Excitement pierced the chilly February night as dozens of artists arrived at Bendheim Art Gallery of the Greenwich Arts Center to learn their fates.
Paul Master-Karnik, director of the non-profit Greenwich Arts Council (GAC), said that in January about 140 artists submitted work for consideration for the annual month-long "Art to the Ave" celebration in May. After weeks of anticipation, the event on Friday brought the waiting to an end.
The reception, hosted by the GAC, with media sponsorship by Serendipity, featured hot hors d'oeuvres by "Happiness Is" and a wine bar. According to Master-Karnik, 110 retailers are participating in this year's festivities, which will transform Greenwich's main drag into one big art gallery.
The ever-calm Master-Karnik explained that despite the shortage of retailers for the number of artists, "the gap narrows as Art to the Ave becomes more of a reality." In January, he said, "retailers are still thinking, 'How do I make my sales target for the month?' They're sparsely staffed and we're trying to talk to them about an event months away. But, by February when they come in for a look, 'They know it when they see what they want in their store."
Artists were asked back in December to register and submit photos of six different paintings. Last Wednesday, they were asked to drop off their portfolios and a single painting at GAC.
Then, on Thursday and Friday, retailers were invited to GAC to take a look at the artwork and pick their favorites.
Lastly, on Friday night, artists arrived to see their paintings on display in the gallery, along with the all-important pink slip indicating which retailer had selected them. Some were not picked. Some were chosen twice.
Indeed, Lila Philip, a pre-school art teacher at Greenwich Academy and Brunswick School, was happy to learn she'd been selected by Out of the Box. Philip, a first-year participant whose painting of a coral "boot" was part of a series, had a good night. While removing her painting and pink slip from its display to bring it home, representatives from a second organization expressed interest in displaying her art.
In the main gallery, Molly Galterio of Serendipity explored the paintings and chatted with artists. "We are the main media sponsor of Art to the Ave," explained Galterio. "We put together a panel of people in the community, and pick eight artists to be featured in our magazine in the May issue."
Artist and Greenwich native Kimberly Joy Sessa, who has participated in Art to the Ave for five years, explained the backstory of her painting, one in series called "Brutalized Women in Society." The painting, said Sessa, was of her cousin Christine's bruised face and her friend Katie's hand.
Sessa, who attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and studied under Enzo Russo, described painting as her passion. "This is everything to me," she said.
Beside Sessa's painting of a bruised woman was Jessica Ewud's painting "The Lady in Pink." Ewud, a resident of Redding, learned her work had been selected by Plush Blow of 18 Lewis St. Ewud shared her story. "I was an art history major at WestConn (Western Connecticut State University in Danbury) and I changed my major to business because I was worried about finding a job." Ironically, these days, Ewud commissions murals for small buisnesses and restaurants.
Opening festivities for Art to the Ave are scheduled for Thursday, May 2, from 5:30-8 p.m. Local artists' work will remain displayed at shops and businesses in the downtown business district through May 27.