Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gracie graces window of opera house

Gracie Allen, created by fiber artist Karen Loprete
I was outside the Sterling Opera House in Derby, Ct. yesterday and was able to get a close-up of the window featuring Gracie Allen, the "better half" of the popular Burns and Allen comedy team of yesteryear.
The couple appeared at the Sterling Opera House back in the vaudeville days.

It's the only one of the 12 incredible portraits recently installed in the windows of the historic building that was created out of material instead of paint.

Kudos to fiber artist Karen Loprete of Shelton on this amazing piece of art work.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Arts council celebrating circles

For information on entering the Aug. 11 show visit

Or contact BillieJo, 203-232-7954 /,, or Rich, 203-906-4343 / for details.

The exhibit will run through Sept. 1.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Going in circles

The theme of the Valley Arts Council's next show is Circles.

Photo by Patricia Villers

The show opens Aug. 11 with an artists' reception that starts at 6 p.m. at the Gallery@37, 37 Elizabeth St., Derby, Ct. The reception is open to the public.

All artwork featuring circles is welcomed.

Let your creativity be your guide, and join in the circle!  

Stay tuned for info on cost to enter the show and length of exhibit.

Portraits paint story of Sterling Opera House

Editor's note: I posted the information below earlier this week on the New Haven Register's View from the Valley blog.

On Derby Day last Saturday members of the Valley Arts Council unveiled a dozen portraits of some of the stars who performed at the stately Sterling Opera House on Elizabeth Street in Derby. The building, built in 1889, was used as a theater until 1945.
The portraits now grace the windows facing Elizabeth Street and the Green, as well as those on side doors that face a walkway.

A $1,000 grant from the Valley Community Foundation funded the project.

Here Valley Arts Council vice president Steve DiRienzo of Derby stands next to his creation, an oil and acrylic painting of the legendary band leader John Philip Sousa, who wrote several patriotic marches, including "Stars and Stripes Forever."
His band played at the opera house in the early 1900s.

DiRienzo said Sousa, garbed in a bright red band uniform, may have been the inspiration for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper character on the cover of their 1967 album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
He said the tuba-like musical instrument called the sousaphone was named after Sousa, and the person who may have been the first to manufacture the sousaphone was named J.W. Pepper. Coincidence? Who knows?

DiRienzo said, "It's an open-ended exhibit geared to draw attention to the building." He said he'd like "to eventually have (the portraits) in the gallery, and have a reception for the artists." 

Shelton artist Len Grayeck stands next to his painting of the legendary comedian George Burns, who performed on the opera house stage in the glory days of vaudeville.
Behind him is a fabulous fiber-art portrait of Burns' beloved wife, Gracie Allen, created by Shelton fiber artist Karen Loprete.

Grayeck said Burns' round eyeglass frames and cigar "are almost iconic." He said he chose to capture Burns' look from the 1980s.
"I like the fact that he did it all," Grayeck said. "He started in vaudeville, went to radio, and then did TV and films." 

The project took about six months, from concept to installation last week, DiRienzo said. 

These 12 portraits created by 11 artists (council president Rich DiCarlo who came up with the original idea created two) are truly outstanding.

They're definitely worth a trip to downtown Derby to see!
This exhibit almost makes me want to get some paints and try my hand at dabbling on canvas. Almost.

Since the artwork will be up for awhile, I plan to photograph the rest of the photos and share them here at a future date. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wanted: Poets willing to share their work

Arts council plans 2nd poetry reading

The May poetry event hosted at the Gallery@37 on Elizabeth Street in Derby was such a success that plans are in the works to stage a second reading in July, Valley Arts Council president Rich DiCarlo said today. 
He has put out a call for poets, lyricists, and writers of all stripes.

Time and date are yet to be determined. 

Hmmm...roses are red, violets are blue, I'll try to write something...and how about you?

(With apologies to talented poets everywhere!)



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Poets of all ages share work at Gallery@37

First poetry reading a success

Jen Mandeville of Seymour reads a poem. Photo by Patricia Villers

The Valley Arts Council's first poetry reading was a big success. The event drew more than 40 people to the Gallery@37, at 37 Elizabeth St., Derby, on a Saturday evening in May.

My husband and I enjoyed hearing the poets' creativity, and marveled at their courage to get up in front of a crowd and bare some raw emotions.

Arts council member Norma Jean Moore of Seymour reads her work.
New Haven artist and arts council member Floatin' Fred injects humor into his presentation.
Photos by Steve DiRienzo

Gallery@37 administrator BillieJo Scharfenberg and council president Rich DiCarlo said the poetry reading was just the first in a series of similar offerings at the gallery, all designed to bring art to the community.

Stay tuned.

Editor's note: Photos posted above were previously published on the New Haven Register's View from the Valley blog.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Derby students get their day in the sun

Students show off their work at the Valley Center of the Arts. Photo by Steve DiRienzo

   The last day of school was indeed a special one last week for some Irving School students.

They were fortunate enough to have their creative artwork chosen for an exhibit at the Valley Center of the Arts, 119 Caroline St., Derby.

