'Vive Le Clark': From art to Parisian jazz, French fun at The Clark's Summer Family Day

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Maizie Connerton-Ryan made a French connection at the Clark Art Institute on Sunday afternoon.

The seven year old visiting from Edison, N.J., enjoyed a turn-of-the-20th-century Parisian performance by The Painted Ladies. The three professional dancers performed in black cabaret apparel while twirling matching parasols.

"I liked the outfits. They were pretty," Maizie said.

Led by artistic director Jenny Rocha, the New York City-based troupe staged two, 45-minute outdoor shows in keeping with "Vive Le Clark" the theme of the museum's annual and free Summer Family Day.

A New Bedford native, Rocha was visiting The Clark for the first time, enjoying the natural setting of one of the Berkshires top cultural attractions.

"I love the campus feel here; it's inviting," Rocha told an Eagle reporter between shows.

The event's live entertainment, variety of food and beverage, demonstrations, children's activities and the museum exhibits were a must-see for Maizie's family.

"We delayed our trip back (to New Jersey) for this," said the girl's mother, Winifred Connerton.

Connerton and her daughter among the hundreds who soaked up the sun and French flavor of the 17th annual Summer Family Day, traditionally based on the current exhibits at The Clark, according to museum officials.

"We look at the art and shows and build our family day from that," said Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer, director of education.

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The Clark has two French-inspired exhibits this summer. Through Labor Day, museumgoers can view "Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900" featuring international group of women artists looking to overcome gender-based restrictions to advance their art, according to the museum's website.

Metallic craftsmanship from 19th-century Europe is also on display with "The Art of Iron: Objects from the Musee Le Secq des Tournelles, Rouen, Normandy." The show presents a collection of 36 unique works of wrought iron, many that had practical uses, such as a large sign in the shape of a key to identify a locksmith shop.

The Avalon Jazz Band proved to be the ideal compliment to The Painted Ladies. The three-piece band led by vocalist Tatiana Eva-Marie played to an appreciative crowd keeping cool in the shade, many having lunch courtesy of six vendors and The Clark's cafe.

Avalon plays in the style of the Parisian jazz scene of the 1930s and '40s. Their repertoire includes American jazz favorites made popular in France, along with original material.

The band's second show featured a mime keeping beat with "I Love Paris." The speechless performer showed nimble feet as he danced to the Doris Day song.

Children of all ages had plenty of hands-on activities. The youngest played with homemade building blocks, decorated with French symbols.

The artistically inclined ventured to the self-portrait tent, where young aspiring artists looked into a mirror in an attempt to sketch their faces.

Sophia Seckler ended up drawing anything but Sophia Seckler.

"Using myself as a base, it started out as me, now it looks nothing like me," said the 11-year-old local summer camp visitor from New York City.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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