Barbara Nair: The Art of the Matter
The Arts Center Killingworth returns to the Madison Town Green for its annual Autumn Outdoor Arts Festival on Saturday, Oct. 7, and Sunday, Oct. 8, and organizer Barbara Nair is expecting this year’s event to draw its biggest crowds ever. This decade-old art festival will feature some of the shoreline’s and New England’s top artisans and craftspeople, offering a wide array of mediums and styles that are sure to intrigue any art lover.
Barbra says she and her family fell in love with Killingworth as soon as they resettled here in the early 2000s. It didn’t take Barbara long to establish the Arts Center and begin her new artistic journey as executive director of Arts Center Killingworth.
“I brought up all my children, and I was born in Manhattan. I lived there for most of my life. We still have a place there and still go back and forth,” says Barbara. “But my background is actually in theatre. I have a master’s in theatre directing and a bachelor’s in acting. I pursued that for several years, but after having three children, it became clear it was either the children or theatre. We came to Connecticut because we wanted a second home to relax in. When we moved here, I decided I might want to go back to the theatre, so I went back and studied nonprofit arts management at NYU. At some point, someone mentioned that perhaps I should take what I learned and those ideas and start something up here, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ and that’s how the Arts Center Killingworth got started.”
The Arts Center is a charity with a nonprofit gallery, The Spectrum Gallery, in Centerbrook under its umbrella. Barbara has found a platform between the two entities to encourage, support, and inform artists and patrons.
“It really started growing in 2004. We started giving workshops and classes and doing an art trail and getting much more involved in the community here on the shoreline. That went on for a number of years working out of the studio here in Killingworth, doing camps in the summer, and then we started getting to know the community and the artists here. What happened was the artists we were working with began to tell us they wanted more. They really wanted to find ways to display and sell their work and let the community know what they were doing,” says Barbara. “We only had a small studio in Killingworth, so we started looking for a space to start a gallery and artisan’s store. We looked for over a year and finally found the spot in Centerbrook.”
Barbara says she has always found an incredible level of talent among the many artists who call the region home. Her dedication has provided a unique opportunity for many of these individuals, and the festival is just one aspect of the support the organization provides.
“There’s a lot of artists and artisans in this area, all over the shoreline and through all of New England. There is a very healthy community, and as a result, people really want to do more with their art. They want to develop it, they want people to see it, they want to sell it, and meet other artists and get involved in the arts community. There are quite a number of very, very talented people in this area. I am always amazed by the quality of the work I see,” says Barbara.
The gallery is an integral part of Barbara’s vision to provide the support that artists often do not have access to.
“The gallery works with about 80 artists. It can be a lot of work, but it is very gratifying because people really appreciate what we are doing. And that includes customers, clients, visitors from out of town, as well as the artists themselves,” says Barbara. “It really makes us feel good to be able to be a part of that and support this community.”
Barbara’s organization presents two festivals a year, with the fall festival coming up on Oct. 7 and 8 being a much anticipated pre-holiday event, says Barbara. The Annual Arts Festival started small, according to Barbara, but has grown into a larger but still intimate event where patrons can take the time to ask questions to understand the various mediums and the artist’s vision provides a far richer experience for attendees.
“This is really a boutique festival. The festivals really aren’t that large. Most of the artisans are local…the people who visit really look forward to the two festivals we mount. People who come often know the artists, and they look forward to it because it’s such a warm and friendly environment. People can really take the time to get to know these artists. There’s less running around from booth to booth and more about interacting with the artists and finding out about their process,” Barbara says.
The gallery has half a dozen shows a year and will also be presenting an exhibition in conjunction with the festival. Patrons can take advantage of both venues and make an art day of it, says Barbara.
“The gallery will be open as well during the festival. The work at the gallery is just filled with beautiful work. People can easily drop in and see the gallery in Centerbrook, and then make a day of it, get some lunch, and then come down and visit the festival. It is a very warm and friendly environment. And the work people will see is truly inspiring,” says Barbara.
According to Barbara, the festival will encompass new and original artwork and fine crafts by artists from throughout Connecticut and New England, including representational and abstract painting, as well as photography, mixed media, collage, and more. Artisans exhibiting on the green feature those working in pottery, glass, fiber, and jewelry designs in precious and semi-precious metals and stones, says Barbara.
“It is a really fun event. It’s a great opportunity for folks to get in some holiday shopping. All of the artists are so warm and friendly, so there is a tremendous amount of talking and interacting…on a nice autumn day; you really can’t beat it. Everyone involved always looks forward to this festival. Music, art, conversation-it’s just a great time,” says Barbara.
This year’s fest will have live music on Saturday with The Jan Jungden Trio: All that Jazz swinging the classics from modern jazz to Latin, to swing, and a bit of R&B, Barbara says. On Sunday, Horizon Blue, an “Acoustic Americana” home-grown musical group, will perform a mix of original and well-known family-friendly songs from the heart, according to Barbara.
According to Barbara, as a complement to the festival event, Spectrum Gallery and Artisans Store of Centerbrook is presenting Falling into Fall. This six-week gallery show runs through Sunday, Nov. 4, with gallery hours Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
For more information about programming, call 860-767-0742 or visit spectrumartgallery.org. Barbra also encourages those interested to visit and enjoy shopping on Spectrum Anytime, spectrumanytime.com, the gallery’s online platform for art and fine craft purchasing.
Entrance to the Festival is free and pet-friendly. The festival runs on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday,
Oct. 8, from noon until 5 p.m. (rain date Monday, Oct. 9, from 10 to 5 p.m.) For a sneak peek of artists, visit spectrumartgallery.org for online galleries that feature artwork images and biographical information.