I have a lot of ground to cover this week, from art festivals to a local girl’s big screen debut. If I had to choose one unifying word, however, it would be “creativity.” There’s no shortage of creative energy here and living in Chautauqua County, with its long stretches of cold, wet weather (which we have become all too familiar with lately), it helps to find an artistic solace.
This weekend, there will be more than one opportunity to admire the work of Chautauqua County’s many artists.
The Wine & Art Weekend will be held Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, with 22 artists (members of the North Shore Arts Alliance) displaying their work at the 21 wineries in Lake Erie Wine Country. This is Wine & Art’s second year. The event is the brainchild of artist Tom Annear and Jennifer Johnson of Johnson Estate Winery. They ran into each other on the street one day and started talking, and decided to collaborate.
“I’ve actually been thinking about (combining wine and art) since 2000,” Annear said. “If you’re out in California and you go to the wineries, every winery has an art collection.”
Peanut butter and jelly aside, what goes better together than art and wine?
“It makes sense — both are locally-made and handcrafted, there’s an art to both of them,” Annear said. “The two really go hand-in-hand. And many artists enjoy a fine glass of wine while they’re drawing and painting, or whatever.”
Last year tickets were required but this year, the event is free to attend. There will be free wine tastings all weekend and, of course, plenty of art for viewing and for sale in a wide variety of mediums — there will be everything from handcrafted bowls to jewelry to photography. Many of the artists will be there to discuss their work. More details on the participating artists and wineries can be found at www.northshoreartsalliance.com or www.lakeeriewinecountry.org (a complete list can also be found in the Wednesday edition of the OBSERVER).
Also being held this weekend is the Life Is Art festival, another event focusing on local artists in its sophomore year. It will be held in Barker Common on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and features many art forms, with live music all day and art on display. The event is a fundraiser for Music is Art, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2004 by The Goo Goo Dolls’ bassist Robby Takac. Hosted by SUNY Fredonia Music Industry Club, the event is bigger and better this year, with many vendors, games and raffles.
Another opportunity to check out the work of local artists is the Urbscheit Student exhibit at the Adams Art Gallery in Dunkirk, on display through April 14. Featured is the work of up-and-coming artists from several area high schools.
For a relatively small region, Chautauqua County has a very active arts scene with many working artists. I asked Lesley Williamson, executive director, what makes our locale such a hub of creativity.
“Chautauqua County's standard of living plays an enormous role in supporting a creative community,” Williamson said. “It's simply cheap to live here. I know a number of artists (my husband included) who moved here from New York City and other cities because of the low cost of living.
Williamson also noted that time is the most important thing to any artist – and here, it’s on our side.
“If you're working a 9 to 5, 40-hour-a-week job, or more, you don't have much time to devote to your craft,” she said. “I think this area affords artists time — without too many distractions — to really ‘incubate.’ They have time to develop and experiment and work at what they love.”
Tourism play an important role in supporting our artists as well.
“Generally speaking, only 3 to 5 percent of any given area's population are consumers of art,” Williamson said. “That number simply can't sustain this county's arts community. The influx of seasonal tourists and second home owners really helps in this regard.”
Whether it’s with a glass a wine, in a park downtown or in an art gallery, be sure to take time this weekend to support the work of our local artists.
BIG SCREEN DEBUT
Christina Calph, a 2004 Fredonia High School graduate, will make her debut on the silver screen on Friday alongside Russell Brand in the film “Arthur,” a remake of the classic ‘80s film. Since age 18, Calph has been living and working in New York City as a model and actress (among her many other credits), a far cry from our days as co-workers at the now-defunct Aldrich's Beef & Dairy Parlor. Her resume runs the gamut — there have been appearances on “The Daily Show with John Stewart” and “Entertainment Tonight,” modeling for Steve Madden and Jessica Simpson, an off-Broadway production of “Victor/Victoria.” In “Arthur,” Calph plays Tiffany, a golddigger who gets romantic with Arthur (Russell Brand). In the original film, the character was called Gloria (played by Anne De Salvo).
