Fine Arts Fiesta takes over city center with exhibits, music and more
As the sun goes down on the second day of the Fine Arts Fiesta on Saturday, May 18, the horns of headlining act Lucky Chops will sound to raise spirits and inspire a dance party.
The New York City brass band with a funk soul hits the main stage on Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square for a lively set that starts at 8 p.m.
The group is one of dozens of performing arts outfits that will lend talent to the 64th annual Fine Arts Fiesta, which runs from Thursday, May 16, through Sunday, May 19, on the city’s downtown plaza. The festival highlights creativity from Luzerne County and beyond, with musical performances by local high school bands and acts as varied as Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble and jam groups Dot Gov and the Alexis P. Suter Band, plus juried art exhibitions, children’s activities, vendors and more. For details and a complete lineup, visit fineartsfiesta.org.
During a recent phone interview, Lucky Chops founding member and trombone player Josh Holcomb said he looks forward to playing the event, partly because of the way Northeast Pennsylvania’s natural beauty can influence the band’s energy.
“It’s so much fun. For us, we are inspired by nature, especially being from New York City, where we don’t have any nature at all,” Holcomb said with a laugh. “To get to play in places outdoors and with beauty around, that natural inspirations seeps into the crowd, too.”
Lucky Chops emerged about 13 years ago from a group of classmates who studied at Fiorello H. Laguardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan. The musicians were all members of the school’s band program who wanted to use their instruments to play different styles than what the jazz band and orchestra allowed.
“We started experimenting, playing music we would hear on the radio or (that came) from our different cultural backgrounds,” Holcomb explained. “That’s kind of how we got started — playing in Central Park, on subways, then touring the world and playing in rock venues.”
Lucky Chops is set to release an album of original music next month, he noted, though it frequently plays covers with its “own spin on things.”
For the Fine Arts Fiesta, Holcomb said Lucky Chops will bring a high-energy show that is sure to delight everyone from casual strollers at the festival to kids accompanying their parents.
“We believe music is for all ages,” Holcomb said. “Since our music is instrumental, we think of it as a universal language, regardless of background or life story. We try to unite people of all backgrounds who may be in the audience.
“We want the takeaway to be the power of these instruments, especially since you don’t usually get to see them live,” he added. “We aim, with the live show, to show people how powerful the energy of a live concert can be. It’s crowd participation-heavy. It’s a nice kind of gathering.”
Dan Schreffler owns and operates Space Time Mead & Cider Works, 419 S. Blakely St., Dunmore. He promotes sustainability through mead making and hopes others will pick up on those ideals. Schreffler is a graduate of West Hazleton High School and Penn State Worthington Scranton, where he studied computer science. He worked as the director of information technology at MetLife for 26 years before some life-altering news helped him discover a passion for mead. He and his wife Lisa live in Dunmore.
Meet Dan Schreffler…
Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I was raised in Hazleton. After college, I worked for a small, family-run computer company called Computer Techniques — great people. Then I transitioned to MetLife; I worked there for 26 years. It was a great crew. Eight years ago, I was diagnosed (with) and treated successfully for rectal cancer. I had a change of perspective and thought, “Someday I’d like to do something different.” Well, someday might never come, so you rethink. When I went back to MetLife, I didn’t have the same passion for the job. It was a couple years prior that I actually discovered home brewing and making my own beer.
Q: How did you begin your own brewing?
A: A good thing about MetLife was we got to travel a lot. When you’re traveling, you’re on the West Coast, and I realized beer can actually be good. When I came here, the opportunities were limited. The local bars didn’t have it. Some friends of mine used to home brew at one point and said, “Let’s dust off this equipment and just try it.” I just fell in love. We did a batch of mead honey wine just because it’s geeky, and we were geeks. We started making beer, wine, mead, cider; we entered competitions and did fairly well. It was something I was good at. It was a creative outlet for me. You’ve got to go to New Jersey, Allentown or the Finger Lakes to find mead; I thought this could fit in here.
Q: Can you describe mead?
A: Simply, it’s honey wine. Instead of fermenting grapes, we’ll ferment honey and water or honey and some fruit. The cool thing about mead is it’s just as diverse a product as grape wine. It can be bone dry, or it can be candy in a glass or anywhere in between. We mix things with coffee, raspberries, blueberries, chipotle pepper — it’s just a huge palette to play with. Same with alcohol content. It can be 5.5% like a beer strength, or our most alcoholic content one right now is 15.5%, but we can push it if we wanted to.
Q: How does sustainability fit into your company?
