Spring into art at 3rd annual Vernal Arts and Music Festival

Spring into art at 3rd annual Vernal Arts and Music Festival

Joanna Reed works on a colorful painting at Mowry Commons in Smithfield during last year’s Vernal Arts and Music Festival.

SMITHFIELD – Paddle a historic reservoir, build boats with pirates, and learn about safely foraging for food. It’s all part of a local arts and music festival that encourages visitors to create their own artwork and explore 23 acres of farmland.

The 3rd annual Vernal Arts and Music Festival takes place Saturday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Mowry Commons, 374 Farnum Pike in Smithfield, hosted for the second year by nonprofit ecological group Revive the Roots.

“A lot of really cool stuff is happening this year,” Brad Allard, one of the festival’s organizers and a member of Revive the Roots, told The Valley Breeze.

In addition to poets, weavers, painters, photographers, and artists of all kinds, musicians from Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts will play throughout the day, including Forest Fires, a well-known indie rock group from Providence and a finalist in WBRU’s 2015 Rock Hunt competition.

Also partnering with the festival, the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council will host a paddleboat tour of the Woonasquatucket Reservoir/Stump Pond, paddling up to the Mowry Conservation Area and walking to the festival grounds.

Running a boat-building workshop called Skip’s Ship Shop from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. is a group of steampunk pirates called Dead Rabbit Pirates. Visitors can race their boats down the Woonasquatucket River at 3:45 p.m., following a “pirate talk” at 3:30 p.m.

Using the forest, fields, and gardens on the 23-acre property, curated by Revive the Roots, Brett Mayette, who runs Conscious Cuisine, will host two “Wild Edibles” walks at noon and 4:30 p.m. that will teach people how to incorporate wild plants into their cooking.

New this year, Revive the Roots received a $1,000 grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts that will help pay participating artists and musicians. Last year, Allard said, everyone performed for free.

The festival will feature art installations, food from local farmers including Blackbird Farm in Smithfield and Pat’s Pastured in East Greenwich, strawberry picking tours, and games such as horseshoes, sack toss, croquet, and badminton.

Family-friendly and open to the public, the event is free of charge but with a suggested $15 donation. Money raised will go toward hosting next year’s festival.

Wanting to differentiate itself from other art festivals, the Vernal Arts and Music Festival includes a series of artists’ stations set up as part performance and part art class so visitors can both watch artists at work and create their own art.

The Artists’ Exchange in Cranston will bring pottery materials for adults and children to sculpt; there will also be splatter painting, a drum circle, a poetry web, screenprinting, metalsmithing, and an activity called MedArtation.

Hosted by Ian Savageau, this yoga session will be “set to the musical backdrop” of The Antonio Forte Process and begins at 11 a.m.

Smithfield native Antonio Forte, the festival’s music director, told The Breeze that he’s secured a wide variety of musicians for the event.

He encourages people to “stop by any time (to) hear something you like or something new you didn’t know you liked.”

In addition to Forte’s band and Forest Fires, musicians include blues guitarist Bucky O’Hare and his folk band; Wise Old Moon, a folk rock band from Hartford, Conn.; Relatives, an acoustic singer/songwriter duo from Brooklyn; In This River, folk musicians from Boston; classical guitarist Victor Main; Rah, a post-punk alternative rock band from Boston; Nosaltres, a rock band from Providence; and twig twig, a solo electric artist from New York City.

Performing at last year’s festival, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School’s Paul Murphy Touring Ensemble is back this year, and Forte says he is ecstatic to have them.

The festival will end at 10 p.m. following a bonfire and outdoor film screening. Parking is available on-site, including handicapped parking.

In its inaugural year, the festival was held at Chase Farm in Lincoln, organized by Paul Cote, an artist from Cumberland, who will be at this year’s event.

The second year of the festival was held at Mowry Commons and drew a crowd of 300. This year, organizers are hoping for 500 visitors.

They say community response “has been humbling.”

For more information about the festival, visit www.vernalartsandmusic.com .

Registration is required for the paddleboat tour. Contact Erik Talley at 401-481-1376 or etalley@wrwc.org .

Sea Urchin, a rock/jazz band from Hartford, Conn., jams on stage at last year’s Vernal Arts and Music Festival in Smithfield. On guitar is Dan Liparini; bass, Jordan Bicki; and drums, Elliot Wallace.