Daily Hampshire Gazette – Arts Briefs: The Paradise City Arts Festival returns to Northampton, the MIFA Victory Players perform in Holyoke, and more

Paradise by the fairground lights

NORTHAMPTON — One of the area’s largest artistic celebrations returns this weekend, as some 220 artists and craftspeople gather at the Three County Fairgrounds for the Paradise City Arts Festival.

The biannual festival, almost 30 years old, features work in many mediums — painting, photography, ceramics, metal sculpture, mixed media, furniture, glassware and more — with artists from across the Valley, the Northeast and further afield showcasing that work May 25-27 in three large buildings and some outside displays.

This year’s special exhibit, “The Art in Gathering,” explores how objects displayed together become greater than the sum of their individual parts, in turn sparking conversation and fostering community.

Along with a 12,000-square-foot dining tent that offers varied food options and live music, a new festival feature is the “The Paradise Pavilion,” where additional snack options, art demonstrations and workshops, and activity stations for kids will be available.

Among some of the new Valley artists showing their work at Paradise City this spring are painter Ami Fagin of New Salem and ceramist Vanessa Chatwood Kerby of Goshen.

Festival hours, rain or shine, are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 26, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day). Tickets and additional information, including details on a silent auction to benefit the International Language Institute of Massachusetts in Northampton, are available at festivals.paradisecityarts.com.

Not your typical opera

AMHERST — Rather than passion, tragedy or death, a workshop production of a new opera, “The Onion,” deals with science fiction, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence.

Created in part by the UMass Initiative on Neurosciences, the first half of “The Onion” will be staged May 29 at 7:00 p.m. in Bowker Auditorium at UMass Amherst in a free performance, with no tickets needed.

The workshop production will be followed by a conversation with Harvard neuroscientists Florian Engert and Elizabeth Phelps, joined by composer/librettist Eric Sawyer and director/librettist Ron Bashford, both of Amherst College, and members of the cast.

The conversation will be moderated by Paul Katz, director of the UMass Initiative on Neurosciences.

According to production notes, the opera takes place on a Pacific Northwest island where a neuroscientist “has sequestered herself with her daughter, her co-inventor, and their invention, the Onion.

“Rounding out the singing roles are her ex-partner, summoned in memory by both mother and daughter, and the Onion itself, which seems to gain its own personality with each use.”

A workshop production of the opera’s second half is planned for August and a full premiere for September 2025, according to Sawyer.

A dance extravaganza

NORTHAMPTON — “The Last Dance,” a multimedia performance by students from Southampton’s CLI Conservatory, will distill nine months’ worth of intensive study by those students May 31-June 2 at the Academy of Music.

Some 160 students have trained since last fall at CLI, which was founded a few years ago by Southampton native and dancer/choreographer Teddy Forance as a pre-professional program to prepare students ages 18-20 for careers in the dance world. The program has expanded significantly since CLI opened in the fall of 2021, taking over new space in Southampton and increasing enrollment about four-fold.

According to program notes, “The Last Dance” features choreography “by some of today’s top choreographers,” building on training students have received in a variety of dance styles including jazz, contemporary, theater, and ballet.

Performances take place May 31 at 6 p.m., June 1 at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., and June 2 at 12 p.m. Tickets are available at aomtheatre.com.

New exhibits, large and small

AMHERST — The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art has opened “Pictures at Play: Metafiction in Art,” an exhibit that draws on stories about stories themselves, in which artists experiment with styles, typography, and page design to scramble the usual rules for making books.

Featuring work from 29 artists, the exhibit looks at how the lines between author, narrator, and reader can be deliberately blurred, “subvert[ing] our expectations about the real world and the world of fiction,” as program notes put it.

At Galley A3, meanwhile, the current exhibit of painting and mixed media work by Diane Steingart, “Stories I Tell Myself,” continues through June 1. Working on paper, canvas, or wood, Steingart creates an initial layer of acrylic paint and found objects and then adds additional paint and collage for depth and texture.

And on June 6, Gallery A3 will open a solo exhibit by John Krifka, a show that “documents his exploration of pictorial space” and his “evolution towards abstraction” over a three-decade career, according to press notes. An artist’s reception takes place at the gallery June 6 from 5 to 7 p.m.

More free arts stuff

EASTHAMPTON — The New Blue Jazz Band will play a free show May 30 at the Blue Room in CitySpace, offering a program dedicated to vintage Hollywood movie scores as well as classic American jazz and popular music tunes.

The Hollywood portion of the concert, which begins at 7 p.m., will include movie images and videos.

The six-member band features Dan Fraizer on trumpet and flugelhorn; Chris Koh on percussion; Richard Murphy on bass clarinet, alto and baritone saxes and recorder; Philip Rowland on guitar; Michael Suter on bass; and Bill Winslow on keyboards.

Celebrating open ideas in the Caribbean

HOLYOKE — The MIFA Victory Players return to the city to stage two performances of “Puerto Abierto (Open Port)” on May 31-June 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Holyoke Media.

These MIFA Victory Theatre productions will wrap up a two-week residency in the city by the Victory Players, during which the artists will also stage educational concerts for Holyoke and South Hadley elementary school students and take part in other community events.

“Puerto Abierto (Open Port),” according to press notes, “celebrates the open exchange of ideas in the Caribbean-American and Puerto Rican communities in the United States” and includes the premiere of new music by several composers.

That music will be performed by the MIFA Victory Players Ensemble, under the direction of Tianhui Ng, with members on piano, cello, flute, clarinet, violin and percussion.

Tickets for the May 31-June 1 performances are $22.00 and can be purchased at www.mifafestival.org.

— Compiled by Steve Pfarrer

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