Old Lyme – Dressed in top hats, flapper dresses and fascinators, members of the Lyme Art Association recreated the Roaring Twenties on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the association’s 100th anniversary.
In the purest tradition of the 1920s, the association organized a family tea party, followed by a centenary frolic evening on its lawn, where artists and supporters of the association enjoyed refreshments while putting on their costumes. Inside the gallery, exhibits included a centennial celebration and a gallery called ‘Young Impressions’ meant to attract and showcase young artists.
The festivities kicked off early Saturday morning, when more than two dozen artists scattered across town, mostly on Lyme Street, to participate in an outdoor or outdoor painting exercise. Artists set up their easels and took out their paintbrushes to represent nearby landmarks, including City Hall, the Duck River Bridge, and even the Arts Association building itself.
By the afternoon, the artists had completed their pieces, framed them, and exhibited outside the gallery, where attendees were invited to purchase their favorite pieces.
Lynn Fairfield-Sonn of Old Lyme was the first to buy a painting that immediately struck her: a portrait of her and her husband.
She said she was enjoying a cup of coffee on her porch on Saturday morning with her husband, Jim, when they spotted an artist holding an easel on a nearby sidewalk.
The artist, Blanche Servan of Mansfield, had noticed that the couple had quiet morning coffee together and decided to paint them. The Fairfield-Sonns have been married for 39 years and have lived in the house depicted in the painting for 37 years.
Fairfield-Sonn said she and her husband enjoyed watching the artist paint and even visited several 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 from their house.
âWe weren’t expecting to have a painting of us, and seeing her start painting it today and seeing it finished was adorable,â she said. “It was really a great experience.”
All the artists who took part in the âwet paintingâ exercise took part in a competition in addition to the sale of their work, part of the profits being donated to the artistic association.
Paul Loescher, 65, of Clinton won first place for his watercolor painting of a farmhouse seen from Main Street. He said he was drawn to the scene because of the light. “I’m always looking for a sense of light more than anything else,” he said, “where light comes from, how it defines the environment and how it hits objects.”
On Saturday he spent about three hours on the paint and was proud to come in first place. After retiring as an architect a few years ago, he started painting regularly and joined the Lyme Art Association for regular outdoor painting events at various locations in the region. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he said he was painting more than ever and “people were coming out en masse” to participate in the weekly painting activities held along the shore.
Being awarded the artistic association, he said, is just a sign that his dedication makes him better at painting. “It feels good to be recognized.”
Maura Cochran, member of the association’s board of directors, has been hosting outdoor art experiences every Monday for three years. She brings artists of all ages and experience levels to a variety of different places in the area, from private gardens to public spaces, including Rocky Neck State Park, and the group paints for three hours.
While there is a certain level of camaraderie, there is no direction and artists have the freedom to create – they choose what and how to create.
Celebrating this creativity is what the association strives to do, according to its leaders.
Development director Elsbeth Dowd said the association chose to celebrate and fundraise by hosting events similar to those organized by its founders 100 years ago.
She said that in the early 1900s artists were drawn to Old Lyme and were welcomed to the area by Florence Griswold, who ran a guesthouse popular with painters. As the region’s artistic community became more and more famous, the artists formed an association in 1914. But still, “they were looking for a home of their own.”
âThey wanted to provide classes and a community, so they bought this property from Florence Griswold, and to do that, they sold their art and organized tea days like we are today,â said Dowd. The association’s gallery first opened on August 6, 1921, she said.
The association’s main goal this weekend, she said, was to honor the history of the building and to celebrate the fact that – even during the pandemic – it was almost always open with works. of art exhibited for an entire century.
âOur main goal with this celebration was to honor the fact that this gallery space is unique in that we have this natural light and that it has continued as a gallery space since its inception,â said the president of the association, Harley Bartlett.
The association has worked on the restoration of the building, starting with the exterior, which has just been completed. Now, the association is raising funds for a $ 400,000 project to replace gallery skylights.
Bartlett said the community has historically supported the association and is confident that donors will help make the next phase of restoration possible. Part of the skylight was removed in the gallery on Saturday to show attendees how natural light impacts the space.
âSkylights are one of the most important features of our gallery because they bathe the artwork in natural light,â said Dowd. “But they’re 100 years old – they’re made of simple panes and they leak. And they’re not very efficient – in the summer the galleries get very hot and they are 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 the next century of our artists and supporters.”