Music, art festival thrive in warm glow of Peterborough spring
The Rock Flint Contemporary Ensemble — trumpet player Forbes Graham and drummer Luther Gray — play outside of the Peterborough Town House Saturday evening during the Thing in the Spring weekend in Peterborough. (Sam Bonacci/Union Leader)
The festival was founded by Eric Gagne, his wife Mary Goldthwaite-Gagne, and Ryan Wilson.
Headlining the weekend was Brown Bird, which played in the Peterborough Town House Saturday night.
“I love the shows and I think they are just getting better and better,” Goldthwaite-Gagne said. “Eric and I, we just try to do things that we want to be at.”
The Thing in the Spring had a big growth spurt this year moving from the 120-person capacity Historical Society as its large venue to the 600-person capacity Town House.
“Last year at the Historical Society we were turning people away,” Goldthwaite-Gagne said.
Gagne said he is currently in the process of registering the annual event as a nonprofit so that he can apply for grants and accept donations to keep the three-day festival growing as well as affordable.
Five years ago friends Gagne, a musician, and Wilson, an artist, found themselves engrossed in creating concert posters, inspired by old movie film noir posters and the psychedelic posters from the 60s and 70s, Gagne said. “We started putting on shows so we could have more posters to do.”
This inspired Gagne to organize a weekend of concerts in which he could book “the biggest and best names in underground indie, folk, experimental and rock.”
“I became really interested in the idea of curating a whole weekend,” Gagne said. “We were able to kind of build the show, design the posters, and put it together.”
At the same time, Wilson had always wanted to put on an art fair for local artists that would be free to participate in and free to attend where affordable art would be sold.
“A lot of the local artists, we couldn't afford each other's art,” Wilson said.
Goldthwaite-Gagne, an artist and art teacher at ConVal High School, jumped on that idea and created Broke: The Affordable Arts Fair, at which artists sell their work for $50 or under. The art fair is always held on the Saturday of the Thing in the Spring weekend.
“Another hat that I wear is a high school art teacher in the community and its so cool to watch my students grow and go into college and go into work and some of them their first time selling anything is at Broke four years ago,” Goldthwaite-Gagne said.
Portland, Maine, artist Chad Creighton who is originally from Greenfield, has been selling his art at the Broke art show every year since it started.
“It's more of a younger scene here,” he said. “I sell really well here, definitely one of the best shows that we go to.”
Wilson, who has been living in China for the past three years, returned to the art fair for the first time in many years, selling prints of his illustrations and his photographs of the Chinese countryside, architecture and people.
Although he hasn't been involved with the festival for many years, he designed the concert posters this year and is thrilled Broke continues.
“I thought it would be something that we did once,” Wilson said.
Goldthwaite-Gagne said the mix of music concerts and art during the festival draws people from all around and it's fun to see the musicians and artists attending each other's events.
“It's just really a nice way to nurture that creative,” she said.
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