“It's a sexy-type scene but luckily it's PG-13!” Calph said.
Her part in “Arthur” led to an offer to be in her next film, “Tower Heist” starring Ben Stiller, in which she will portray a Victoria's Secret saleswoman. I spoke to Calph about her career so far, what she's learned and what's next.
So what was working with Russell Brand like?
He’s not very far off from my family members (laughs). I couldn’t have asked for a better person to do my first movie with because he let me be crazy. Celebrities can sometimes be difficult to work with but I’m really new so he let me talk, he let me take the spotlight and I thought that was pretty cool of him. He’s a really, really nice guy. It was fun to play with someone who was quick-witted and a really good comedian.
What else have you been working on?
I’ve been doing a web series called “XXX: A Bad Girl's Ball” (on YouTube), which kind of talks about my life as an underdog, and I write, produce, direct and edit the entire series — that’s starting to pick up a little bit for me. And I’m auditioning, same old same, waiting for these movies to come out so that hopefully I get offered more work. … I’ve choreographed for artists, I back-up dance for some pretty big artists … I do a lot of spots here and there, especially for comedic people.
What’s your long-term goal?
I love making movies. I think that, by far, is my niche. When you’re offered a part in a movie, you make a little bit more money and you can take the time to research. For my role in “Arthur,” I used the money that I was paid and I came back home. I went to the Chautauqua County Fair and I just really embodied that persona. I’m playing Tiffany, a girl from Buffalo, and I really enhanced our accent. You’ll notice in the film I talk in our hometown accent because I wanted that to be a part of me. For “Tower Heist,” I went to Victoria’s Secret and pretended to be a customer, and followed a saleswoman around for the whole day… I watched her every move. It was a small role and they actually extended my part and gave me another scene with Ben Stiller.
It sounds like you’re really dedicated to your work!
Oh, yeah! My thing is that I’m not playing around. I came out here when I was 18 and went to school (at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City), I didn’t go out, I was really determined to succeed at this career. I do want to make movies but I’m also hoping for Broadway and producing my own one-woman show, and becoming a really great artist. I want to influence people in a positive way. When I first came out here, my parents couldn’t really help me so I had to figure out how I was going to make it happen; I had to work really hard. I want to show others that you can do it. You can do it on your own — you just have to work really, really hard.
OTHER WEEKEND HAPPENINGS
- Adams Art Gallery will feature a performance by Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter Lisa Brigantino tonight at 8 p.m. Brigantino is an alum of the SUNY Fredonia School of Music.
- Valentine’s Place will have live music by Passion Works from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday.
- 41 West will have live music by Fallen Union on Friday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and will feature Billy McEwen from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday.
- Shake those snow-in-spring blues at the “Beach Bound” Surprise Party at Forte in Jamestown on Saturday, with the party getting started at 10 p.m. Dress in your best luau attire and get ready to enjoy a Mai Tai or two (or five), to do the limbo and to dance the night away. Since Forte is closing down from April 10 to 25, there will be a complimentary buffet of extremely delicious food.
- Turner Classic Movies will feature a memorial tribute to Elizabeth Taylor on Sunday. Eleven films will air throughout the day, starting at 6 a.m. with “Lassie Come Home.” Among the movies are the film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958) at 6 p.m.; an epic about a Texas ranching family and the rise of an oil tycoon played by James Dean (his last film), “Giant” (1956) at 12:30 a.m.; and one of her films with husband Richard Burton that most accurately reflected their tumultuous relationship, “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) at 10 p.m. Elizabeth, there will never be another one like you.
- A new season of “The Real Housewives of New York City” will begin tonight on Bravo at 10 p.m. I'm not sure that there is any way this season could top the last one (especially without Bethanny, now that she's found success with her own reality show) but after the snoozefest that was “The Real Housewives of Miami,” I welcome the NYC drama.
April Diodato is the OBSERVER Lifestyles editor. Send comments on this column to email@example.com