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People's Choice


Robin Nunes


Stuck On The Bridge


Saturday, June 19th dawned hazy bright on Cuttyhunk Island, the last in the Elizabeth Island chain descending in a swooping apostrophe off the heel of Cape Cod, but almost all of the 45 artists participating in the sixth annual Plein Air Festival were somewhere else.
The painters found a spot somewhere between Portsmouth, NH and Clifton, VA, and others picked sites in Orleans, MA and Rye, NY to set up their easels to paint between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Then they put down their brushes, snapped a photo of their finished work, and uploaded it to the
contest website.
The People’s Choice award determined by 127 voters went for the second year in a row to Padanaram artist Robin Nunes, painting “Whale of a View” just across Buzzard’s Bay from Cuttyhunk. Robin participated for the first four years of the festival on the island and painted in 2020 and 2021 from the otherside of the bay.

She told event organizer Teri Bordenave that she looks forward to “Whale of a View,” 12” x 16” oil and palette knife being back on-island in 2022: “I love the versatility and imagination of the Cuttyhunk hostesses for their Plein Air event . . . during such a pandemic-unsure- time of our lives. They created a safe and exciting way to enlighten and enhance the lives of us artists!!

Father-daughter art lovers and former gallery owners Jim and Molly Conway provided two purchase awards and chose a pastel of breaking surf in Westport Harbor, “Eternal Rhythms” by Dennis Broadbent, and Martha Guillette’s watercolor of dinghies “At Rest.”
There were over 750 views of the 37 entries on the contest website during the festival with voters logged in from as far away as Ireland, France, Germany, Nicaragua, and Canada giving the virtual event global reach.

Cuttyhunk artist Tricia Mansfield painted “Music Hall Arch” from her winter home in Portsmouth, NH, before getting to the island later in the month.
More than 75 art lovers shopped for paintings following the announcement of winners on site.
The paintings are still hanging in the virtual gallery, and most of them are available for sale only by contacting the artist via email. For 2022, Ms. Bordenave says the seventh annual event will take place on Cuttyhunk Island on Saturday, June 18 with Sunday, June 19 reserved as the rain date, and she and the team of Island Ambassadors look forward to welcoming artists when the M/V Cuttyhunk ties-up on the ferry dock.


Thirty-three paintings were exhibited in the on-line gallery and a painting with an aptly-Covid-19 title, “Stuck on the Bridge,” by Robin Nunes was the winner with 77 votes. Robin is a professional artist who specializes in palette knife painting. She is represented by Norton’s Framing and Gallery in Padanaram. Robin was thrilled when Teri Bordenave, who conceived and coordinates the Plein Air Festival, contacted her on Sunday: “It is a distinct pleasure to have won the First People’s Choice Award for Cuttyhunk Plein Air Virtual contest! My heart is filled with excitement and anticipation for
next year’s competition . . . God willing! Stay safe.

She continued: “I love the versatility and imagination of the Cuttyhunk hostesses for their Plein Air event . . . during such a pandemic-unsure-time of our lives. They created a safe and exciting way to enlighten and enhance the lives of us artists!!

“And to those who purchase a painting from a live artist, you have a piece of our♥ Forever!”

There were 29 paintings posted for sale on the site, and Teri is gathering information on the number sold.
The MASS Cultural Council provides financial support for the annual festival which is provisionally scheduled for June 19, 2021.

As I heard a very wise voice with The Atlantic Council say months ago, “This will not be business as usual, but it will be business.” And so-it-goes with art and artists and island ambassadors in the time of Covid-19. Of the 60 artists registered for the 2020 Cuttyhunk Plein Air Festival set for Saturday, June 20, 34 of them showed up “virtually” to paint from a safe spot of their

Yes, they missed the ferry ride, and the enthusiastic welcome of all the Cuttyhunk ambassadors, led for the past four years by Patty Andrews. They had to make their own lunch instead of enjoying ham and cheese, turkey, or veggie sandwiches with fresh-baked cookies, from the Island Market, or the popular mini-lobster rolls from the CTHK Café. They missed solicitous
check-ups from event organizer Teri Bordenave and Ellie Von Wellsheim.


And at the end of a day of painting-in-place, they missed the __ARTY! celebration of winners, refreshments, and art sale. But the show did go on, thanks to tech-savvy assistance from graphic artist and Cuttyhunk summer resident-since-birth Ellis Lehner. Using the ShortStack website, artists could upload a photograph of their painting created between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on June 20. The deadline for entering their virtual painting was 5:00 p.m. Then island residents and regular visitors who subscribe to Paula DiMare’s “Cuttyhunk Telegraph,” could visit ShortStack, view the paintings and vote for their favorite to win a People’s Choice Award of $250.
The on-island __ARTY! last summer attracted about 200 artists and islanders for a reception after the paintings were hung in the USCG Boat House and the winners were chosen by three professional jurors. This summer, nearly 900 people dropped in on the virtual gallery from the safety of their homes, and 300 of them shopped for a purchase.

