Festival celebrates 40 years of art

Sept. 4, 2012
Artist Jack Holowitz is seen at his booth at a recent Mattoon Arts Festival.
Reminder Publications submitted photo
By G. Michael Dobbs


SPRINGFIELD — The Mattoon Street Arts Festival will celebrate its 40th show on Sept. 8 and 9 and Coordinator Robert McCarroll explained it grew out of a series of events in 1972.

McCarroll, who is a member of the city's Historic Commission, told Reminder Publications that in 1972 Mayor Frank Freedman and the City Council created the Mattoon Street Historic District, which stopped the demolition of the historic row houses on the small street, near the Quadrangle. The Mattoon Street Historic Preservation Association was also founded that year and the Springfield Preservation Trust came into being as well.

The idea of the festival was to draw attention to the street and to the efforts to revive it and the housing.

"It was still a dump by and large," McCarroll said with a smile. He has lived in the neighborhood for years.

The festival could show people the potential of a restored neighborhood of middle class brick row houses, he added.

"Early on it helped excite people about what was happening here," McCarroll said.

He explained that row houses, such as the one on Mattoon Street, were rare in Springfield because there was enough land to build detached single-family homes, such as in the McKnight neighborhood.

People responded to the festival, which has been organized by volunteers ever since.

"We're the little engine that could," McCarroll said.

In 1976, the city made improvements to the street with brick sidewalks and the planting of trees and McCarroll said people saw the street "progressing."

He believes that at 40 years old, the festival is the longest-running arts and crafts show of its kind in the area.

Admission to the festival is free and it will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The festival will feature original works created by painters, photographers, potters, jewelers, weavers, glass workers, and other artists. Ninety-five artists will be exhibiting their work and the majority is from the Pioneer Valley.

The list includes 20 first-time artists, with the rest of the exhibitors coming back for as many as 14 years.

This year there will be a house tour on Sept. 8 from 1 to 4 p.m. that is $15 in advance and $20 the day of the tour. On Sept. 9, there will be a garden tour from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $5.

Entertainment will include violinist Stacia Filipiak, Mariachi guitarist Judy Simonds, saxophonist Paul LaValley, Celtic harpist Sophie Dickinson, Bill Glenny's Dixieland Duo, lutist Meg Pash, piper Chris Cunningham, saxophonist George David and guitarist Zack Danziger, New York vocalist Karen Davis, and accordionist Jim Dascanio.

Food will be offered for sale by Mexitalia Restaurant, Elke's Catering, April's Wings 'N' Things, Alvin's Ice Cream, and Crepes Tea House.

With attendance at 4,000 people in past years, the festival has certainly succeeded in its goal to bring people to the neighborhood.

"We are still an ambassador to the city," McCarroll said.

Mattoon Street is off Chestnut Street, just four blocks east of I-91 exit 7. Free festival parking is in the TD Bank lot on Harrison Avenue and two lots along Pearl Street. On-street parking is free on weekends.

For more information, log onto www.mattoonfestival.org.

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