Long Standing Show Returns in December

Published in Woonsocket Call on November 8, 2015

Foundry Artist Association Kicks Off 33rd holiday Sale at Pawtucket Armory

Look for thousands of shoppers to converge on downtown to purchase unique holiday gifts for their friends and loved ones.       Next month, the Foundry Artists Association (FAA), one of Rhode Island’s premier arts events, returns to the City of Pawtucket to kick off its 33rd holiday sale.  At this two weekend event, 60 seasoned artists bring their fine art and crafts to sell to the Pawtucket Armory’s drill hall, items ranging from art glass to wood, and include painting, sculpture, metal, fiber, mixed media, jewelry, ceramics, photography, millinery, handmade books, and furniture.

One of Rhode Island’s oldest shows runs for seven days over the first two December weekends, starting with the Gala Opening Night on Thursday, December. 3, from 5pm – 9pm. The Gala features the John Juxo and Otis Read, refreshments and the kick off of a Silent Auction showcasing items valued over $50 that are donated by each of the participating artists.

The show continues on Friday, December. 4, from noon – 8pm; Saturday (December. 5) and Sunday (December. 6) from 10-6 pm. The proceeds of the first weekend Silent Auction will be given to two nonprofits: Sovereign House, an advocacy and resource center for Rhode Island domestic abuse victims and the Resources for Human Development, a Pawtucket-based arts-based studio program that serves adults with a range of disabilities.

The Foundry Artist show reopens on Friday, December 11, noon – 8pm; Saturday, December. 12, 10am – 6pm, and closes on Sunday, December. 13, 10am – 6pm.

The show is free to the public with free parking in the adjacent parking lot and free on street parking.  Handicap parking is in the rear of the building.  No sales tax will be charged on purchases; all major credit cards accepted.

Providence artist Michael Bryce, FAA’s president, says his organization’s event stands out from other art shows popping up throughout the Ocean State in December.  “With a juried selection of artists, the caliber of work is high in our show,” he says, noting that a strong outreach brings seasoned artists to group’s attention, who are invited to apply and submit their work for consideration.

“After a rigorous jury process usually 75 percent of the artists will be selected to return the next year, says Bryce. This turnover gives shoppers an opportunity to view the art work of the new participating artist each year.

Pawtucket’s First Years

Bryce says that over three decades ago, a community of artists opened their I-95 Foundry Building studios in downtown Providence to the public during the December holiday season.  In 1995, when the Foundry Building was converted to office space, its artists scattered to studios throughout the region, however, they continued to hold a December holiday show in different venues. These places included Veterans Auditorium and at a mill now demolished on Charles Street, both located in downtown Providence. The Foundry Artist would end up in Pawtucket initially by relocating to the Grant building on the City’s historic Main Street and later to Riverfront Lofts, across the river from City Hall.

In 2002, the Foundry Artists were drawn to the 1894 castle-like Armory, on Exchange Street, says Bryce.  With the departure of the National Guard in 1994 the City’s historic Pawtucket Armory became vacant.  Its 11,000 sf drill hall might just be the perfect place to hold for their holiday sale.

Ultimately, with the Foundry Artist signing a lease with the Pawtucket Armory Association, a nonprofit that owned and was renovating the historic structure, former Mayor James E. Doyle, charged the city’s Department of Planning & Redevelopment with the responsibility of making sure all the regulatory i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.  Art supporters, including Phyllis and Morris Nathanson, Paul Audette, along with Developer Ranne P. Warner gave countless hours to making this first Holiday sale a success.

At the first Foundry Artist Holiday Sale, under the amazing vaulted space, a large outside propane heater piped hot air inside the drill hall to bring temperatures up to a manageable level.  Porta cans placed at the back of the drill hall became the de facto rest rooms. With paint peeling from the ceiling and walls, the huge space needed a good coat of paint.

But, shoppers, coming from Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts, found plenty of free parking in Pawtucket, and easy access off Interstate 95.  With the Pawtucket Armory being located in the City’s 307 acre Arts District, there was no sales tax was charged on purchases.

Over the 13 years that the holiday sale has been held at the Pawtucket Armory, gradual improvements were made to this building.  Propane heaters used during the first years were replaced with an efficient gas heating system and rest room facilities were built out.  Over the last couple of years a new wooden floor was installed in the huge drill hall with the walls and ceiling being painted.

Bryce, employed by the Providence Journal as a freelance illustrator at age 12 who was has received undergraduate and master degrees in painting and illustration and teaches art at local colleges, says that the Armory’s drill hall perfectly showcases the artist’s one-of-a-kind art work. “I cannot even image another space that would be so perfect,” he says, stressing that the “beautiful space” gives shoppers a “breath-taking experience.” when they are browsing around looking for that piece of art.

