Second ‘Art in the Park’ event brings encore artists to Miller Park

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“Below Mardi Gras,” 36” x 36”, watercolor and gouache on paper stretched over canvas. Courtesy of Sean Huntington.

Joanna Hamer | Staff Writer

The forecast for Sunday is a little overcast, but that won’t stop the artists at “Art in the Park” from bringing some sunshine to Miller Park. Last month’s show was likewise threatened with rain before the vendors and buyers drove the clouds away with their enthusiasm and art.

This Sunday’s show, from 12 to 4:30 p.m., sees many of the same vendors from last time, some of whom have been selling at the show for years and some of whom are newcomers, including students from the School of Art.

Among the old hands are painter Sean Huntington and Hope Alcorn, who will show her jewelry. Huntington came to “Art in the Park” for the first time in 2006, an experience that helped to change the course of his life.

“It was my first time really trying to sell my work, and it was crazy. I made more money in the four hours than I had the entire previous summer working part-time,” he said. “The next year, I quit my job and decided to do art full time.”

Huntington’s bright and striking paintings of trees in silhouette will be familiar to many Chautauquans who have seen him selling for the past six years. His process involves using latex paint to draw outlines of trees and then painting layers of colors over them.

“There are successive layers of color, then latex, then color, then latex, and at the end, I peel off all the latex, and it all comes together in 30 seconds,” he said.

Huntington grew up in rural Pennsylvania and considers himself “a child of nature.”

“If I didn’t have the art ability, I’d probably be a biologist,” he said. “I’m fascinated with trees not only because of their shapes and their forms, but they’re like the bones of the forest. They’re the things that hold up the ecosystem.”

He and two other artists recently opened a gallery in Ellicottville, N.Y., and Huntington spends his time painting and traveling up and down the East Coast to art festivals. He often accepts commissions, as he enjoys the challenge to work in different sizes or colors. He loves coming back each year to show the evolution of his work.

“It’s the best four hours of my year,” he said.

Alcorn also has been showing at “Art in the Park” for many years. She is involved with many aspects of Chautauqua’s visual arts, and, like Huntington, she submits her work to the VACI Partners Members Exhibition.

Alcorn runs the craft show at the Farmers Market and has been featured several times in the Chautauqua Annual Contemporary Art Exhibition.

Alcorn has degrees in social work and nursing and a master’s and doctorate in epidemiology from the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. She began making art later in life, though with a passion.

“After my mom died and I had my daughter, I started painting,” Alcorn said. “I’m untrained, and it just came, so I followed that path. I’ve been trying to do both areas. Both feed my spirit.”

The balance is often difficult, and it is the first summer in 15 years in which Alcorn has not spent every week at Chautauqua. She splits her time between her research at a Pittsburgh women’s hospital and her weekends at the Institution, though she wishes she could spend more time on the grounds and making art.

“My passion at this point is the arts and painting, and I know I don’t have enough time for that, but I do as much as I can,” she said.

At “Art in the Park,” Alcorn shows her jewelry, which she began making six years ago when she found herself addicted to beads, she said.

“Color is my strength, it doesn’t matter the medium,” she said.

She loves setting up a table in Miller Park because of the view — “I always face my table to the lake, because I figure if I have a lousy day, no matter what, I’m looking at the lake” — and the people she meets year after year.

One of the newer faces at “Art in the Park” is Anna Caldwell, a student in the sculpture program at the School of Art. This is her second summer at Chautauqua, and she and her partner, ceramics technician Brian Giniewski, are showing in Miller Park for their second year.

“We make collaborative work, so he designs a lot of the forms, and I do a lot of the decoration for them,” Caldwell said. “We do a lot of traditional blue and white porcelain ware, and I work with a lot of folk pottery and folk images, and appropriate from different cultures and combine them.”

Caldwell usually makes abstract sculpture from ceramics and found objects, and though making work for “Art in the Park” fills her schedule, she enjoys the opportunity to do something different.

“I think that it feeds into my practice in this really great way that I didn’t know I was missing,” she said. “I live in a fairytale world most of the time, and it lets me put a lot of that onto this, and then I don’t have to think about it for my own work.”

Caldwell and Giniewski showed at the season’s first “Art in the Park” despite the weather worry, and they appreciate the chance to interact with the community. For Chautauquans who saw their work last year, this year’s ceramics represent an evolution.

“We didn’t really know what we were doing last year, so I think the images have gotten a lot more detailed,” she said. “We’re doing more with pattern this year, more abstract stuff. I think it’s gotten a lot more resolved.”

The proceeds from “Art in the Park,” organized by VACI Partners, go toward the School of Art Student Scholarship Fund.