The Day - Sound & Country - - Hygienic Art Festival Hits 30 - By KATE CAREY-TRULL Spe­cial to The Day

TTurn­ing 30 can be hard for some, but the Hy­gienic Art ex­hi­bi­tion isn’t giv­ing into mid­dle age. With its XXX ti­tle, it is tak­ing on the an­niver­sary in its usual anti-es­tab­lish­ment style. Gregg Grippo, an artist who has been in­volved in the show in the past, ap­pre­ci­ates the lack of cen­sor­ship and free­dom the show pro­vides. Al­though the art is of­ten po­lit­i­cal and sex­ual in na­ture, Grippo thinks it has be­come tamer in re­cent years since it has been in the gallery.

“We would like to bring back the bawdi­ness of the art for arts’ sake, not for the sake of sell­ing art,” says Grippo, who is on the ex­hi­bi­tion’s or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee this year.

“There are three great things about the show, there is no cost, no cen­sor­ship and no lim­its,” he says. Art is avail­able for pur­chase, and he says it is a great op­por- tu­nity to pur­chase thought-pro­vok­ing work for a song. Each artist can sub­mit one piece, and usu­ally more than 400 artists are in­volved.

“Hy­gienic Art Ex­hi­bi­tion XXX 1979-2009” opens Jan. 30 and runs through Feb. 14, 2009 this year. Be­cause of its tim­ing, it is pop­u­lar with artists be­cause it isn’t their usual busy sum­mer sea­son. It also pro­vides a great ex­cuse to get out and en­joy what down­town New Lon­don has to of­fer.

Allyson Holtz, one of the founders, was a wait­ress at the Hy­gienic when it was a restau­rant in the 1970s. She now lives in Pittsburgh, but plans to have art in the show this year and also has one of her sculp­tures at the Ly­man Al­lyn Mu­seum.

“I was sad to leave New Lon­don, but it was great to be in­volved in the beginning and see it blos­som into some­thing bet­ter than I ever imag­ined,” says Holtz, who moved in 1990. “The de­vel­op­ment of the gallery and the sculp­ture gar­den has been phe­nom­e­nal. The Hy­gienic has be­come such a vi­tal force in New Lon­don’s arts re­vi­tal­iza­tion.”

The show was mod­eled af­ter the “Sa­lon Des In­de­pen­dants,” a late 19th­cen­tury art move­ment in Paris in which artists protested the aris­toc­racy by ex­hibit­ing their works in cafes lo­cated in the seamy ar­eas of the city. The artists in those ex­hi­bi­tions gave rise to the great French Im­pres­sion­ist move­ment.

For many years, the show had no per­ma­nent home. It was orig­i­nally held in the restau­rant in 1979, but when the restau­rant closed in 1985, it was held at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions in down­town New Lon­don. In 1996, the Hy­gienic build­ing was sched­uled to be de­mol­ished to be­come a park­ing lot. Hy­gienic Art, Inc., led a grass­roots ef­fort to save the build­ing, which was listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Build­ings. With fundrais­ing, pri­vate do­na­tions and sup­port from state and lo­cal of­fi­cials, Hy­gienic Art Inc., pur­chased and ren­o­vated the build­ing into a res­i­den­tial artists co-op and pub­lic art gallery. It opened in Jan­uary 2000, for the 21st an­nual Hy­gienic Art Ex­hi­bi­tion.

When it started the show was one night only, but then it be­came a week­end event. In re­cent years, it has been two weeks long. This year it will be at least two weeks at the gallery and may con­tinue for an­other week at other venues. Other parts of the fes­ti­val in­clude Hy­gienic Cabaret, which fea­tures po­etry, the­ater, com­edy and belly danc­ing; Hy­gienic Rock Fix; Hy­gienic Poets, which has an open mic fol­lowed by a po­etry slam; and a new fash­ion show.

This year there is a ban­ner con­test. Or­ga­niz­ers hope to have 30 ban­ners, one for each year. At the end of the show each will be auc­tioned off as a fundraiser.

“It re­ally is a fes­ti­val now, with the films, po­etry and mu­sic,” Grippo says.

Steve Sigel, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Garde Arts Cen­ter, says it has been great to see a link be­tween com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and high qual­ity art.

“Hy­gienic as an or­ga­ni­za­tion has hung in there and proven rep­re­sen­ta­tive of New Lon­don artists,” he says. “It was started by an itin­er­ant group of creative, open-minded, se­ri­ous artists who prided them­selves on not be­ing part of the es­tab­lish­ment. The show brought a lot of ex­cite­ment and at­ten­tion to New Lon­don.”

He says adding hous­ing for artists and the art park have helped make the down­town into a creative cam­pus. It en­cour­ages younger artists to make New Lon­don a place to live and work.

“To their credit, they have main­tained the orig­i­nal vol­un­teer spirit they had from their in­cep­tion to make the show a mix of vis­ual and per­form­ing arts,” Sigel says.

Sigel has been in­volved for about 20 years, since he came to the Garde. Once again this year, the Garde will host the Chil­dren’s Hy­gienic for ele­men­tary and mid­dle school stu­dents to dis­play their art.

“This has been one of New Lon­don’s most suc­cess­ful com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment projects,” says Vin­cent Scarano, pres­i­dent of Hy­gienic Art Inc., and one of the founders of the show. He says the new mantra of the show is “Roots, Revo­lu­tion and Re­nais­sance.” The first decade was about the roots, the sec­ond about revo­lu­tion and now the third decade will be about a re­nais­sance of the arts in New Lon­don.

To raise aware­ness of the show, Scarano says there will be a live We­b­cast, with cam­eras at each event. It will be broad­cast on­line, as well as on a large screen at the Hy­gienic.

Mark Patn­ode, a teach­ing artist with the Con­necti­cut Com­mis­sion of Cul­ture and Tourism, is on the pro­gram­ming com­mit­tee of the Hy­gienic Gal­leries.

“It is one of the great un­sung suc­cess sto­ries in this re­gion and in the state,” he says of the show.

“The Hy­gienic Art ex­hi­bi­tion is one of the cul­tural trea­sures of New Lon­don, a mix of naugh­ti­ness and play­ful­ness,” Sigel says.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the gal­leries and the ex­hi­bi­tion, go to www. hy­gienic.org


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