One of my favorite nights in the whole year comes in May when shops and restaurants around our town stay open late for a kick off event to honor a month long tribute to a local artist of their choice, by hanging their art in the window or inside their establishment.
The artists bring a sample of their work and a portfolio to the Art Council in February and shop keepers and restaurants owners wander the galleries and select the artist that best represents their style.
On opening night, the community, me included, shakes off our routines and shimmies out of our ruts, to enjoy an evening of camaraderie and friendship while visiting the various shops up and down the byways of our town.
The artwork is for sale, and usually at very reasonable prices. Live music helps shed the weight of the work day, as well as amusing jugglers, mimes, stilt walkers, and other curious performers. Kids are involved too, participating in dance, choral, or theatre groups.
It is about the only time in our town, when it feels like we’re a lovely interconnected community, as we mingle with our neighbors and local artists. And as cars are banished from the main thoroughfare, people are out rubbing shoulders with their neighbors, and goodwill and merriment abound.
Of course, free wine and hors d’oeuves are a big draw as well and probably helps make the art look especially good too.
A few years ago Jim and I visited this magical little town on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. At night, the town gathered in the town square, bordered by outdoor cafes and a charming church with enchanting steps enticing people to linger and take a seat. The square was festively lit, children ran around without worry, and the townsfolk just lingered and shared community. Jim and I loved it there. It is one of the memories that has really impacted us. No cars – just people gathered to share the winding down of the day and the beauty of the evening sky above.
Here’s a little snippet I wrote several years ago while we were visiting this place:
‘ The town square is lit as bright as day. A concert has just finished somewhere nearby and clutches of townsfolk are chattering away as children merrily race about. We are captivated by this spunky little girl confidently barreling along on her tiny bike with training wheels. She bumps into the first step leading up to the church, hops off, grabs a book out of the basket of the bike, and sits on the steps appearing to read a moment, then dashes down the steps to her father sitting quietly with his wife, and climbs him as if he is Mount Everest. She grasps his shoulder and digs one tiny foot then the other into his soft tummy and chest, and drapes herself around his neck. He cradles her in his arms and speaks quietly to her. She relaxes into his loving gaze. We revel in the beauty and charm of this little town nestled in a cliff, with a necklace of lights adorning the hillside above, a garland of lights tracing the narrow road below, and stars sparkling in the dome over our head.’
So for one night, we have something wonderful in common with a small town square in Ravello, Italy.
It makes our little slice of the world such a much better place.
Thank you artists and musicians who inspire us to cast aside our routines and ruts, and take a few moments to admire your work and feel the warm pulse of living in community.
artists work shown above: 1. Hertz Nazaire, Victoria Selbach 2. Chitra Ramacharandas 3. Bob Mann 4. Allison Meyler 5. me