            The artists came across Buzzards Bay aboard the M/V Cuttyhunk, greeted at State Pier in New Bedford by volunteer Plein Air Ambassador Patty Andrews. She welcomed the painters with packets containing maps, schedule cards for the day, and island information.

            So began the fourth annual, day-long paint-in-place event on the remote island of Cuttyhunk. Surging from 45 artists at its inception, the Cuttyhunk Plein Air Festival is the brainchild of Teri Bordenave, a planning and governance consultant with long-time ties to the island. She had visited the famed Easton, MD event and thought the concept might bring business to Cuttyhunk in the “shoulder season” before the short, frantic summer months.

            The event was pitched to the Cuttyhunk Cultural Council, the island Long-Range Planning Committee, and the local Historical Society.  The organizations agreed to sponsor the event, and Ms. Bordenave received a small grant from the Cuttyhunk Cultural Council.  Since 2017, the event has received a $500 Festival grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and no local Cultural Council funds, allowing those dollars to be directed toward other island cultural activities.

           Successful from the first festival in 2016, year four attracted a waiting list in addition to the 60 artists who signed on within a few weeks of the on-line registration opening in early February.  A whiff of rain apparently made ten of the artists who held the coveted spots refrain from boarding the ferry on Saturday morning, which was unfortunate, Bordenave said, because there was not time to fill their places.  Clouds, a swirl of fog, and finally sunshine rewarded the optimists in the crowd and the 41 paintings submitted to jurors at the end of the afternoon reflect hardly a hint of gray skies.

            The event depends on island volunteers who walk away from setting out porch chairs and cleaning the pantry or rigging sailboats to greet the artists and offer them a golf-cart tour before depositing them at an island motif spot to paint for the day.  Thirty-two islanders and two women from Padanaram signed on for the ambassador jobs, and they did everything from ferrying artists and their easels, setting out refreshments, delivering fruit during the day, and managing sales.

 The unexpected prize was the appearance of noted photographer Sandra Wong Geroux, who came with her friend from the South Dartmouth village carrying her digital camera and snapping away with determination as the island gathered to await announcement of winners, enjoy the __ARTY! refreshments, and finally the opportunity to purchase paintings of their beloved island world.  Her photographs may be viewed here.

           Three artworld professionals handled the judging at the end of the day.  Severin (Sig)  Haines, Bob Smith, and Jodi Stevens bring a balanced view of the mostly realist watercolors, acrylics, and oils.  Islanders Jim Conway and Kathy Olsen selected two of the paintings for the Spirit of Cuttyhunk Purchase Awards offered by Jim and his daughter Molly, former gallery owners.

            The first-place award of a $200 Dick Blick gift card went to Christine Tullson Mathieu of Providence, RI.  Second prize, a $100 gift card, and one of the purchase awards of $500 went to Hank Buffington, of Portsmouth, RI, and third place and a $50 gift card was awarded to Janice Thurston, of Tiverton, RI.  In addition to the three jurors’ awards, Jerry Aissis of Cumberland, RI also received a $250 purchase prize.

            Once again, singer-songwriter Eddie Dillon enlivened the lunch break with his mellow guitar-playing at the Marina and back at the Boat House for the __ARTY!  His performance was underwritten by the MASS Cultural Council grant.

          As the crowd surged into the makeshift gallery in the decommissioned US Coast Guard Boat House, they found it necessary to navigate around a broken-down forklift in the doorway.  That only added to the festive air as patrons paused to have their pictures taken with the hulking machine before scooping up hors d’oeuvres and a cup of wine or lemonade to enjoy while chatting and shopping.

Work was hung along the wall and from plastic snow fencing for display and 21 paintings were sold by the time Capt. Jono Billings tooted the ferry’s horn before departure.

          Artist Janice Thurston posted to her Facebook page after the Festival:  Good time was had by all at the Cuttyhunk Plein Air (Art) Festival. The volunteer organizers run a well-planned and lovely event. Ferry landing check-in and box lunch pick up; volunteer-driving golf cart drop-off and pick-ups to our choice of location; music on the dock near where I was painting; volunteers offering big bowls of fresh fruit in the afternoon; lovely after-party in the Coast Guard boathouse where the work was hung, judged, and offered for sale. There may have been an adult beverage or two. An island-wide open-air party all day. Stellar job Cuttyhunk!


