A lot of people did a lot of work to put together the first Chelsea Art Walk in this little mile square city under the Tobin Bridge just outside of Boston. I managed to miss all the meetings of Charcoll, the artist group that planned and organized and managed it all and am sorry about that. But they put together a really good two days of gallery shows, a reading, jazz concert, drumming and a demonstration at the New England Sculpture Service, a working bronze foundry. Airline transport busses continually circled the nine sites, picking up and dropping people off and the Chelsea City Cafe served coffee and food.
On Saturday I ran into T. J. Hellmann and Gloria as they were about to enter the Apollinaire Theatre Gallery. And took the photo of an artist's dog at The Gallery @ Spencer Lofts. I was serving as a greeter on a bus driven by Arturo and we would stop at that gallery to have quick snacks and talk to Gigi, a Venezuelan artist who was gallery sitting. He told me about having to give up the house he'd bought right near where I live. About how he often goes by to look at it, sad that it's still vacant three years later and that he lost so much. He loved that house and still misses it even though he and his wife live in a nice apartment. He likes Chelsea a lot, now. When he first moved to this country and lived in Lynn, he looked down on it.
Today I missed the drumming circle, though sheer laziness. Just like I missed the foundry tour yesterday. And again ran into T.J., Gloria and Rachel. Gloria reached out her arms to me and I got to hold her compact little self.
Luke Salisbury started the reading at Temple Emmanuel. His rich voice and easy manner make him an impressive reader of his novels. "No Common War," his recently completed work, incorporates experiences of his relatives fighting in the Civil War. Fortunately, I read before Krissy who has a funny, comfortable stage presence and very good material. One of the highlights was when a fellow, who graduated from Chelsea High School in 1947, sang the lyrics he'd written about growing up in this city.
This afternoon, Sunday, I gallery sat at City Hall where I had the chance to look at the show of Harry Siegel's street photographs that he took with a huge camera for over forty years. This exhibition was clearly a labor of love by John Kennard who collected 65 prints that folks around Chelsea had saved, scanned them in and worked with photoshop to remove the damages and scratches accumulated over many years.
I am not particularly in love with photographs (odd as that is to say if you've been a photographer for forty years), but I loved looking at these images and watching people come in to see themselves or friends preserved when they were kids. One woman said it almost made her cry to see her little brother who is now dead. An extremely attractive eighty-five-year old woman came in to hunt for her sister. And I recognized Leo Robinson as a teenager. Now he's on the city counsel.
What seems staggering is how much this city has changed. When I moved here in 1985, I had the illusion that I could really do some interesting and useful things here. I joined Neighborhood Housing, was part of a group that funded artists and did a really complicated, long project interviewing and photographing people who seemed to represent the diversity of the Chelsea community. One of the people I interviewed was Leo Robinson. But, there was no place to show the work when it was finished, printed and framed. I ended up putting the photographs in an satellite of Bunker Hill Community College and forgetting about them for so many years that there's no way of ever finding them. Now, those old images, done over twenty years ago, exist in a few slides. The negatives are god knows where, though I did find the transcribed interviews recently.
It's amazing that there is now an active artist group and a real interest in what artists bring to a community. It's amazing that there was a two-day Chelsea Art Walk, that folks from other areas walked around here for hours, looking at the architecture and the art. The members of Charcoll pulled together a really successful first venture at putting Chelsea on the art map.