A: In our guiding principles, we wanted to make sure that whatever we do doesn’t cause any harm and in fact it attempts to improve the planet we’re on. We’re using natural ingredients. We depend on bees, trees, clean water, so we want to make sure we do nothing to jeopardize that and everything to improve it. Our electricity is 100% wind power; obviously there are no windmills, but that’s what we chose to purchase even though we pay a little more. We show off with our solar panels. We are concerned about solid waste, so we weigh every garbage bag that goes out of here. I’ll use corks and donate them to crafters. If we use bottles, we donate them to other home brewers, so pretty much the stuff we’re throwing out is only stuff you’d want to throw out. It really comes down to my grandfather. He always said “Waste not, want not.” He saved everything and said you never know when you’ll need something. I learned the value of everything we use and not wasting it. Now it’s really practicing what I preach. To me, it’s second nature and it’s not that hard; it’s just a choice.
Q: What is something about running this business that surprised you?
A: We wondered, “Is a meadery the right thing in Dunmore? Who knows what mead is?” The community has been unbelievably supportive. The walk-in traffic that we’ve been getting is a surprise. People are open to mead.
Q: What have been some of your highlights doing this?
A: My last amateur award was the American Wine Society’s best amateur mead in 2017. I entered some meads, and I was selected. What was even cooler was when we entered it commercially in 2018, we also won the … best commercial mead, so we were the first amateur to turn pro and win back-to-back awards. The other one — this is pretty much the mead-makers’ Olympics — it’s called the Mazer Cup International. We got two silvers this year, so for being not even a year old, that was pretty exciting. It helps to validate what we’re doing.
Q: What does your name Space Time Mead mean?
A: One, we wanted to stand out from other wineries. We didn’t want to be “Schreffler’s Vineyard or Meadery.” When someone walks in here, they’re buying a wine for a particular moment and particular place. I want to have something for that particular space and at that particular time. The other things is, folks don’t know what mead is. It’s the oldest beverage on the planet, but since the 1860s the mead market went away. So I’m like a time traveler reintroducing this thing that’s been written about in “The Canterbury Tales” and Chaucer’s books and Norse mythology and that (kind of work). The third reason is, I love science. I’m a huge science-fiction guy. Not only does mead give me a huge palette to play with but (it also lets us use) space references, sci-fi references and pop culture references on labels. I’m a science nerd and a geek at heart.
Q: Are you part of any clubs, community groups, etc.?
A: I belong to two local home-brew clubs. The Wyoming Valley Home Brewers is what really got me educated and gave me a good foundation. I’m one of their officers. The Scranton Brewers Guild is another excellent organization. I’m involved with the Dunmore Historical Society and Lackawanna County League of Women Voters. Those are the other hats I wear right now. Even though it’s a full-time job, the happiest place I am is in the meadery.
Q: What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A: Hiking is one, and thank goodness for the Scranton running community. That was a huge help for me. The Run Around Scrantons on Thursdays, any 5K that’s a fundraiser, I’m out on a Saturday or Sunday. I’d like to shout out to Honey Hole Winery in Drums. I got to apprentice with him for a year. It’s one thing to do it on a five-gallon small scale, (but) it’s another thing to scale up on 1,000-liter tanks. I learned a lot about commercial making, and that was a huge part of me getting the confidence to do this.
Q: If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
A: The power to see the future. My fear, though, is that I’d be able to see the future and not be able to make a darn change about it. I’m always hopeful, so there might be disappointment in that.
Q: Can you pinpoint a specific event in your life that has helped shape your perspective today?
A: I talked about the cancer, but the other is my mom passed away about two-and-a-half years ago. The last years were pretty brutal for her. That gives you the perspective on trying to stay as healthy as you can and make everyday count.
Lyndsey Hughes has always enjoyed making things out of whatever she could get her hands on. The passion to create led her to found Lyndsey Hughes Designs and Illustrations, for which she is owner and operator. She enjoys adding color to her art and life with the simple swipe of a paintbrush, and she also designs stickers, clothing and home decor decals, among many other projects. Hughes is a graduate of Western Wayne High School and studied fine art at Keystone College. She is an administrative assistant at Center City Print. She and her husband, Chris, live in Scranton with their kids, Taryn and John.
Meet Lyndsey Hughes…
Q: After entering college to study fine arts, you walked away from art for a while. What happened?
A: I studied for a year at Keystone, and there was something about art school that either you thrive or it sort of sucks it out of you. I ended up having my daughter after that year at Keystone and took the next five years to raise the kids. I had spare time again and started painting all over again. Even just between when I started painting then and now, the internet is great. You can see other artists’ processes, and I’ve grown just in the last few years alone.