With two years under his belt as President, Bryce has worked to put his finger prints on the Holiday sale.  With the silent auction being completed by the end of the first weekend, he successfully pushed his group to create artist showcase which highlights each unique artist’s works.

Live artist demonstrations and videos are scheduled every hour on the second weekend to show the process of making art in different artistic mediums, Bryce added, noting that this “creates an interesting and interactive environment for the shopper.”

For additional information about this year’s foundry Artists Show, please visit www.foundryshow.com or www.facebook.com/foundryshow.  Or listen to advertising spots place don Rhode Island National Public Radio.

Just Weeks Away

Published in digital issue of Rhode Island Creative Design in September 2015

For the third year, XOS Exchange Street Open Studios (XOS) will showcase its talented artisans on Sept. 26 and 27 from 10-4 p.m. at three renovated historic buildings in Pawtucket’s Armory Arts District. This year, 35 artists will be showing original, handcrafted artwork, including paintings, sculpture, prints, photography, crafts, wearable art, jewelry, graphic and textile design, and more, all sales-tax free.

The art show is sponsored in part by the City of Pawtucket, Bristol County Savings Bank, the Pawtucket Arts Festival, and Pamela Hughes. Organizer Joan Hausrath says XOS is very unique in that, “visitors may park and walk from building to building rather than driving from one location to another.” Art Making In Historic

Pawtucket Mills

The renovation of the participating downtown Pawtucket mills draws many visitors to the event, says Hausrath. Riverfront Lofts (10 Exchange Ct.), a former knitting mill on the Blackstone River, is now a condominium with more than 50 unique work/live spaces. Next door is Blackstone Studios (163 Exchange St.), which was once a cardboard factory but now contains both design and art studios, including that of well-known artist/designer, Morris Nathanson. Finally, just one block away is Mad Dog Artist Studios (65 Blackstone Ave.), a new enterprise that provides studio and common area workspaces to artists on a short or long-term rental basis.

“Anyone who is an artist residing or renting a studio in any of the buildings may participate in XOS. Participating guest artists are invited by unit hosts,” states Hausrath, noting that each year the artists vary. Besides buying artwork, “People will have a unique opportunity to learn more about creative art making,” says Hausrath. They can view works in progress, watch art demos, and talk with artists about their career goals. This year, Lyell Castonguay and friends from BIG INK will be printing huge woodcut prints and encouraging visitors to join them.

An Easy Drive

Take Exit 29, I-95, and follow the signs. There is plenty of free parking, music, and food trucks. Arts Marketplace Pawtucket, a fine art and crafts show, will be taking place in the historic Pawtucket Armory nearby, so make a day of it! For more information including a list of participating artists and directions, go to: www.xospawtucket.com.

Documentary Takes a Look at Speed Dating for Seniors

Published in Pawtucket Times, August 9, 2014

Three years ago, a personal story would lead filmmaker Steven Loring to zero in on a topic for his MFA thesis film while studying at the Social Documentary Film Program in NYC’s School of Visual Arts. His thesis ultimately grew into a 78-minute documentary, “The Age of Love,” which follows the adventures of 30 seniors who sign up for a speed dating event exclusively for 70- to 90-year-olds. The film premieres at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, Sunday, August 10, at 12:15 p.m. at the Paff Theatre at URI, 80 Washington Street, Providence. And there’s a special offer for anyone who comes to the box office with a date: When you buy one ticket, your date gets in FREE! Any date! Any age!

The story took shape after the passing away of Loring’s father in 2008 left his still-vibrant mother alone after being married to her soul mate for nearly half a century. At that same time, his 80-year old uncle, who’d never even dated, to Loring’s amazement suddenly fell madly in love with an 80-year-old woman, both acting like love-struck teenagers.

“It was like they were in high school again,” Loring says, noting that the couple walked around holding hands and that he even found their bedroom door shut when he visited.

These events pushed the Brooklyn-based filmmaker to take a look at relationships in one’s later years. His research efforts revealed that the nation’s media had neglected issues involving seniors’ emotional and intimate needs. On the internet, he found that speed dating for seniors was a newly emerging trend which had occurred in a few communities in Florida and Colorado. Ultimately, a speed dating event in Rochester, New York would give him the perfect place to explore and document and come away with new insights into the issue.

