A strolling art gallery opens Friday in Ridgefield

Tomorrow evening marks the opening of Art Walk 2015 around the streets of Ridgefield. Eighty artists from all over the region and 62 local merchants will participate in this free, three-week strolling gallery festival.

Presented by the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, Art Walk 2015 runs from Friday, Aug. 21, through Saturday, Sept. 12, with opening parties at a variety of venues around Ridgefield Friday evening, Aug. 21, from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by an Artists’ Day on Saturday, Aug. 22, when many of the artists will be outside their stores to greet and demonstrate their talents from noon to 4.

Information tables will be manned at Town Hall and The Marketplace during the opening weekend festivities with maps of all participating artists and venues. Visitors can also find maps at each locale or Town Hall, the Chamber of Commerce and the guild (34 Halpin Lane). All artwork is for sale with a portion of the sales going back to the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Friday evening is expected to offer a fun, party atmosphere around town. Many of the merchants will offer food and drink at receptions for their artists. Saturday afternoon, artists will be outside their stores offering demonstrations. Mike Cerullo, former graffiti artist-turned-painter, will set up in front of the library that day with a large-scale demo.

Olive Garden by Rhonda Gentry, another Art Walk exhibitor.
Olive Garden by Rhonda Gentry, another Art Walk exhibitor.

Of the 80 artists participating, about 30 are from Ridgefield. The rest come from all over the region including Fairfield County and nearby New York. Artists in Connecticut are from Bridgewater, Danbury, Easton, Fairfield, Georgetown, New Fairfield, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. In New York, they hale from Bedford, Brewster, Carmel, Chappaqua, Cross River, Croton-on-the-Hudson, Katonah, Mahopac, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Shandaken, South Salem and even New York City.

The artists work in a variety of media and styles, as well. There will be painters, photographers, printmakers, multi-media artists, a fiber artist and several sculptors.

“We’ve expanded our walk this year,” said Pam Stoddart, Executive Director of Ridgefield Guild of Artists. “We will not only be along Main Street, but we’ve added The Marketplace and Copps Hill Common areas, too.”  Those locations are off Danbury Road/Route 35.

Last year’s event was such a success that it was only natural to increase the size of the event, Stoddart said. “We had several requests from Copps Hill shops to be included last year, but we wanted to keep it manageable for our first time out. With one Art Walk under our belt, we are ready to make a bigger splash this year.”

Pam Stoddart came on as executive director of Ridgefield Guild of Artists in March of 2014. One of her charges was to boost the guild’s recognition around Ridgefield and beyond. Although the guild brings in members, currently about 300, from all over the region, many locals still are surprised to find out there is a guild in town, even though the arts organization has been around for more than 40 years. It is tucked away in a small antique barn at the bottom of the hill on Halpin Lane across from the Ridgefield Theater Barn.

The guild’s mission as a regional and community-based art organization is to promote the visual arts and arts education by providing high quality gallery space for exhibitions, art classes for children and adults, opportunities for artist-in-residency programs, art lectures and events on-site and in collaboration with other cultural organizations. It’s a comfortable and welcoming place for artists to inspire, explore and create, and art lovers to discover the craft.

Stoddart hit the ground running and thought a great way to have a real community impact was to “resurrect” a past art walk and have the guild make the event its own. During Ridgefield’s 300th Anniversary and year of celebration in 2008, members of the town organizing committee put together an art walk during that summer. It was a fun event and very well accepted by the community. Stoddart, an artist herself, has participated in similar events in other towns around Fairfield County. “It was only natural the guild should take this on and bring it back to Ridgefield.”

Last year, with the help of Alison Greely and Ridgefield Arts Council members, Stoddart established a joint committee and got things rolling. It was a big job to organize in a short amount of time. Sixty-one artists and fifty-three merchants in downtown Ridgefield participated. This year, Art Walk 2015 will be bigger and better. With the addition of The Marketplace and Copps Hill Common, the guild had room for more merchants and many more artists. “It’s a great partnership for the store owners and artists,” said Stoddart. Once the committee matches them up, the two work out the details on their own: how many pieces, where they will be exhibited and whether there will be an opening reception. Several locations will have multiple artists.

“Art Walk is a great community event and win-win-win for town merchants, local artists and the visitors who attend. There’s really no better way to spend a late summer weekend in our beautiful town,” said Stoddart.

In conjunction with Art Walk, each artist will have an additional piece in the Walk on Down exhibit at the Ridgefield Guild of Artists’ gallery barn at 34 Halpin Lane. So, visitors to town may enjoy strolling around town to see the artwork and visiting the guild for a companion exhibit. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 12 to 4. There will be a closing party for all artists, merchants and friends of the guild at the barn on Friday, Sept. 11, from 5 to 7 p.m.

“We will again be collaborating with RMAC (the Ridgefield Music and Arts Center group) for this year’s event,” said Stoddart. “To add to the festive mood, we’ll be entertained by student musicians throughout the opening weekend outside at locales on Main Street and The Marketplace, along with the closing party at the guild.”

Fairfield County Bank, Joyride Ridgefield, Sturges Brothers and Ridgefield Apartments are the sponsors for Art Walk Ridgefield 2015 and have generously underwritten this year’s event. For more information, including a downloadable map, visit rgoa.org, or call 203-438-8863.