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"Skyline" by Lori Sweeney, the Mayor's Choice Award in the Eighth Annual National Arts Program City of Manchester Employees and Families Art Competition. (MARK HAYWARD/Union Leader)

Art in City Hall

Manchester workers, relatives show off artistic talents

MANCHESTER — The inspector who scrutinizes your apartment and the clerk who registers you to vote have secret lives.

Those lives appear on paper with arcs and lines of color or charcoal.

They show up in a photographic image of a punked-out girl standing next to graffiti or a covered bridge spanning a river bed.

They're revealed in a mixed-media representation of the Manchester skyline or a book transformed into a seafaring adventure.

Such are the art works on display at City Hall for the rest of this month. More than 130 pieces have been submitted by city workers and their relatives. The work was judged this week, and more than $2,000 was awarded to winners, as well as two art classes.

"A more creative city is better for everyone," said Becky O'Neil, a member of the Manchester Arts Commission, which helped to coordinate the effort.

This is the eighth year the city has put on the art competition. It is funded by a grant from the National Arts Program, which provides a $2,400 grant to be used for cash prizes. Pelmac Industries of Auburn and Members First Credit Union also made cash donations, and the New Hampshire Institute of Art and Currier Museum of Art provided scholarships.

The People's Choice Award went to Jonathan Golden, a city planner whose artistic endeavor has grown to a sideline business. He operates Handigitous Custom Artworks out of his Merrimack home, using airbrushing, lettered enamel and other mediums for custom designs on motorcycles, automobiles and helmets.

His work, Noh Mask, features the face of a snarling red-faced creature collared by conical shapes that bear symbols. He said he picked up the art bug when working with a landscape architectural firm in Chicago. Part of his job entailed drawing renditions of landscape plans for clients.

"It's a creative outlet which doesn't really exist in this environment," he said at City Hall. "It's something I enjoy doing."

Five categories, from youth (under 12) to professional were judged. And both Mayor Ted Gatsas and Gov. Maggie Hassan had their top choices noted. Gatsas' choice is "Skyline," a multi-media, three-dimensional depiction of the Manchester skyline by Lori Sweeney. It also won third prize in the professional category.

O'Neil noted that the Best of Show category went to teenager Heather Vaillancourt. "Lost at Sea" is a sculpture that involves an open book, its pages fanned open and topped with a printed page shaped into the sailing ship of an ancient mariner. Polished stones and seaweed dot the pages."It was so much fun to see her get the award," O'Neil said.

The works will hang along hallways at City Hall all this month. O'Neil noted that the exhibit went up when residents were lining up in the City Hall Annex to pay their property tax bills.

"It's a lot more interesting when you're waiting to pay your tax bill than staring at wallpaper," she said.