Valley Arts Council Vice President Steve DiRienzo of Derby put the exhibit together and hosted a reception for the students, their parents, and Irving art teacher Charlice Culvert.

The event was just one of many community activities in which DiRienzo and other council members participate on a regular basis.

And Valley Arts Council President Rich DiCarlo says they plan to continue working with community members of all ages in the future, through classes and poetry readings and more.

Here are some of the pieces on display:

 The artist wrote that she was thinking of spring and flowers when she painted this.

This vibrant butterfly really caught my eye.

I wonder if someone's "office lady" mom was the inspiration here?

This had to be one of the most unique pieces there.

 Photos by Patricia Villers

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Students feted at Gallery@37 in Derby

Artwork graces gallery wall. Photo by Steve DiRienzo.

After taking after-school classes taught by Valley Arts Council President Rich DiCarlo and Vice President Steve DiRienzo, students from St. Mary-St. Michael School in Derby, Ct. had their work displayed at the Gallery@37.
The gallery is at 37 Elizabeth St., Derby.

I attended an opening reception May 4 for students and their families at the gallery. I saw how proud the budding artists were of their creations, as well as how proud their parents were of them.

A representative from the Orange, Ct.-based Jamie A. Hulley Arts Foundation, which funded the after-school art classes also was on hand. She said she was impressed with the students' artwork. I'm sure she was not alone.

The art remained up on the gallery wall for a week.
DiCarlo "talks art" with students at the reception. Photo by Steve DiRienzo.

Editor's note: I previously published these photos on the New Haven Register's View from the Valley blog.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hulley grant makes art classes a reality

Program promotes children's creativity

I attended an after-school class at St. Mary-St. Michael School and wrote a story about it for The New Haven Register last month.
The program was funded by a generous grant from the Jamie A. Hulley Fund for the Arts, based in Orange, Ct.

These are some of the photos I took while at the Derby, Ct. school: 

Fifth-grader Genesis Brito, 10, of Derby, works on a painting of her dog following the style of Vincent van Gogh. Valley Arts Council President Rich DiCarlo of Derby works with two of her classmates in the background.

Fifth-grader Emily Tokash, 10, of Hamden, paints the sun.

Valley Arts Council Vice President Steve DiRienzo of Derby, far left, works with art students.

Fourth grader Elizabeth DeCrisanti, 10, of Waterbury, puts finishing touches on her abstract painting in the cubism style.

Paint prep!  

This is what I saw when I arrived a few minutes before class started. DiCarlo and DiRienzo said they always prepped the acrylic paints for the pupils to save valuable class time.

Editor's note: These photos previously appeared on the New Haven Register's View from the Valley blog. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Students drawn to Yale Art Gallery exhibits

Field trip funded by the Hulley Arts Foundation

Students in an after-school arts program at St. Mary-St. Michael School in Derby, Ct. view a variety of art forms at the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, Ct.

The program was funded by a generous grant from the Jamie A. Hulley Fund for the Arts, based in Orange, Ct.

Valley Arts Council President Rich DiCarlo and Vice President Steve DiRienzo taught the classes. A total of 27 students participated in the popular program, and school officials hope to offer a similar program next year.

These boys are jotting down notes about what they experienced as they toured the gallery.

Photos by Rich DiCarlo

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A different perspective on art

Welcome to the inaugural post of Brush Strokes, featuring the work and the members of the Valley Arts Council in Derby, Ct.

Or as I like to call it, "The Little Arts Council That Could," with apologies to Watty Piper, author of the classic children's book, "The Little Engine That Could."

Valley Arts Council President Rich DiCarlo and Vice President Steve DiRienzo work on a mural depicting the first bicycle ride in the United States. The council was asked to paint a mural at the second annual Pierre Lallement Festival of Bikes in Ansonia, Ct. Sunday. Lallement lived in Ansonia when he invented the pedal bicycle in 1865.

Although based in Derby, the arts council's reach goes far and wide throughout the Lower Naugatuck Valley towns of Ansonia, Seymour, Shelton, Oxford, Beacon Falls, and Naugatuck.

Here Rich chats with artist Floatin' Fred of New Haven, a Valley Arts Council member, as Joel De Scheen of Derby, left, helps Steve with some detail work on the mural.  

Rich says the arts council's goal is to recognize and promote artistic expression in all its traditional and sometimes not-so traditional forms.

Painters, sculptors, illustrators, stained-glass artists, jewelry makers, fiber artists, poets, and creative folks of every stripe are all invited to join the group and share their art.

Their work is exhibited at the Gallery@37, 37 Elizabeth St., in downtown Derby.

The council also operates the Valley Center of the Arts, 119 Caroline St., Derby, two blocks away. The center is located inside a former firehouse that dates back to the 1920s, and features a meeting room, lounge and offices on the first floor, and studio space rented to artists on the second floor.

Many of the artists will be on hand at the 15th annual Derby Day, a festival featuring food, crafts, children's activities, live music and more, that will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 16 in downtown Derby.

The festival is run by the city's Cultural Commission, and I've seen firsthand how hard they are working to make the event a success.

Stay tuned to this site for more info about our upcoming events and the artists who make them happen.

And thanks for visiting!