The third annual Cuttyhunk Plein Air Festival got off to a brighter start on the June 24, Sunday rain date after storms caused a postponement of the paint-in-place event.  Of the registered 60 artists, 47 were able to accommodate the change in schedule.


It takes an island to host such an influx of visiting painters, and 27 volunteers were on hand to greet the arriving M/V Cuttyhunk on Sunday morning.  Artists, easels, and painting supplies, along with island-prepared box lunches, were loaded onto golf carts that were soon zipping around searching for the best views.


A popular new addition for 2018 was guitarist Eddie Dillon who entertained at the Marina during lunch and performed at the US Coast Guard Boat House during the __ARTY! an island celebration of the visiting and resident artist participants and their work.


Severin “Sig” Haines, UMass Dartmouth Professor Emeritus who exhibits nationally and abroad, Cuttyhunker Bob Smith, a former partner in the Four-Corner Gallery in Tiverton, RI, and Jodi Stevens, an active artist and former gallery curator, spent 45 minutes surveying the completed works hung inside the Boat House while more than 200 guests waiting outside mingled with the artists and enjoyed wine and refreshments.

Jim Conway and his daughter Molly underwrote two purchase awards for the Spirit of Cuttyhunk.  The purchase prizes went to Erica Szuplat and Heidi Hallemeier.  Dick Blick gift certificates were presented to Carolyn Winter, who painted the first place-winning Whatever Floats Your Boat of Rosie Goegtsche’s bateau in the cove; Jerry Aissis received the second prize for Fish Dock; and Jonathan Small won third place for Better Days.


Twenty-six paintings were sold during the __ARTY! Organizers hope that participants will spread the word about the natural beauty of Cuttyhunk and artists will return again and again and bring their families and friends.


Organizers, artists, and island ambassadors breathed a collective sigh of relief as the fog lifted and the ferry landed for Cuttyhunk Plein Air 2017.  Fifty artists, accompanied by Ambassador Patty Andrews picked up box lunches prepared by CTHK Café and Island Market, were scooped up by volunteers with golf carts, and distributed to island motifs and front porches to spend the day capturing Cuttyhunk.

They were returned to the US Coast Guard Boat House and their work hung along the east wall of the historic structure.  Jurors Jodi Stevens, Severin Haines, and Bob Smith roamed up and down the display before conferring and passing their choices to Festival Director Teri Bordenave to be announced to the gathering crowd of more than 100 islanders.

First place went to Anne McKee of Wayland, MA for “That Tree,” located on the Cuttyhunk Fishing Club property.  Elizabeth Havens received second honors for “Cuttyhunk Charm.”  The third prize ribbon was for Jane Owen’s “Pond View.”  The artists received $200, $100, and $50 gift certificates, respectively, from Dick Blick Art Materials.

The father-daughter team of Molly and Jim Conway, former owners of the Pea in Your Pants Gallery, were the donors and jurors for the Spirit of Cuttyhunk purchase prize.  They chose “Bass Cove” by Barbara Healy.  The winning painting was then donated to the Cuttyhunk Historical Society for the opening auction on Saturday, July 1.  Ms. Healy was the third prize winner in 2016.

Following the announcement the crowd enjoyed a wine reception  _ARTY! in the Boat House before artists boarded the ferry for the return ride to New Bedford.  Ms. Bordenave counted 15 sales of works done during the paint-along.

The second Cuttyhunk Plein Air Festival was sponsored by the Cuttyhunk Cultural Council, the Long- Range Planning Committee, and the Cuttyhunk Historical Society. Funding came from a $500 Massachusetts Cultural Council Festival Grant.  The paint-in-place event was promoted along the South Coast of Massachusetts and as far west as Providence and Newport, RI.  The participants hailed from New York to New Hampshire.


The inaugural Cuttyhunk Plein Air 2016 took place on June 18, 2016, a sparkling Saturday with 45 participants: 40 from the south coast of New England and five from the island.  

Jurors Helen Sturgis Nadler, Bob Smith, and Jodi Stevens selected the top three artists:  Mary Benton, of Swansea, MA, took the first prize with a painting of Church’s Beach distinguished by her brushwork and palette; Heidi Hallemeier, of South Dartmouth, MA, was second with a scene featuring the Fish Dock and Raw Bar boat described as evocative; and Barbara Healy of North Dartmouth, MA won third place.  Each artist received commemorative ribbons and $200, $100. and $50 gift certificates respectively from Dick Blick Art Supplies.  

A special Spirit of Cuttyhunk Captured award went to Suzanne Lewis of Bristol, RI for her painting of the school house.  The prize was selected by a representative of each of the sponsoring organizations, the Cuttyhunk Cultural Council, the Cuttyhunk Historical Society, and the Long-Range Planning Committee.

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