City arts community comes together for Woonsocket Arts and Music Festival June 22

City arts community comes together for Woonsocket Arts and Music Festival June 22

Members of the Woonsocket Arts Guild, from left, Renee Rochon, Normand Beaufort, Connie Anderson, Ted Rickson and Claire Achilles, standing in their gallery at Le Moulin, are preparing for the first annual Woonsocket Arts and Music Festival. (Valley Breeze Photo By SANDY PHANEUF)

WOONSOCKET - A new annual Arts and Music Festival is coming to Woonsocket next week, and the event will include a bevy of arts vendors, food and raffles, accompanied by an all-day lineup of some of the best musical performers in the region, thanks to the work of an emerging city arts collaborative.

The event is sponsored by the Woonsocket Arts Guild, a nonprofit organization that, since January, has been rapidly bringing together a community of creative folks from the city and beyond. The nonprofit, which launched at a gallery opening at Stage Right Studio for Arts and Wellness earlier this year, meets bi-weekly and now has around 45 members.

"I saw a big turn-around after the arts opening," said Connie Anderson, Stage Right owner and founding member of the group. "We had a big turnout of people that have lived in the city for years and just didn't know where to turn. Now it's doing what we wanted it to do."

Anderson launched the project with the hope of establishing a forum for shared resources for all types of artists, who could work together to create opportunities to use their talents to add life to the city, at events such as the Saturday, June 22, celebration, which will be held at River Island Park.

"This is something I always wanted to do once I established the guild, to create an annual music and arts festival," she said.

The guild established a volunteer group, including representatives of every art form, from photographers to musicians.

Steering committee members for the festival include Anderson, Jason Dolbec, Ryan Tremblay, Jarod Cournoyer, Briana Suffoletto, Renee Rochon, Claire Achilles, Nancy Fafard, Mary Concannon, Ernie and Judith Potter, Tina Go, Roland Gauvin and Shane Culliton.

The objective of the event is simple: Display and sell one-of-a-kind, original pieces of local art. No commercial vendors are allowed.

"We want to keep it as local as possible," said Anderson.

Tables with work for sale will include photography, jewelry, paintings, knitted items and other original arts. So far, the guild has also collected more than 50 items to be raffled off in a penny social.

Confirmed vendors include the Tandoori Restaurant on Main Street and Beacon Charter School for the Arts, where students will be making crepes.

A full line-up of bands will take over the park from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with musical performances by The Stilts, Steve Mallock and Electric Flood, Black Velvet, Chandler, The December Strings, Rich Ferri, David Brouder, Dylan Sevey and Able Thought.

"We have a nice mix of music, from acoustic to classic rock," said Anderson.

The final performance of the evening will feature Through The Doors, a popular tribute band that frequently performs at Chan's. Local resident Ernie Potter is the lead singer and also a member of the Arts Guild. Frank O'Donnell will serve as master of ceremonies for the day.

The guild hopes to make the family-friendly day an annual event that will add to the growing arts and cultural community that is emerging from Woonsocket

"It's all about helping each other," said Anderson of the guild. "That's the purpose of it."

Anderson was one of the 13 community members to help draft the Main Street Livability Plan, a project aimed at creating a more vibrant downtown Woonsocket. The plan, which was recently passed by the City Council, includes a major focus on the arts, and was recently chosen for the 2013 Smart Growth Rhode Island award.

More artists, artisans and local food vendors are being sought to participate in the June 22 event. Anyone interested is asked to contact Shane Culliton, vendor chairman, at commercialcorridors@neighborworksbrv.org or Anderson at 401-356-0255. The rain date for the event is Sunday, June 23.