CAFE Grants for the Arts: Encouraging Artistic Endeavors

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From D&B Strategic Marketing

Sometimes you just have to think outside of the box. Especially when you are an arts organization or an artist. Especially when there’s a pandemic rearing its ugly head.

That’s what Chelsea Area Festivals & Events did. That’s what Ballet Chelsea did. And that’s what Matthew Ball and Kyle Burnett did.

Last summer, with so many things cancelled, Chelsea Area Festivals & Events (CAFE) decided to provide $1,000 grants as an extension of their mission to enrich Chelsea, and the surrounding communities, by promoting the presentation of and participation in quality performing and visual arts throughout the year.

For Ballet Chelsea, the CAFE grant opened up a whole new performance avenue…the drive-in theatre experience.

Jane Thompson, Ballet Chelsea board member, said that once they started working with the Chelsea Fair, the idea came into focus.

"At the time of our application in July 2020, we were already planning to film an adaptation of the Nutcracker and to make it available as a streaming event.”

"As we worked with Chelsea Fairgrounds, we decided to show “Very Merry Nutcracker” as a drive-in movie at the fairgrounds. That was a great decision for many reasons,” said Thompson.

Ballet Chelsea shared A Very Merry Nutcracker (the film!) with the Chelsea community December 4-6, 2020.

“Our original plan was to have two shows but as they quickly sold out, a third show was added and on reflection, we probably could have sold out a fourth one.” Each showing brought in over 100 cars.

Thompson said they originally planned to film at the fairgrounds, but because of the CAFE grant support, they were able to expand filming locations, including Sharon Mills County Park near Manchester.

The experience taught both Ballet Chelsea a great deal about how and where we should be performing in the future.

“Our dancers loved dancing in the large barn at the fairgrounds and to feel the fresh air as they danced. None of the dancers had been involved in filming before and it gave them all a complete new appreciation of what goes into that medium. Our staff — including dance teachers, costume and production staff — all had to think differently about so many things, especially lighting.”

Thompson added that they are planning to hold the annual recital in the fairgrounds barn and are currently in rehearsal for the next filming project, “Sleeping Beauty.” They just wrapped up filming at Weatherwax Hall for two collaborative performances that will be streamed virtually this spring.

“Dancers just want to dance and patrons want to see and experience the arts. And a change in type of venue is exciting for everyone.”

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Matthew Ball performing at Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights.

For piano player and teacher Matthew Ball, it was a lifeline.

“After the first week of March 2020, most of the normal ways I earn a living dwindled in a flash,” remembered Ball. My wife and I were also scrambling to keep our 4th grader educated in a new virtual world, and simply put, overwhelmed by the whole of it all.”

“By the time the grant came into my hands,” said Ball, aka the Boogie Woogie Kid, “everything looked pretty grim.”

But he got right to work and hasn’t stopped working towards the day when musicians can get back to performing. And things are looking brighter because of the CAFE funding.

“I've increased my social media following by over 300 people as a result of being able to get the right tech and gear to present some good promo videos and ads. I've been able to acquire new virtual piano students and gigs with institutions as far away as in Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, and more - places I never probably would have been able to present to due to the cost of travel.”

“I was so happy to have been awarded the grant. I can't tell you how it lifted my spirits.”

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Kyle Burnett’s sculpture “Elk Bugling” is on display outside the Chelsea District Library, as part of SculptureWalk Chelsea.

Kyle Burnett, whose sculpture, “Elk Bugling” is on display outside the Chelsea District Library, was looking for a way to expand his sculpting horizons.

A metal artist, Burnett had long relied on creating works of art out of scrap metal, particularly animals, since their diversity is similar to the variety he finds in scrap metal.

However, scrap metal does have its limitations, Burnett said. And the CAFE funded the purchase sheet metal equipment to rework scrap metal, opening up new dimensions for his art.

“The grant really gave me the push forward I needed and has really diversified the way I design pieces.”

Burnett said he has begun work on an idea that has been brewing for some time. One that was different, both in terms of material and theme: A scrap metal lion lunging out of a simple sheet metal human torso that represent the pain, sorrow, and aggressiveness of cancer.

“This image is how I felt most of my childhood, as I watched my mother fight cancer until it ultimately took her and ripped apart the family.”

He said that while the rough form of the scrap metal lion could seem graphic, the simplicity of the sheet metal human shows the fragility of life.

“The process in designing this sculpture has been very close to my heart,” said Burnett. “I can't wait to share it with everyone.”

For more information about Chelsea Area Festival and Events visit www.chelseafestivals.com.

This is the first of two articles showcasing the contributions to the arts culture in the Chelsea area by artists and performers that received grant funding from the Chelsea Area Festivals & Events.

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