Kent Art Association to mark 95th anniversary
Published 11:55 pm, Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Imagination, creativity and skill flourish and are showcased by the Gallery at the Kent Art Association.
The art association, housed in its gallery space on Route 7 just south of Kent’s one traffic light, is celebrating its 95th anniversary.
To mark the nonprofit organization’s milestone and open its spring juried show, a “Roaring Twenties” cocktail party will be held April 28 from 2 to 6 p.m.
“We’re doing this is to re-establish the history of art in the town, to re-establish our place in that,” said Michael Hunt, director of the Gallery at the KAA.
“It’s a beautiful area with a lot of artists,” he said. “And we want to remind people we have a legacy of good art here and we want to keep that going.”
The party will include a special exhibit featuring works by the nine founding members of the KAA and jazz music by the Roger Young Quartet.
A highlight of the event will be a 1919 Dodge “Wood” Station Wagon, on loan from the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association, for which guests can take photographs.
Guests are encouraged to wear 1920s attire. A prize for the best dressed will be presented.
A $10 donation is suggested per person for the party.
The juried show follows the gallery’s recent members’ show.
The first members’ show was held in at Kent library in the fall of 1923, after eight established artists and one sculptor, who knew each other from the New York art community — Rex Brasher, Elliot Clark, Floyd Clymer, Williard Dryden Paddock, F. Luis Mora, George Laurence Nelson, Spencer Nichols, Robert Nisbet and Frederick Waugh — formed the Kent Art Association.
In forming the association, the KAA became the second oldest art group in the state.
Each of the 600 patrons who attended the first show paid a nickel, and the funds were donated to the library.
In the early years, the KAA held one or two exhibits at various locations, but later expanded and included more artists from the region.
In 1956 —16 years after becoming a nonprofit organization — the Gallery at the KAA found a home at its current location at 21 South Main St., when the association acquired part of a two-story Colonial house located near the intersection of routes 7 and 341.
Today the gallery boasts two rooms on the main level of the building and two rooms and an alcove upstairs, the latter which were recently painted and improved with quality lighting for artwork.
The KAA offers “opportunities for artists of all levels to exhibit and to gain knowledge from each other,” Hunt said.
“There’s that community aspect of it,” he said. “It’s a space for the encouragement of art.”
Patsy Stroble of Sharon, KAA member and executive secretary, emphasized the number of “dedicated artists who put art in our shows.”
“It gives them a venue,” she said, noting the KAA provides the advertising for shows.
The KAA carries a membership of 250 to 300 individuals, mostly from southern Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York State and New York City.
In the past, the KAA’s gallery solely showcased artwork. Members now have an opportunity to exhibit and sell their work in oil, watercolor, collage, photography, acrylic, mixed media and sculpture.
“We’re very diverse,” said KAA President Connie Horton. “It used to be representational.”
Also new in recent years is the acceptance of larger pieces of work.
The KAA offers numerous shows each year: a student show, open to students in public and private schools in the region, a spring juried show, an elected artist and solo show, a president’s juried show, members’ shows, a fall juried show and a photography show.
Several of the shows are open to members and non-members.
In addition, the Gallery at the KAA serves as host for the Northeast Watercolor Society’s international show.
“It’s a phenomenal show,” Horton said.
Horton, who has been a member for roughly 40 years, said one of the exciting parts of being involved with the association is seeing the members interact with one another at shows and member potlucks.
“They’ll critique each other….and are very open,” she said, adding how she appreciates seeing how artists grow over time.
Stroble said she finds great value in the student show. “It’s important for young people, especially those with an interest in art, to see what it’s like to have their art hung in a gallery,” she said.
In the spirit of the KAA’s 95th anniversary, a program to celebrate the KAA’s founders and collect stories about the KAA will be held May 5 at 3 p.m.
Roger Gonzalez, an historian with the Wadsworth Atheneum, will lead the program, which will be the first in a series of founder’s-related programs.
Annual Kent Art Association memberships run, for 2018, from January through December and are available at three levels: associate ($50), family ($100) and lifetime associate ($500). All membership levels include newsletters, two member shows, free entry for up to six portfolio pieces and two small works, and reduced entry fees for up to three works per show. The Gallery at the KAA, located at 21 South Main St., is open Thursdays through Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 860-927-3989, email email@example.com or visit www.kentart.org.