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Artists go down to the Paradise City

Spot the rows of intricately beaded handbags and hand-stitched wool jackets and you’ll have seen a place unlike any other – a place cluttered with ceramic vases and glasswork tinted by light blue hues and other accoutrements to catch the eye’s attention. For the local art aficionado, it’s a place that only sprouts up once a year, but easily earns its mantle – it’s Paradise City.

Closing in fast on its 15 year anniversary, the Paradise City Arts Festival makes its way back to Northampton, Mass. for a weekend filled with one-of-a-kind artwork and unique designs. Founded in 1995 by Geoffrey and Linda Horvitz Post, Paradise will host 270 artists, many of whom owe their beginnings to the festival.

Artists to be featured at the festival include Granby, Mass. native Takashi Ichihara, painter Anthony Matteis, designers Daiga Henson and Sarmite Svilis, as well as furniture designer Daniel Gugnoni and newcomer Christine Rodrigues Schukow, whose specialty – 3D dioramas – are sure to elicit the attentions of the festival’s core fan base.

With Paradise City, the Posts sought to stimulate new degrees of artistic expression, while also providing a platform for new artists to launch themselves into a scene that grows increasingly competitive with each successive year.

For their part, both Posts also happen to be artists – she a painter, he a fiber artist.  Awash with bright colors and images of youth, Horvitz Post’s pastels have garnered the attention of various local galleries in the past, including the R. Michelson Gallery in Northampton and the Mary Ryan Gallery in New York City. As the recipient of the Ozzie Award for Design Excellence for her 1991 work, “Solstice,” Horvitz Post has a pedigree that others in her field would find enviable.

Indeed, the success of Paradise City is enviable. In 2008, American Style Magazine allotted Paradise City its highest accolade, regarding the event as the top art fair and festival in America. The National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA) has similarly endorsed the festival.

Paradise City, which lasts from October 10-12 at the Three County Fairgrounds, is a migratory affair, appearing in November in Marlborough, Mass. at the Royal Plaza Trade Center. In May 2010, Paradise City makes a leap several states over, to the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

After a long day of roaming Paradise City’s ample grounds, visitors need not leave the fairgrounds to sate their rumbling stomachs – they can find their share of good eats underneath the festival’s dining tent, where delectable dishes served up by some of the area’s preeminent eateries will be in vast amount. Meals include regional favorites, such as New England clam chowder, along with sweet treats like apple crisp and homemade ice cream. While dining, patrons are also invited to sample wine and enjoy live jazz performances, helping form an atmosphere that is immediately warm and congenial, and also conducive to dropping a nice bit of change on the festival’s featured works.

Prices for Paradise City’s unique works vary by artist, but one thing’s for certain: only handmade and original works of art will do. As a requirement of showcasing at Paradise City, an artist’s work must be their own. To feature, an artist must also provide five images of their work and pay a fee, ranging from $30 – $45 according to the number of shows that one wishes to exhibit one’s work at.

A special event, marking the festival’s anniversary, will also be on display throughout the weekend. “Then and Now: 15 Years” depicts sculptures, jewelry and fashions from 26 of the original artists to exhibit work in 1995, during Paradise City’s first festival. Paradise City will also feature a silent auction, situated within the Arena Building of the Three County Fairgrounds, to benefit The Fisher Home in Amherst, which serves as a Hospice residence for those suffering with terminal illnesses.

Show hours for Paradise City are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 10 and Sunday, October 11 at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton. Admission for adults is $12, while seniors 65 and over may enter for $10. Student admission is $8, and children under 12 may enter for free. For more information, visit http://www.paradisecityarts.com/

Shayna Murphy can be reached at skmurphy@dailycollegian.com.

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