Domenico Belli stands beside his work, which he has displayed at the Westport Fine Arts Festival for the past several years. Westporters appreciate sculpture, he said. / Photo by Gary Webster
 The Westport Fine Arts Festival was well attended on Saturday, despite afternoon rain. / Photo by Gary Webster

By Gretchen Webster

WESTPORT — A longtime enclave for artists, Westport also has a community reputation for supporting the arts, and many exhibitors Saturday at the 49th Annual Westport Fine Arts Festival agreed with that view.

That’s why they show their work here, the artists said of the two-day event filling downtown’s streets.

“It’s a good market for us,” said Domenico Belli, a sculptor from Henryville, Pa. Belli especially likes exhibiting at the Westport show because he finds that people here like sculpture more than in some other parts of the country.

He’s been a sculptor for more than 20 years, creating iron sculptures that take two years for the patina to become just right. 

“Don’t call it rust,” he said.

Tracy Hambley, an artist from Southbury who creates works using collage, paint and found objects, agreed. 

“I love this show. I have a lot of clients in Westport,” she said.

Hambley calls her type of art, assemblage, and her works on display Saturday included one with a Parcheesi board as the focus, and another using spoons shaped like a bird. The longest part of her process is choosing which items to use in her work from the beginning, she said.

She has been coming to the Westport show many years and even had some good things to say about last year’s show, which was plagued by bad weather. Despite lower attendance, those who really wanted to peruse and buy art showed up, she noted. 

Painter Mary Ann Nelson, left, and photographer Nancy Breakstone, both from Westport, exhibited Saturday at the downtown event. / Photos by Gary Webster

This year’s show, sponsored by the Westport Downtown Association on Main and Elm streets and part of Post Road East, attracted 170 exhibitors, according to Sue Brown Gordon, festival director. A Westport resident, she organizes art shows all over the country. 

Artists learn of Westport’s show by word of mouth, and from ads she places. All exhibitors must send five images of their work and be accepted into the show, Gordon said.

The Westport festival is popular with artists, art lovers and with art dealers, she said. “This is an arts town, and culture is strong here.”

One couple enjoying the festival was Mark Weaver and his wife, Renee Redman from Milford. 

“We’re art fans. We like to see what’s happening and enjoy the craftsmanship,” Weaver said.

Although they are not visual artists, both are musicians. A trombone player, he retired from the U.S. Coast Guard band, with which he played for five presidents, he said. Now Weaver plays for the New Haven Symphony and other area orchestras when they call on him, as does his wife, who plays the French horn.

Lily Peritz, 2½ of Westport, concentrates on her artwork decorating a recycled tennis ball Saturday The children’s booth at the festival was sponsored by the Artists Collective of Westport.
Tien Ngo and Rosa Yi check out a photographer’s work at the arts festival. They enjoyed the creativity on display since he is a photographer and she is a nail designer, soon to open a new salon on Post Rad East. / Photos by Gary Webster

They were examining fiber art in a booth of ornately painted jackets and other clothing by artist Jennifer Cauffman from Chester County, Pa. Her items are quilted and hand painted. A silk painter for 32 years, this is her first time at the Westport show, Cauffman said, as she sold a hand-painted jacket.  

A stroll through the show revealed a stall with scores of intricately beaded handbags by Lolita Trincere from New York City, who may take up to a month to decorate just one bag.

Also on display were striking photographs by Westport photographer Nancy Breakstone, who photographs coral, and other aquatic life. Her photos are not edited, she said. “I like people to see what I saw.”

Artist Michael Patterson, of Roxbury, has exhibited at the Westport Fine Arts Festival many years. His painting, “Reaching High,” right, was among his works on display Saturday. / Photos by Gary Webster

Musicians also performed at several outdoor venues, including Jeff Smith on guitar and Dan Tressler on fiddle, of the Tressler family musicians from Easton, known around the area for years.

The Westport Downtown Association is already planning for next year’s arts festival, which will be a 50th year celebration of the event, said Maxxwell Crowley, president of the association. It takes a full year to plan each show, he said, and he and the festival team will start organizing next year’s show as soon as this one is over. “It’s a big team effort,” he said.

One artist likely to return next year is painter and sculptor Michael Patterson of Roxbury. “I’ve been here for years,” he said. 

His paintings, displayed near the entry to the festival on Main Street, were large and bright, drawing the attention of passersby. He was happy to be an exhibitor once again once again. 

“People are art savvy here … they appreciate art in Westport,” he said.

The 49th annual Westport Fine Arts Festival continues Sunday, May 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Gretchen Webster is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Westport Journal. Learn more about us here.

Among a variety of different kinds of art on display at the festival were beaded purses by Lolita Trincere, of New York City. / Photo by Gary Webster
Tracy Hambley, of Southbury, chooses her found objects as the first step in creating her works that are a combination of those objects and collage. / Photo by Gary Webster
Dan Tressler, left, and Jim Smith of the group Amber Anchor, played for arts festival visitors Saturday. / Photo by Gary Webster