By Rick Murphy
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The fifth annual Westhampton Festival of the Arts will take place for two days beginning August 31 on the Great Lawn on Main Street in Westhampton Beach. It is perennially ranked among the top shows of its kind in the country. Bill Kinney of Paragon Art, the Show Director, discusses the event with The Independent.
Indy: How long has the Westhampton Festival of the Arts been in existence?
Bill: This will be our fifth year for the Westhampton Festival of the Arts. We began in 2009, survived two tropical storms and continue to grow the event each year. This is one of the jewels in the Paragon show schedule.
Indy: Tell us something about the show.
Bill: First, this is a national show. The show's reputation draws artists from around the country and internationally. We also have many New York and Long Island artists – including myself and my seascape photography. We have become the largest art festival on Long Island, though in relationship to other events nationally, we are considered a "boutique" show with about 120 artists exhibiting in the event. The show has consistently ranked in the Top 100 fine art festivals nationwide and entering 2013 we were ranked in the Top 50.
Indy: What makes the Westhampton Festival of the Arts different from other Long Island art events?
Bill: What makes us different is the quality of the artists and the artwork. This then affects the "quality" of our attendees, drawing patrons to Westhampton Beach from Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York City and both Nassau and Suffolk counties – all to purchase art.
Indy: What is your role in the event, as the Show Director?
Bill: Chief cook and bottle washer! Though in all seriousness, we have three primary objectives: the success of our artists, public safety, and the event being beneficial to the Westhampton Beach community. We want our artists to succeed in pursuit of their passion and creativity. We want everyone, artists and patrons alike, to come and leave without incident. And Paragon is a strong advocate for the business communities where we hold our events. It is our hope that those who come to the event shop and eat locally and bring an influx of money to the local economy.
Indy: Who are some of the artists that will be there?
Bill: We will have spectacular work again this year. For example in our sculpture category, joining us for the first time is Frederick Prescott from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Returning will be our good friend Charles Strain from Missouri and the exquisite glass sculptor Thomas Long from Florida. In our jewelry category are phenomenal works by Alexis Barbeau from Florida and David Nugent from New Hampshire. We also are joined by digital artist Edward Loedding of Connecticut and gyotaku fish print artist James Roberts from Florida. This is but a small sampling of the extraordinary art work patrons will have the opportunity to see and select from.
Indy: What do you hope those who come to the event leave with?
Bill: My fundamental hope is that they leave with art. Since 2008 we have lost over 40 percent of our contemporary artists and they are an invaluable natural resource. So it is our hope that they come, enjoy the high quality of art, and purchase something not only to enrich their lives with but also to help preserve these artisans as part of our cultural heritage.
Indy: How can people get a hold of you if they want more information?
Bill: Email me or call or check out our website: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.paragonartevents.com, 631-421-1590.