Formerly a thread mill…

…and significantly where the Gardiner Hall Jr Company produced the first spooled thread in the United States, the buildings dominate a typical 19th century mill village to this day. At the bottom of severe downhill curve on Route 32, with a porched wooden boarding house under restoration on the right and old barn a bit down the road, the setting remains largely intact. Tall windows of the studios and other spaces of the Mill Works overlook the old dam and still undeveloped mill pond. And recently it is also the home of EC–CHAP.

River Road looking south in South Willington, CT

To break that down – Eastern Connecticut Center for History, Art, and Performance. A small museum displays Gardiner and other artifacts. Writers talk. Occasional open studios. Monthly social dance. But foremost at this time is their performance venue The Packing House. Now in its third season presenting jazz and acoustic artists, 2017’s Best New Act Gracie Day by the New England Music Awards this Saturday night, we appreciate the bright lights brought to this outward fringe of the exurbs just off I–84. And BYOBF, what a great deal.


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Tunnel Road at the Slater Museum

Tunnel Road from the Reimagine New England suite has been included in the 74th Annual Connecticut Artists Juried Exhibition at the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich, CT through March 16. It was not a promising morning for photography as I made my way on rustic roads down the east bank of the Deerfield River as it comes out of Vermont. The heights of the Mohawk Trail are lost in the fog. The tunnel referred to is the Hoosac, astonishing in 1875 for its engineering, hopeful that it might allow Boston a rail route through the Berkshires to compete with New York’s access to the Erie Canal and the Mid–West. I was struck by the simplicity of the iron work, sort of a “roofless covered bridge”. It was only in printing that I appreciated the importance of the sheen of light on the weathered wood planks, better than a sunny day! 24×30 archival pigment print, Exhibition Fiber paper, framed 30×40.

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Introducing the Boston Color series

The first public exhibition from the new Boston Color series – Kodachromes from the 1970’s and 80’s will be in CAFA’s 106th exhibition at the Mystic Museum of Art, Mystic CT from June 18 to July 29. Both Mobil Man and Maria’s have been accepted for inclusion.

From the introduction to the series:

“When I came to Boston it was a black and white town, with a tint of brick…expressive neutrals, richly warm pastels, truth in earth tones, bright reds, varietal greens, shaping blues contribute to become these colors of memory.”

For more visit Boston Color on the Reimagine New England website.

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73rd CT Artists Juried Exhibition

At the Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich Free Academy, Norwich, CT:

On view January 22 through March 17, 2017. Now in its 73rd year, the Annual CT Artists Juried Exhibition features paintings, drawings, mixed media, sculpture, graphics and photography by resident artists of Connecticut.

Join us Sunday, January 22nd from 1-3 pm in the Converse Art Gallery for the Opening Reception and Awards, a special event for artists, friends and the public.


Athens Street, also awarded an honorable mention, and Empty Lot from the Crappy Negatives series have been accepted for this year’s show.

The Crappy Negative series utilizes decades old scratched and neglected film, maybe poorly developed too, and a cheap “inappropriate” scanner to set the motif for creative resurrection of an often dirty heavily damaged early B&W archive.

To see more visit Crappy Negatives on the Reimagine New England website.

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Blanche Ames National Art Exhibition


A long gravel driveway leads through early Fall woods to a bend that opens into a late dusk sky with the window light of the castle-like mansion in the distance amid spreading lawns. There’s a movement of brighter lights out front as you approach, people are providing assistance for a line of cars to park safely. As we join a procession to the front door I’m glad we dressed to enhance a feel for the Gatsbyesque. It’s crowded and noisy with excitement, not unlike I presume often times before it was a museum, when it was the home of Oakes and Blanche Ames. He was a highly acclaimed Harvard botanist; she an accomplished painter and prominent suffragist. Underneath what appears to be a huge Arts and Crafts chandelier with what could be the Mayflower lies a dining table with all the appropriate party food. A piano plays in the music room. Champagne is being served on the enclosed terrace. And in the hall and two story library the well–lighted exhibition is on display. Curators Norma Urban and Robert Bendt are brightly forthcoming with appreciation for the artists’ contribution, and it’s reciprocated. The atmosphere is gay. A large print of New Ice from the Reimagine New England suite is holding its own in the corner. And to think of it, wasn’t so long ago that I bought a good sturdy Ames shovel at Home Depot to prepare my wife’s new vegetable garden. The forge, the factory made this town.

A quality printed catalog of the show is available here, or a pdf for download.

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Art Factory


The late night whistle blasts at each crossing orchestrate a plaintive wail to reverberate against steep hillsides as trains enter Stafford Springs within the narrow confines of the Willimantic River. Very slowly with a great westward hook the train will pass behind the businesses on Main Street, seemingly close enough to almost touch, and with just enough room there to fit a driveway to American Sleeve Bearing’s hundred year old factory on the Middle River. And a concrete trestle in their parking lot that once provided for a second track. Today it’s a perfect setting for a graffiti festival, and for a fourth year the civic minded company has allowed public access for a day in mid–September. The multiple arches are painted back to a blank canvas in preparation for about fifty invited artists who in about six hours will again create their kaleidoscope of color for another year. With live music, the frenzy of activity and good vibes is a blast.


from the 2015 event:

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Stafford Springs Blues Festival


Stafford Springs Blues Festival

Joanne Shaw Taylor at the Stafford Springs Blues Festival, CT, August 6, 2016.

Behind Main Street’s businesses, across the railroad tracks and over the bridge lies Hyde Park with the Historical Society and a couple of the springs that made the town famous. Johns Adams recuperated here, and partook. With a natural bowl surrounded by stately old pine and oak for a venue and the new music pavilion, the festival enjoys as fine a setting as any. So my brother–in–law says. And the talent too was top–notch. International. But be prepared, the stage lawn is full sun, if uncrowded.

Next year – August 5                            Stafford Springs Blues Festival

Joanne Shaw Taylor

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