This Saturday, July 26, Scranton will again be home to Arts on the Square, Scranton’s largest arts festival, according to its organizers and the city’s Best New Event of 2013, according to Electric City readers.
Arts on the Square organizers Cristin Powers and Chrissy Manuel, both of ScrantonMade, said they are pleased to see their celebration in its sophomore year.
“The county approached us,” said Manuel. “The arts and culture department, as well as the commissioners, were looking to do something really supportive of our art community and they saw our partnership with the Scranton Cultural Center the holiday beforehand, so they asked if we would like to partner with them in throwing an event on the square.”
Crafters, painters, photographers, musicians and more than 110 vendors will line Courthouse Square. The event will be kid-friendly with an activities tent and Spirited Art instructors’ art classes. There will also be adult and teen art classes, yoga classes in the lawn, a slow-motion video booth, live painting and other entertainment.
“People can literally spend the day there,” said Manuel. “There will be food trucks, ice cream and places to hang out and sit on the lawn. Last year, we saw a lot of people who brought blankets and just hung out on the lawn, which is really cool to see around here, because you don’t really see that often. You see that more in a bigger park or a bigger city.”
A first this year is yarn bombing, which will be one of the installation pieces for Saturday’s event. A yarn bomb, or yarn storm, is a form of removable graffiti that uses knitted or crocheted pieces in place of chalk or paint. Annie Cadden of Fisher Cat Fiber Co. said the yarn bombing is already a success. “The people who wanted to get involved are all so positive and they are all people who don’t even know each other. They will all meet on Friday,” she said.
Yarn bombing is typically a solo project and something done on a creative whim. This piece is planned, but Cadden said she looks forward to seeing what is created with so many influences and artists’ visions.
Ryan Hnat is a painter who was part of the open-air gallery at last year’s Arts on the Square. This year will be the first year that he and his wife, a photographer, will have their own booth, Hnat Designs.
“We’re actually still working on putting our booth together, because this is our first actual festival,” said Hnat. “A lot of vendors travel to several festivals a year, but we haven’t done it yet. This is an exciting time. I really like supporting the growth of art in Scranton and that’s one reason why we got involved.”
Many of the vendors appreciate the focus on local. Billie Jean Williams, owner of Designs by Billie Jean, said she was one of last year’s featured artists for Arts on the Square, but is a regular vendor at many regional festivals and craft fairs. When asked to compare Arts on the Square to other festivals, she said that the city’s affair is “more concentrated on the local crafters of Scranton and the surrounding areas.”
Some of the vendors will show and sell their wares, but others will create right on the spot. There will be live painting by Evan Hughes and Benjamin Adcroft throughout the day and the pieces will be auctioned off.
“I’m honestly not even sure what I’m going to do yet,” said Adcroft. “It’s going to be spur-of-the-moment and spontaneous. I’m probably going to think of it the day or two before.”
Adcroft said sometimes having an audience can be a bit strange, but he is looking forward to painting outdoors and feeding off the other painter’s energy. “I like working big. I like working fast. Trying to finish a piece in one day is going to be fun,” said Adcroft.
Another element of art is music. Arts on the Square will have two stages this year: One on Spruce Street, hosted by Summersteps Records and another on Linden Street, hosted by Highway 81 Revisited.
Summersteps Records is a record label started by Eric Schlittler in 1996 when he began releasing demos for his then-solo-act, Kid Icarus.
“I started doing demos with Kid Icarus and at the same time my wife and I were dating and we were going to a lot of shows in New York City, so when we would go to a show, we would run off a bunch of demo tapes and eventually the idea started, ‘Well, why don’t we put these tapes out on a label?’” said Schlittler.
The Summersteps Stage will feature artists from the record label and bands that Schlittler said fit the vibe of the indie rock guitar stage, such as Kid Icarus, now a full band, Cold Coffee, Eww Yaboo and A Fire with Friends.
Schlittler said he is looking forward to reaching an audience that he may not normally have access to.
“I think it’s kind of a good opportunity to get your music out in front of people that maybe don’t necessarily go to a bar at night and are a little more art-inclined, so I’m kind of looking forward to getting our music out there and present it to maybe some different people,” said Schlittler.
Michael Lello of Highway 81 Revisited, a Scranton-based music blog, agreed.
“Just as a function of covering music and being involved with the ‘local music scene,’ many of the events we’ve been a part of have been at bars, which is fine, but it limits your audience,” said Lello.
The Highway 81 Revisited Stage will showcase five bands: Indigo Moon Brass Band, Heavy Blonde, Katie Kelly & The Charming Beards, Gentleman East and Charles Havira.
“I wanted some musical diversity on stage and artists that are either relatively new or doing things that are interesting or a little different,” Lello said.
With something for each of your five senses, this year hopes for more success than the last. Hnat thinks that the growth in the arts will even affect the financial situation of the city.
“In the last year, there’s a lot more people starting to put more time into doing more events and more artistic endeavors outside First Friday in Scranton,” said the painter. “The city and the artists and the local community can really continue to push the events, the growth of arts in the city can really flourish and if it does, it’ll start to even show an impact on the city and the city will start to flourish again.”
— kimberly m. aquilina
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