This weekend, the annual Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival celebrated its 25th year.
About 120 juried artists offered their creations under tents set up in Norwich’s East and West parks, which makes for a visually enticing, festive atmosphere each year.
An adjunct event, held annually, goes unseen by the festival’s more than 10,000 annual visitors. For most of its 25-year history, Colorscape Chenango has sponsored an artists’ breakfast on the Sunday of the festival. For the past 10 years the breakfast has been hosted by Norwich’s Broad Street United Methodist Church. The breakfast is underwritten in large part the Thomas and Esther Flanagan Charitable Trust.
For putting on the breakfast, the church, which counts about 500 members, receives a portion of the monies taken in by Colorscape Chenango. In past years, monies taken in by BSUMC went to Relay for Life. This year, funds will go toward a $1 million church steeple restoration project.
The church’s secretary, Tricia Munson, oversees the event, recruiting some 30 volunteers to set up tables, prepare food, decorate the banquet hall, and clean up after the breakfast. The breakfast is a two-day affair, with set-up on Saturday and oven’s being fired up by 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, Munson said.
Breakfast offerings included egg and cheese casseroles, scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, fresh fruit salad, bagels, oatmeal and assorted pastries, along with coffee and tea. Tables were decked out in gold and orange tablecloths with autumn-themed center pieces.
On Sunday, Munson went about her duties calmly and cordially.
“Everyone works together. We’re a really great team. It’s about fellowship and the fun of being together. It’s about being part of a family, the church family and my own,” said Munson, whose husband, Shawn, and daughters Jadyn and Taylor have worked by her side at the event.
In his second year as a BSUMC volunteer, Brandon Roberts was serving coffee. He recognized the mutual benefit the breakfast offers both to artists and BSUMC members.
“Vendors seem to like to come. It gives them a common place to commune and they seem thankful for it. The church comes together. The vendors come together, and it’s nice,” Roberts said.
Colorscape Chenango organizers agree on the feel-good nature of the event and its importance to festival vendors.
“The breakfast is perfect for us. The church puts together a good meal. It’s a clean and roomy facility, just welcoming. It’s an ideal place,” said Colorscape Chenango’s visual arts coordinator Peggy Finnegan, who recruits artists and jurists for the event.
“There’s great solidarity. It’s a community-building event,” said Celeste Friend, now in her third year as Colorscape Chenango’s executive director.
Artists likewise offered positive feedback on the breakfast.
In his ninth year at Colorscape Chenango, woodworker and chainsaw sculptor Brian Harnett remarked, “The food is great. This event gives a lot back to the vendors, which many other events don’t do.”
“I think it’s fantastic. How nice that they make it happen for us. I feel like a queen,” said cement sculptor Ineke Fredriksen of Jefferson, who was attending for the seventh time.
“It’s important for artists to get together to talk to one another at a level they’re not able to do at other fairs. Most other shows don’t offer this luxury of a breakfast. It makes us feel proud, feel like a part of a community,” said Massachusetts artist Michael Wolski.
Wolski was also recipient of the award for "Best Oil or Acrylic Artist." The awards ceremony is an integral part of the annual artists’ breakfast, at which awards for first, second or third place in 18 categories are conferred. Recognized artists receive cash prizes and are allowed to forego a juried entry for the coming year. Award categories include watercolor, sculpture, photography, jewelry, metalwork, and others. Overall awards are given for “Best Booth,” “Best in Show,” and “Culinary Award.”
This year, Anni Maliki, who resides in the Berkshires and makes silver jewelry inspired by nature themes, took “Best in Show,” while Kathy Jeffers, ceramic artists from Woodbourne, received recognition for “Best Booth.” The Mac Factor, a food truck enterprise operating out of Johnstown received the “Culinary Award.”
Two Norwich High School seniors, Mia Maiurano and Margie Winter, received the Francis K. Wilcox Scholarship award for “Emerging Young Artist.” Both were awarded a $100 gift certificate to Golden Artist Colors and a $350 cash prize.
“What stands out is how sincerely everybody is happy for each other,” said Colorscape Chenango volunteer coordinator Maggie Dorsey of the awards ceremony.