure – a good adventure, but it is an adventure for us… It is a blessing and a curse that we have never been very involved in the art festival. It is a huge event for the region. With the help of the committee, where some people come back, we forge our way.

With the festival not taking place in 2020, organizers took the opportunity to chat with local police and fire departments and take into consideration comments from the past on safety and other issues.

From that, Flax says: “We’ve made some substantial changes to the route, which turns a lot of heads. Overall, the feedback we’ve heard has been overwhelmingly positive, starting with the fire and police departments, who were very helpful in removing the kiosks from Route 1, so this was the first major change ” , he said.

In the past, two-way traffic continued on Route 1 during the festival, and there were concerns that people might be injured.

“The second major change was that we removed the kiosks on the Groton side of town. There were several reasons for this. One of the reasons was a bit related to COVID in that it was very crowded when the kiosks on the street faced the sidewalk. It was just a very tight space, ”he says.

Flax says merchants in downtown Mystic have had positive feedback about the removal of kiosks along Route 1, which makes it easier for people to enter those stores and, as Flax puts it, reflects an “atmosphere. more open to businesses “.

Flax notes that the southern parking lot of the port can hold more than 500 cars and will offer festival visitors an ideal place to park and have a natural progression into town; it also has the potential to keep over 500 cars out of downtown Mystic.

The chamber worked closely with Peter Armstrong, the new president of the seaport, and Shannon McKenzie, its vice president of museum operations, on the festival’s new collaboration.

Around 195 artists, from near and far, are expected at MOAF, and there will be over 200 booths that will also include nonprofits and sponsors. Art, as it has long been, is very varied, from painting to sculpture to photography.

Neighbors concerned

Flax says the show and its new route wouldn’t have worked if Bay Street hadn’t served as a link between Holmes Street and the seaport.

When they first came up with the idea to change the venue of the festival, the organizers turned to the fire and police services, who have “overwhelming support,” says Flax.

A group from the chamber went door to door on Bay Street to talk to residents about the plans. The street is 850 feet long and the original idea was to install 20 kiosks there. The neighbors thought it was too much. The Stonington Police Commission has approved the new route subject to the festival organizers reaching an agreement with the neighbors.

Organizers returned and met with the nine neighbors and proposed that no artist booth be on Bay Street, just a nonprofit or sponsor booth every 200 feet, Flax says. The inhabitants did not want anything from the street. Organizers told the Police Commission that they had tried to find a solution and explained the new proposal (a non-artist stand every 200 feet), and the commission approved that.

“We tried to be very respectful about it,” says Flax.

They returned for another meeting with a few neighbors and a resident showed up who Flax said was understanding and supported the plan.

Celebrate the performing arts

MOAF’s performing arts scene will feature a range of performances by local and regional artists. Friday a klezmer group, a post-modern dance hosted by David Dorfman and boogie-woogie pianist Arthur Migliazza, among others, while Saturday features Connecticut Lyrical Opera and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Cultural Dance.

Heading the performing arts segment of the festival is Anthony Caporale, who produced shows in New York City and moved to Mystic in November, joining the chamber soon after.

An abridged version of one of the plays performed by his New York theater company The Imbible will be featured on Saturday. (L’Imbible had four shows and more than 2,000 performances over six years, before COVID shut down the country, Caporale says.)

“Pirates and Shanties” is a musical that deals with the history of piracy and the songs of sailors.

“It’s a lot of fun, a lot of comedy, a lot of costumes, but very historically accurate – it’s kind of what we do, very educational as well,” said Caporale.

Her passion for history is part of what drew Caporale to Mystic.

“I thought if there was a way to work with the seaport it would be great,” he says.

Caporale says the performing arts element of MOAF is sort of a pilot program, in hopes that it may become a bigger part of the festival in the future.

More for children

The festival will continue to have the children’s art park, but it will be located, instead of Mystic River Park, inside the Mystic Seaport shipyard.

Mystic River Park, meanwhile, will be the site of a children’s art installation at the Mystic Museum of Art. Students aged 4 to 21 each painted a chair in a way that invites people to be mindful of issues the world has faced in the past year, from pollution to politics.

Mystic Outdoor Art Festival, 10 am-6pm Sat and 10 am-5pm Sundays, Cottrell Street in Mystic Seaport, Mystic; performing arts 6.30 p.m. Fri and Sat at the seaport; free;

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Reggie S. Williams