Old Lyme – Dressed in top hats, flapper dresses and fascinators, the Lyme Art Association members recreated the Roaring Twenties on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the association’s 100th anniversary.
In true 1920s fashion, the association held a family-friendly tea party, followed by an evening Centennial Frolick on its meadow, where artists and supporters of the association enjoyed refreshments while putting on their costumes. In the gallery, among other things, a centenary and a gallery called “Young Impressions” were exhibited, which is intended to address and highlight young artists.
The celebrations began early Saturday morning when more than two dozen artists were scattered across town, mostly on Lyme Street, to take part in an outdoor or outdoor painting exercise. The artists set up their easels and broke out their brushes to portray nearby landmarks like City Hall, the Duck River Bridge, and even the art club building itself.
In the afternoon, the artists had finished their works, framed them and exhibited them outside the gallery, where visitors could buy their favorite pieces.
Lynn Fairfield-Sonn of Old Lyme was the first to buy a painting that caught her eye: a portrait of her and her husband.
She said she was enjoying a cup of coffee with her husband Jim on their porch on Saturday morning when they spotted an artist propping an easel on a nearby sidewalk.
Mansfield artist Blanche Servan had noticed the couple were enjoying a quiet morning coffee together and decided to paint them. The Fairfield-Sonns have been married for 39 years and have lived in the house shown in the painting for 37 years.
Fairfield-Sonn said she and her husband enjoyed watching the artist paint and even went to her a few times to meet her and see the work in progress. The couple decided to buy the piece to hang in their hallway next to another painting of their house.
“We never expected to have a painting of ours and see her start painting it today and see how it’s done,” she said. “It was really a nice experience.”
All artists who took part in the “Wet Paint” exercise took part in a competition in addition to their work, with part of the proceeds going to the art association.
Paul Loescher, 65, of Clinton won first place for his watercolor of a farm seen from Main Street. He said he was attracted to the scene because of the light. “More than anything I am looking for a feeling for light,” he said, “where the light comes from, how it defines the environment and how it hits the objects.”
On Saturday he spent around three hours with the painting and was proud of first place. After retiring as an architect a few years ago, he started painting regularly and has joined the Lyme Art Association for regular outdoor painting events in various locations in the area. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he said he was painting more than ever and “people flocked” to take part in weekly painting activities along the coast.
The award from the Kunstverein is only a sign that his commitment makes him better at painting. “It feels good to be recognized.”
Maura Cochran, board member of the association, has been leading outdoor art experiences every Monday for three years. Bringing artists of all ages and levels of experience to a variety of different locations in the area, from private gardens to public spaces like Rocky Neck State Park, the group paints for three hours.
While there is some level of camaraderie, there are no directions and the artists have creative freedom – they choose what and how to create.
Celebrating this creativity is the association’s goal, according to its leaders.
Development Director Elsbeth Dowd said the association chose to celebrate and raise funds by hosting similar events to its founders 100 years ago.
She said that in the early 1900s, artists were drawn to Old Lyme and welcomed to the area by Florence Griswold, who ran a guesthouse popular with painters. As the art scene in the area became more and more popular, the artists formed an association in 1914. But still “they were looking for a home of their own”.
“They wanted to provide instruction and community, so they bought this property from Florence Griswold, sold their art, and had tea days just like we are today,” said Dowd. The association’s gallery first opened its doors on August 6, 1921, she said.
The main goal of the association this weekend was to honor the history of the building and to celebrate the fact that – even during the pandemic – it was almost always open for a whole century with art on display.
“Our main purpose with this celebration was to recognize the fact that this gallery space is unique in that we have that natural light and that it has been a gallery space since its inception,” said the association’s president, Harley Bartlett.
The association has been working to restore the building, starting with the exterior, which was recently completed. Now the association is raising funds for a $ 400,000 project to replace the skylights in the galleries.
Barlett said the community has always supported the association in the past and he is confident that donors will help facilitate the next phase of restoration. Part of the skylight in the gallery was removed on Saturday to show attendees how natural light affects the room.
“The skylights are one of the most important features of our gallery because they bathe the artwork in natural light,” said Dowd. “But they are 100 years old – they consist of individual panes and are leaking. And they’re not very efficient – the galleries get very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. “
“We want to fix the leaks,” she said, “but we also want to preserve the building and make the galleries sustainable for our artists and supporters for the next century.”