And the first shall be last
Belfast — The City of Belfast has been holding art walks longer than most places in the state and, starting this month, is breaking away from the crowded field by moving its downtown event from the first to the last Friday of the month.
The inaugural Final Friday Art Walk is set for May 30 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The series will continue monthly through October — as that month’s Final Friday is Halloween, it should be quite the finale.
In truth, most summer Friday evenings find open doors and some gallery openings in Belfast, but Final Fridays will offer the additional of local performing artists, in galleries and out on the streets. Music, mime, poetry, juggling and dance are among the possibilities; on May 30, look for Katie Thompson and Lauren Zontini performing street jazz and hip hop; Mike and Max McFarland playing tunes; and something fun from the Belfast Maskers/Cold Comfort Theater.
Belfast Arts, the consortium of 20-some arts-related businesses and organizations that has put on the city’s art walks in years past, is being coordinated this year by the Belfast Creative Coalition.
“We, along with Our Town Belfast, are inviting more organizations and businesses to be involved during Final Fridays, creating a festival-like feel on those evenings,” said the BCC’s Kimberly Callas.
As part of the new push, the Bridge free afterschool art club of Waterfall Arts will hit the downtown streets. Bridge’s artist/educator Bridget Matros will lead children and families in art-related activities and offer suggestions to families for kid-friendly galleries and exhibits, said Callas.
With a new season come other changes, as well. Tom Gaines will be opening his Stonehouse gallery to the public during art walks this summer. Photographer Charles Laurier Dufour closed his downtown Galerie Dufour last fall after 10 years, but his work can be seen currently in the Betts Gallery of The Belfast Framer, now helmed by Anne Warren … and he still has stuff on the walls of 94 Main St., hosted by current tenant Eat More Cheese. That shop’s former location, the space behind Northern Lights Gallery at 33 Main St., has become Fresh Cup Gallery, offering ceramics by Adam Bogosian and Cory Upton-Cosulich.
Northern Lights, meanwhile, has expanded and is entering a new phase. Originating as a part-time gallery to exhibit the Inuit and First Nations art brought back from Karen and Rick Miles’ Arctic expeditions aboard the Wanderbird — other space in the building was dedicated to the cruise business’ office — Northern Lights is now a full-time, two-floor space filled with work unlike any other in the area.
“This will be my first summer in 18 years on the mainland,” said owner and curator Karen Miles a few days before Memorial Day Weekend.
Northern Lights Gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., staying open to 8 p.m. every Friday, as well as when there are special events in town or cruise ships in the harbor. That’s a lot of coverage for one person (and a dog), “but it’s not any more than when we were cruising,” she said.
Before she took to sea, Miles was an artist and fine furniture maker, so she said running the gallery full-time feels like “coming full circle.” And her woodworking skills certainly came in handy, as the new desk, counter and cabinetry attest.
When Northern Lights Gallery was founded in 2007, it was on the second floor, a space it abandoned when it took over the storefront three years ago. The new configuration combines most of the building’s two floors.
“It’s as much again [as the first-floor storefront] but a very different layout. The second floor’s long and narrow, with lots of wall space,” she said.
Some of the work demands a lot of wall space — included in the gallery’s artists are Lisa Lebofsky, whose large just-sold oil on aluminum is in the storefront window; and Zaria Forman, whose work has been featured in a number of online forums including Huffington Post. Forman, using gloved fingers, creates large-scale pastels of such rare and endangered places as the Maldives, the lowest-lying country in the world.
“That will be the first place on earth to go under,” said Miles, whose years of Arctic cruising gave her the questionable privilege of seeing the effect of climate change first-hand.
While Northern Lights specializes in the Inuit and First Nations crafts Miles initially brought back to Maine in her backpack (once, after 800 miles on dogsled), the newly reconfigured gallery also focuses on fine art produced by artists who traveled aboard the Wanderbird or, in some cases, made use of photographic images taken during the cruises. Miles also carries work by local artists who cruised to Labrador; these include photographer Louise Shorette and sculptor and photographer Forest Hart.
“I’m particularly pleased to have paintings by Lynn Misner, who used to run the Houston North Gallery,” said Miles, explaining the Nova Scotian gallery was the first to market indigenous Canadian crafts to the world at large.
Although no longer in the Arctic cruise business, Miles said she plans to visit the region where she spent much of the last two decades regularly, and she maintains the strong network of Inuit and First Nations artisans built over those years. The gallery will open its first show of the summer during the inaugural Final Friday Art Walk, focusing on Labrador, and Miles is curating a Maine First Nations show for later this summer. For more information, call 338-3088 or visit the Northern Lights Gallery Facebook page.