Loring’s efforts to reconcile two dynamically opposite life experiences, losing a long-term intimate relationship and suddenly finding one at an advanced age, led the graduate student to finally formulate this thesis question, “Do decades of life and loss constrict our hearts, or might time develop them in unexpected ways,” That’s the question the 51-year-old filmmaker attempts to answer in his film project.

Speed Dating for Seniors

Loring’s documentary, a winner of the 2013 Paley Center DocFest Pitch Competition and recently awarded a prestigious Fledgling Fund social engagement grant, follows the amusing and emotional adventures of the seniors who signed up for the Rochester speed dating event, which was organized by a ‘healthy aging’ coalition to bring new social opportunities to the older community. The trendy matchmaking process allowed these individuals to meet for a brief five minutes. When the time was up the organizer sounded a bell, signaling participants to move on to the next table. Each kept a tally of those they would like to contact later. If both parties were interested in each other, a follow up date would occur.

According to Loring, as a result of the heavy promotion of this unique event, combined with the intense local media buzz, “dozens of area seniors called to register, all willing to put themselves out there, to take stock of their aging bodies and still-hopeful hearts.”

“The film takes viewers where no documentary has gone before – directly into the lives of older singles who still yearn to be seen and understood, who still desire another’s touch, who seek a new chance of love,” says Loring. Unlike other recent documentaries exploring issues of aging, the film maker saw an “opportunity to break social and generational barriers by looking at the older participants not in terms of singular talents or specific communities, but through shared, human desires.”

For three months, Loring filmed without a crew. He was able to easily develop personal relationships with the senior speed daters “allowing candid stories to emerge by following their everyday routines,” he says.
Looking to Find That Perfect Match

Loring notes that some participants came seeking simple companionship, while others came looking for that special mate. Among the speed daters who appear in the film: An 81-year-old bodybuilding champ, divorced since his fifties, who still believes new love is possible; a skydiving widow who dulls her loss by pursuing younger men; a grandmother and online-dating addict searching the web for Mr. Right; a romantic 79-year-old who discards his portable oxygen for a sunset tango on the beach, a 1940s movie fanatic who escaped an abusive marriage, yet still seeks her ‘Fred and Ginger’ romance.

Janice Ledtke, 78, a resident of Webster, New York, a suburb of Rochester, remembers making the decision to participate in speed dating. After 38 years of being single following her divorce in 1976, she jumped at the chance to meet new people. “What did I have to lose,” says Ledtike, a former property management employee, who met dates over the years at singles groups or through being fixed up by friends.

“You never know who you just might meet,” remembers Ledtike, noting when her friends found out about her participation in the speed dating event and documentary, “they thought I was crazy, but it’s just another one of my adventures.”

Ledtke says she met a variety of personalities at the speed dating event. But her follow up dates with a film maker, a retired professor and an owner of a small insurance company went nowhere. “I was not necessarily looking to find the love of my life, but if it happened, it happened,” she adds, stressing that it was not the end of the world because she came away with a number of new friends.

Linda Sorrendino, 72, had many long-term relationships since her 1973 divorce. “I have many diamonds to prove this,” quips the resident of Victor, New York. Over the years, like Ledtke, she would meet people by attending singles groups or through friends.

Learning from a friend about the speed dating event, Sorrendino, a retired office clerk, immediately signed up. “You just never know. As to landing a relationship, “you just go with the flow,” she remarks.

As Sorrendino reflects on her speed dating experience and her late life relationships, she notes, “I don’t want to be with a decrepit old man, but I also don’t want to be with somebody a lot younger who looks better that I do and feels like he’s with an old lady.”

A Final Thought…

“The film’s message is so positive and encouraging,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell. “Watching these folks surely will make it easier for others to re-enter the dating scene. At the same time, there is a subtext that is very important: No one featured in the documentary seems desperate. Each has found a way to move on from divorce or loss of a spouse or partner. Will they find their storybook ending? I think the film makes it clear that there are no promises. But there’s a strong message that giving love another chance is not so intimidating – especially if you find some an organized group that puts you among people of similar age and circumstance.”

The documentary also will reveal to its broader audience that the desire for companionship and intimacy does not evaporate at some advanced specific age,” Connell added. “These feelings are not always easy for people to discuss with their children or grandchildren. Its great people get to see these folks take part in the speed-dating experience because in the accompanying interviews they reveal hopes and fears many hold inside. But I love the takeaway: ‘If something happens, that’s great. If not, I’ll still be okay.’”

Loring plans to work with AARP and other ‘healthy aging’ organizations across the country to bring older adults together in 25 cities next year at senior speed dating events. For more information go to theAgeofLoveMovie.com or email steven@theAgeofLoveMovie.com

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.