NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 25, 2014

Art is no stranger to this city

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — In a column written nine years ago, I wrote the following:

“The North Shore, rich in its culture of arts, breaks new ground this weekend with Newburyport’s first ever literary festival.

“Words are what we make of them.

“We all use them, but there are those who use them very well indeed for the rest of us to enjoy.

“Avid readers and writers, gathering for two days of events, will feast upon extraordinary talents in a variety of venues when writers of national prominence, poets and authors of short stories and novels gather to celebrate the importance of literature in our lives.

“It’s a star-studded company of those who answered a call two years in the making and the event is certain to add another jewel to the North Shore’s cultural necklace of artists and musicians from Boston to Portland, Maine.”

What follows is how far we have come.

Rarely have my projections been more prescient, the continuing evidence being the opening of this year’s festival beginning tonight at 6 at the Firehouse Center for the Arts with the honoring of the much-celebrated author Andre Dubus III of Newbury and the world.

Admission is free and early arrival is in order.

Following a public conversation with Ann Hood, esteemed author of “Knitting Yarns Writers on Knitting,” a public dinner will be held at Nicholson Hall at 7:30.

Year upon year, and within walking distance from one downtown venue to another, a veritable smorgasbord of talent is free and open to the public in Newburyport’s downtown from 9 a.m. Saturday morning to the 7 p.m. closing program at Old South Church.

The theme there will be “Discussion on the business of book selling and influence of Oprah’s Book Club and magazine reviews.”

What follows for almost 12 hours after the opening on Saturday will be an all-embracing choice of venues.

The success of Newburyport’s restoration is increasingly in evidence because the arts, in Newburyport, are not vagrants on the town.

The city’s celebrated past is enhanced not only by the renewal of its downtown and the creation of a waterfront our early founders could never have perceived.

Nor is it the ongoing consideration that would arguably enhance the preservation of what has been accomplished.

It’s the continuing health of our collective arts that’s a different measure of well-being.

Sculptors and artists do that usually silently, but it’s our support for what they do that says as much about us as it does about them.

As for that a new venue, the Community Sculpture Garden and Green Space on the Clipper City Rail Trail, is brewing behind the Newburyport Art Association at 65 Water St.

Long in its consideration, the necessary space became available by the collaboration of the adjacent U.S. Coast Guard, the City of Newburyport and the art association.

The site at the rear of the building would seem to be obscured, but not so for those taking Newburyport’s rail trail or those arriving by boat at the adjacent facility and visitors to the Art Association.

Given the enthusiasm that brought all parties together, there are high hopes for the fund drive underway, and the number to call is 978-465-8769.

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Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is plantejr@comcast.net.