Art - A Unifying Force in a Community

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By Mike Bisceglia

Seacoast Scene,

[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Scene.

It began with the seed of an idea . . . and then it blossomed and grew. A few creative folks were meeting at Peg Duffin's Art & Soul. They began discussing their desire to see Hampton become more "art friendly." They simply wanted to show their artwork in the town in which they lived. The group began to meet at Marelli's Market, and soon the Hampton Art Network was formed. It quickly went about the business of determining a governing board; obtaining non-profit status, and initiating a monthly newsletter.

In the course of one very short year, the Network has had: a member's show; two art walks; an on-going revolving art display in the Town Hall; participation in the Festival of Trees, and decorated a tree for the New Hampshire Senator's Party.

"We are diverse individuals," said Karen Raynes. "Yet, the common denominator in our lives is art. We believe that communities having a strong sense of art, all forms of art, are thinking, positive, and motivated.

"I am a supporter, not an artist myself, said Susan Kepner. "My part has been to help promote, encourage and support the many gifted artists in Hampton."

"As artists, we felt alone in our own worlds," said Peg Duffin. "It was amazing to realize that there are others, right here in the Hampton community, who are gifted and creative. They are all tremendously talented, and they want to share what they are learning and creating with others."

"We realize we had the makings of something very important," said Marilyn Rishkofski, owner of the Art Experience. "We wanted to unite, so we toyed with some names for our fledgling group. Finally, we settled on the Hampton Arts Network."

"It's Arts . . . not just art. We're not a society of painters," said Linda Gebhart. "Art comes in many forms. We began with eight members; we now have ninety-two. Our members are photographers, sculptors, chefs, painters, poets, writers, and more. The members are indeed professionals, and they feel passionately about their arts.

"It also needs to be said that many of our valued members are really not artists, but they do promote what we are doing and they certainly appreciate local artists and their endeavors," said Art Gopalan. "In terms of positive growth, initially we approached businessmen and store owners about our projects. Now, those same people and establishments are approaching us with their ideas for projects. It is a remarkable development."

"And, as we all know, art isn't just for adults," said Peg Duffin. "We're connecting with junior high and high school kids through our art shows and the programs we have in various venues in the town."

"The Hampton Arts Network has come a very long way in a very short time," said Marilyn. We've been very involved in or have sponsored some terrific community events. We had a very positive showing at the Festival of Trees, and tremendous success in both of our Hampton Art Walks. And, very soon, we'll be featuring 'Mix, Mingle, and Share.' Now, that is something no one in the community should miss!"

"She's right," said Peg. "Cheryl Lassiter, our graphic artist, designed our stunning poster. It can be found all over the Hampton community. On Saturday, April 28 from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m., HAN will host its annual meeting and membership drive. It will be held at the new Hampton Beach South Pavilion Conference Center. It should be a ball! New members, renewing members and friends are welcome to mix with those who support the arts and artists in Hampton. We have some business to take care of with the election of new board members, but most of the night will be dedicated to learning about the Hampton Arts Network from the membership, communications, and art directors. There will be food and music. Who could ask for more?"

"We're one going and growing little organization," chuckled Karen. "We know just how important the arts, all of the arts, are toward the well-being and growth of a community. We also know how terrible it is for a community when interest in the arts ceases to exist. So, with that in mind, we of the HAN want the arts in Hampton to flourish. Artists are fun folk, and we what those in the community to come and share the fun with us. I guarantee no one will go home disappointed."

For more information about the Hampton Arts Network or 'Mix, Mingle, and Share' contact Karen Raynes at hanmembership (at) gmail com or Marilyn Rishkofski at the Art Experience at 926-0443.

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