May 24, 2006
Community Mosaic Festival Set To Draw Crowds
Sidewalk artists and musicians took to the streets last week to give spectators a sneak preview of this Sunday's 10th Annual Riverhead Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival.
Accompanied by violinists and composer George Cork Maul, artists basked in the spring sunshine and used colored chalk to create sidewalk masterpieces, just as scores of individuals will do during the festival this weekend.
The event, organized by the East End Arts Council, was originally conceived as a way to raise scholarship funds, said EEAC Executive Director Pay Snyder, and is "very diverse," with everyone from grandparents and grandchildren to professional artists giving vibrant sidewalk art a go.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale, on hand last Wednesday to help kick off the festivities, said the festival is integral to the heart of Riverhead because it celebrates the town's diversity. Riverhead itself is a mosaic, he said, and the event signifies "piecing together the various elements of the community to make a better whole."
This year, the festival, which is normally held by the Peconic Riverfront, will be held on East Main Street between Roanoake and East Avenues and on the grounds of the EEAC at 133 East Main Street.
Other activities include artists' paintings and crafts on display, a storytelling tent sponsored by the Riverhead Free Library, a walking tour of downtown Riverhead conducted by the Landmark Preservation Committee, a student and an adult art show, and a life-size checker tournament hosted by the Riverhead Middle School Honor Society.
A host of area musicians will take to the stage as part of Eastenders' Musicians' Showcase, to be held on the Riverhead Showmobile stage during the event.
The festival aims to please all ages, and is the signature event of ARTSWAVE, an initiative created by the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs to promote arts as an economic generator for downtown areas.
To that end, Jim Morgo, Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Workforce Housing, spoke of the importance of the arts to emerging downtowns. Not only do such events bring the community together, he said, but showcasing arts and music "can be a great economic engine for downtown areas."
Morgo added that such festivals are supported by local businessmen, with profits seen by local businesses: "We're really starting on a street level."
Funds raised at the festival support scholarship opportunities for students at the EEAC Community School of the Arts. Sponsorship of street painting squares ranges from $75 to $300, with an inscription of the business name or dedication above each.
Also present to introduce his plans for a Riverhead Vision Downtown, as well as public art mapping for the area, was Bruce Poll, creative director for Creative Image Company, a marketing communications firm.
With hundreds of painters and over 2000 spectators expected to attend, Main Street will be closed down for the duration of the event. The "homegrown festival" is expected to be a crowd pleaser, offering representation of Riverhead on all social, economic, and artistic levels, said Cardinale: "It's about being a little bit different than the Hamptons, and bringing everyone together."
Artist Joanne Coppola, drawing an angel on the sidewalk, reminded that sidewalk art originated in Italy years ago but resonates richly today. Especially for children, she added, who can appreciate the artwork even more by looking down and might find it more approachable and hands-on. "Maybe it's something they'll remember forever," she said.
As they listened to their sister, Annie, play the violin. Claudia Grace Ladu, 6, and her sister, Ella, 8, were enthusiastic about creating sidewalk art. "It's fun," they agreed.
The rain date for the festival is Monday, May 29. Street painters registered in advance are free or $20 the day of the event. For more information or to register, call 369-2171. A reminder to participants: Bring a camera to photograph artwork, which will be merely a memory after the next rain.