Q: Having left art with a bad flavor in your mouth, what made you get back into it?
A: I needed to do something for myself, and I didn’t know what. I found some of my old art supplies and just started going at it again. It kicked right back in, and it was fun so I kept going.
Q: Describe your style as an artist.
A: I mostly do watercolors. I like mermaids. I know they’re kind of cliche at this point. “The Little Mermaid” came out when I was little, and it was finally a red-headed princess. I did a lot of mermaids, and now I’m getting into oil paintings. I studied a lot of Alphonse Mucha. He was a turn-of-the-century painter. France loved him. I like his style. He did oil, watercolor, posters. It’s really detailed. I just love the turn-of-the-century stuff, back around the Victorian era and the mix of ink and watercolor. The more vintage it feels, the more I like it. I like old-school vibes. Some of my stuff is almost tattoo-inspired. I like how you can play with the different line weights and the colors can be nice and bold. When I was little, my dad was a tattoo artist, and I got to see things like that. I feel like it all factored in. My grandmother worked for a paper company. She brought home crates of paper. All the kids were at her house, and there was always paper there so we’d make things.
Q: Can you describe some of your projects?
A: Because of the stuff that’s more tattoo-like with the lines, I thought I could make stickers of all these. I started putting stickers on things. I put them on glass, then started painting them in. I thought it was all cute, kitschy stuff you’d see on Pinterest, or Etsy people will like this.
Q: What has been your project favorite and why?
A: Watercolor. It’s fun because it’s kind of controlled chaos. It will do what it wants unless you put it on super thick. I thin it out like crazy. It’s layers and layers, I get the paper wet and let it flow and do its thing.
Q: You also do designs on clothing.
A: I’m getting more into it. I hand-draw everything on my tablet, then I’ll watercolor it on paper afterward. I print it all on my watercolor paper and fill it in, then I re-scan and edit in Photoshop and turn it into T-shirts. It’s direct to garment printing. It’s just like a printer and how you put a piece of paper in, but you put a shirt in instead.
Q: What message do you hope to communicate through your artwork, especially the slogans on your home decor?
A: I always kind of do it tongue-and-cheek. Life is way too serious. Have a bit of fun. I’m a sucker for bad puns and making everything light-hearted.
Q: What is one way art has positively affected your life?
A: I’m one of the many people who has been diagnosed with anxiety. To be able to put things out there that just make you laugh and say, “This isn’t so bad,” and the process of creating them, I can just zone out for a while and not stress about this little thing that’s eating at me, it’ll be OK. It’s my Zen. I make things, I make a giant mess, and then I’m OK.
Q: What is something most people don’t know about you, or a fun fact?
A: I was a published poet when I was a kid. That was weird because I’m not a writer. In middle school, I had a couple poems put out in a national publication. I don’t know where they are or the names of the books at this point. I can barely write a grocery list now, but I’m a published poet. Go figure.
Q: And I hear you used to raise peacocks?
A: I raised peacocks as a kid. I had them as pets, and they were always around the house. My dad grew up on a farm; my mom didn’t. So we slowly acquired little animals. It started off with just a few chickens and rabbits. My mom said she wanted a peacock, so my dad came home with a peacock. Then my mom wanted a female (peahen), so my dad came home with a female (peahen). We also ended up with a pair of white peacocks. They’re easy to take care of. … One of the things about growing up in the middle of nowhere is you have space for all these strange animals.
Q: Are you part of any community groups or organizations?
A: I’m not really part of any group or organization, but I’ve had a lot of random people who know I do artwork ask me to donate stuff to fundraisers. … I’ll definitely give things away like prints or baskets for my kids’ schools when they do fundraisers.
Q: What other hobbies do you have?
A: I like to cook, and I love to bake. In the winter I bake a lot; I don’t like turning the oven on in the summer. I also knit. I’ve knitted socks, sweaters, slippers. I make stuff.
Q: Can you pinpoint an event in your life that helped shape the person you are today?
A: My family has always been very relaxed and open about stuff. We’ve always been very accepting for growing up in a little corner of Pennsylvania. Me and my sisters have always traveled if we can; (we) try as many foods as we can, meet as many different people as we can, and we’ve always been very open. There’s always something to learn. I think just being open, it’s hard to change your view because you’re open to everything. I have ideas, but I usually don’t have anything that’s so firm that it’s going to shift drastically. I go with the change.
