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Bryan Haeffele photos
More than 500 people visited the Weir Farm National Historic Site on Friday, Aug. 25, to celebrate the National Park Service’s 101st anniversary and take part in the park’s first-ever Art in the Park Festival.
Weir Farm at 735 Nod Hill Road is the only national park dedicated to American painting. Established in 1990, the park preserves a significant site of American Impressionism and provides a place for people to enjoy art and nature.
People from various towns and states attended Weir’s Art in the Park Festival, which featured live music, cake and lemonade, open houses of the Weir House and studios, and an art contest.
More than 200 visitors created art using watercolor, pencil, pastel and printmaking supplies provided by the park, Weir Farm Chief of Interpretation, Education and Volunteer Services Kristin Lessard told The Bulletin, and “over 20 plein air painters or advanced artists brought their field easels and created art.”
Stamford resident and Middlebrook teacher Jessica Zarnik stopped by the park with her daughter, Colleen, to “enjoy the art day with friends and celebrate the 101st anniversary of national parks.”
Zarnick said she was “familiar with the location” and knew art teachers brought their students to Weir Farm, but had never been to the park herself. It was her daughter’s first time, too.
After taking a break to eat some cake, Colleen — who had already done a watercolor painting — was on her way back to the Burlingham Barn with her mom to do more art activities.
Colleen spent two weeks at a Silvermine Arts Center summer camp, said Zarnick. “She’s really into art — I’m just the supporter.”
Zarnick said their plan for the rest of the festival day was to “jam out and listen to music, get into the groove and be inspired by nature.”
Elizabeth Arens, of Washington, D.C., said she and her daughter, Eleanor, decided to stop by the park while in town visiting family to partake in some of the festival’s “fun activities.”
When The Bulletin caught up with them, Arens and her daughter had just left the Burlingham Barn, where children’s activities — including print- and hat-making, watercolor painting, colored pencil drawing and Junior Ranger activities — were being offered.
“We have done watercolors, printing, hat-making,” said Arens, “and we are about to do a scavenger hunt inside the house.”
Branford resident Dotty Young brought her grandchildren, Olivia and James, of Scarsdale, N.Y., to the festival for two reasons.
Six-year-old James “loves to visit national parks,” said Young, and four-year-old Olivia likes art.
James said he likes national parks because he likes collecting Junior Ranger badges.
“There’s like 300-and-something,” he said. “We’re trying to get all of them,” Olivia added.
Young said she brought her grandchildren to Weir Farm without knowing about the Art in the Park Festival.
“I didn’t know it was the big celebration,” she said. “We hit the jackpot.”
Southbury resident Artemis T. Romell was one of several professional artists at the festival. She came with her husband, Michael, at the recommendation of their daughter, who lives in Wilton.
Romell said she and her husband moved from Massachusetts a year or two ago and have been “trying to find all the [art-related] places.”
After about an hour or two at Weir Farm, Romell said, she was already a fan.
“I just love it here,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful and very inspiring.”
A painter for about 35 years, Romell belongs to several art organizations, including three in Massachusetts and two in Connecticut. Painting started as a hobby, she said, “but I’ve become professional with it and I’m selling them now.”
At the time The Bulletin spoke to her, Romell had already submitted one or two paintings into the Art in the Park Festival’s art contest.
“I just finished a pastel of the garden and they hung it up,” said Romell, who was getting ready to do a watercolor with supplies provided by the farm.
Romell was one the of the art contest winners announced at the end of the day-long festival. She received the third-place Visitor’s Choice Award.
Eighty-eight works — submitted by people of all ages and skill levels — were submitted and judged on the use of color, quality of work, originality, creativity and how well they related to the “Impressions of Weir Farm” theme.
First-, second- and third-place awards were given in categories for professional and advanced artists, adult artists, junior artists, and park volunteers and staff. There were also Visitor’s Choice Awards and five unranked Judges Choice Special Awards.
In the professional category, the first-place Weir Masterpiece Award went to Leslie Carone. The first-place Adult Artist Award went to Martha Lord and a youngster named Alexis took the first-place Junior Artist Award.
At least two Wilton residents received awards:
- Francesca Monro, second-place Weir Masterpiece Award.
- Ryan McElroy, second-place Visitor’s Choice Award and second-place Park Volunteer or Staff Award.
To learn more about Weir Farm National Historic Site, visit nps.gov/wefa.