Northampton Paradise City marks 20 years

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NORTHAMPTON --Disaster loomed like an inescapable tsunami as Paradise City Arts Festival approached its first Columbus Day weekend event 20 years ago.

Two weeks before the show, the food vendor backed out. A late-season hurricane hit in the set-up days just before opening. On opening night, the city’s transformers all along Route 9 caught fire.

"When you get lemons, you make lemonade," founding director Linda H. Post said in an email.

"The food crisis turned out to be totally serendipitous. We approached the chefs of our local restaurants, who rose to the occasion with style and grace, establishing the festival’s reputation for world-class dining that very first year.

"The hurricane pulled out just before opening day to reveal sparkling skies -- and all that plywood we had laid down over water-logged grounds continued to protect the carpeting from mud, dust and artists’ dollies Š as we set up the show.

"As for the transformers, the power still available that night was limited to the booths, so the entire show floor glowed like a jewel box. The city replaced the transformers by morning."

No such calamities loom now -- even the weather is promising to behave -- as Paradise City gets ready to open the gates at Three County Fairgrounds on Saturday morning for its 20th anniversary Columbus Day weekend show.

What began in 1995 with 150 artists crowded into a single building, this year boasts 275 artists -- nearly 30 from the Berkshires and New York’s Capital District and Mid-Hudson Valley -- showing work at Three County Fairgrounds in four buildings, a permanent sculpture garden and a paved center courtyard. There also is a large music and food tent. Paradise City also has expanded to include a Memorial Day weekend show in Northampton and another annual late fall show in Marlborough, this year Nov. 21 to 23.

Paradise City is the creation of two working artists, Linda H. Post and her husband, Jeffrey.

Their curated show attracts artists from across the country who work in a wide array of styles and media that includes glass, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, mixed media, decorative arts, leather, metal, photography, sculpture, wood, wearable fiber and works on paper.

In addition, there is a special exhibit at Paradise City this weekend -- "Face-to-Face: From Portraits to Selfies, the Art and Craft of Making Faces" -- human faces in a variety of media and moods.

"We are always looking to the future at Paradise City, and welcome the enthusiasm of a new audience for the kind of imaginative design that tells a story, has real authenticity," Post said in her email.

"In this digital age, dominated by the production of objects without the touch of human hands, American craft makers have actually formed the cutting edge of a new movement. The younger generation Š has embraced the handmade like no other generation since the 1960s."

Reflecting on that first Columbus Day weekend show 20 years ago, Post says it was "a more beautiful show than any first-year event should be. After all, we [she and her husband] had spent the previous 20 years as artists. The many loyal friends we made in the art and craft worlds traveled from all over the country to exhibit their work and make this into a first-class event."

Now, she says, "many of those amazing artists and the original, very loyal patrons are still coming."


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