Amber Cipriani is the new owner and art instructor at Electric City Art Studio located in the Marketplace at Steamtown. She runs the studio, which offers classes for preschoolers through adults, with the support and help of her boyfriend, Norman Brown. The Drums native also is an elementary school art teacher in Hazleton Area School District. She received a bachelor’s degree in art education from Marywood University and a master’s degree in education from King’s College. She lives in Scranton.
Meet Amber Cipriani…
Q: What it is like teaching art at your alma mater?
A: I love being an art teacher. I’ve always been interested in art of any medium. It started in high school. My high school art teacher was a huge influence. We called her “The Art Room Mom.” My home school hired me, and I’ve been there since. I’m on year five.
Q:What is it like to teach such fundamentals of art?
A: Having them learn the elements of art and the different parts of art and a little art history, it’s all about the creative process. I like to base my projects on an artist or a certain painting so they get a little information. It’s a lot of fun having them use different mediums and play.
Q:What message do you hope to communicate to the public about art?
A: Creativity is everything. The creative process helps kids turn into who they are. It helps kids with communication skills, socialization, creativity and even some math is thrown in there. It helps with all aspects of a child’s growth.
Q:Describe the projects you hope to see completed through Electric City Art Studio.
A:I’m going to try and change it up all the time to keep people interested. If I offer the same things over and over, that wouldn’t be my style. I’d like to try new things and bring new ideas to the studio. I want to take suggestions from people and give people what they want and what the kids want.
Q:Tell me about your own work and style as an artist.
A: A lot of people ask me to make different things, so I make what people want. My most recent is murals. I painted the mural at Center City Wine Cellar. I just finished a few weeks ago. I recently won the “Your Art Here” contest, which is a mural I painted on the second floor here (at the Public Marketplace.) They’re very time consuming. I sell some paintings during First Friday. I was into fluid painting for a while. I’ve done them on large canvases. I’ve also started making my own jewelry with different kinds of stones and Brazilian stones. I make a lot of wreaths for people for different occasions, too.
Q:What types of classes do you teach?
A: Everything from pre-K all the way up to adults and a glass of wine. Every class will be structured by age. I’ll do messy playtime, sensory nights for special-education students and adults, paint and sip nights, adult and children workshops, drawing, summer camps and open studio which is a cheaper options for kids who want to come in and do their own thing.
Q:What is the most rewarding part about teaching?
A: The finished product and the smile on the kids’ faces. I’ve taught everything from kindergarten up to graduate students. Even on a graduate student’s face — when I challenge them with something to make, and the end product puts a smile on their face — that puts a smile on my face.
Q:What is something that challenges you as an art teacher?
A:I think my biggest challenge right now is just how many kids and different abilities there are in a classroom at the same time and trying to get to every student in the 40-minute time period. It’s definitely challenging because you want to help every single kid but sometimes it’s just not possible. Doing small group class and keeping it around eight students is what I’d like to do for the art studio, so I can help every single student. I see about 600 students a week, and it’s hard to get to every single kid. Some of them I only see once a week, and that doesn’t help the kids who are really into art.
Q:Art you part of any community organizations or groups?
A: I have an after-school art club with seventh and eighth-graders. We meet once a month and do different projects that we can’t really do in a classroom setting. I also do a community service club and run a fitness club. I like to throw art in there somehow, so we’ll make decorations for the nursing home or local businesses. We recently did painted rocks with positive messages and put them around the community. I’m also trying to get involved with a lot of local businesses. I’m pairing up with Paradise Sweets for my summer camp. They’ll provide the lunches for the kids. The paint and sip nights will be booked with Center City Wine Cellar. I think getting everyone else involved is important.
Q:What has been your biggest art accomplishment you’ve had?
A:The mural contest here (“Your Art Here”) opened up a lot of opportunity for me and got my name out there. It sort of set everything off.
Q:What other hobbies and interests do you have?
A:I like to be outdoors. I have a stand-up paddle board, and we have kayaks, and we like to take the dogs out on walks. I’m in the gym every day and enjoy keeping active. I’m a huge beach person, so any chance I have to get to the beach is a good time, too.
Q: Can you pinpoint a time or event in your life that helped shape the person you are today?
A:My advisor at Marywood, Ann Marie Castelgrande. She was my art mom in college. She really helped shape who I am today; everything creative, educational, business, everything. To this day, if I text her, she’s still there to answer me. She talked to everyone and treated us like we were her children. She has been so influential with everything.
Q:Do you have anything else to add?
A: I’m excited for the kids to come in and show their creativity and get messy and learn about all the different materials you can use for art and see where things go.