There are nearly 100 temporary public art pieces spread across downtown Chatham this summer, most of them whales swimming around Kate Gould Park.
Painted whales. Whales in stained glass. Steam-punk whales.
Artist Dorothy Bassett, who made two of the stained glass windows with the help of her friend Hannah Camp York, is excited about the diversity of the pieces in the annual Chatham Art in the Park project and the work and imagination that the artists there have devoted. whales are covered in local landscapes, intricate carvings, resin and more.
“There are so many different mediums and everyone really makes the piece their own,” she says. “I like to see all the different directions that artists are heading.”
“It seems like every year artists try not to outdo others, but to outdo themselves,” says Jerry Evans, whose influence was the steam-punk theme. “It’s almost like competing against yourself every year, see if you can outdo what you did last year.… Every year (the artists) seem to get better.”
This year’s Art in the Park whales have been on display since late June and will be on display until August 20, when the auction to own one ends at noon. More art is the 38 ‘Oars in the Stores’, on display during Labor Day at outlets around town, and part of a scavenger hunt with a booklet available from the Chatham Chamber of Commerce to find them all.
The 60 ribs are approximately 5 feet long and 15 inches wide and are cut from Versatex, a durable material used for home trim, by Stello Construction, which donates the service. The 38 oars, from Cape Fishermen’s Supply, are 5 feet long.
“Different businesses and traders in town sponsor the whales and oars, and then they invite an artist, or we pair them up with an artist,” said Janice Rogers, Chatham Chamber of Commerce & Merchants Association board member. and editor of Chatham Living by the Revue de la mer.
After the auctions, 50% of the profits go to the artists and the rest to the merchants association to finance other projects such as Mondays on Main, Christmas Stroll and Oktoberfest, or to support local associations.
The reaction of children to whales in the park is the favorite part of the project by Pati Duvall, president of the Guild of Chatham Painters. “If I’m there or even if one of the other performers is there to clean up the whale, the kids are so excited,” Duvall says. “And then when they know you’re the artist, they want their picture taken. With you, and it’s so cute.”
The annual exhibit was established in 2013 by the chamber and merchant association under the name Sharks in the Park, and has since addressed different themes. There have been sharks, mermaids and cutouts of Cape Town’s iconic “arm”. The focus was on whales in 2020 and this continued for another year due to the popularity of this theme.
The idea initially, Rogers said, was a scavenger hunt as a way to get people into town to support local businesses. Back then, sharks were “pretty hot” and there were smaller sharks 2 feet long in stores. Thousands of visitors have used booklets to find them.
For the in-store scavenger hunt, the organizers used the themes of sharks, seals, whales, stripers, boats and now oars.
“I just think it’s such a wonderful community event that brings together different businesses and organizations across the city,” says volunteer Lisa Leigh Connors, editor-in-chief of Chatham magazine. “They all work together” for a family event.
The artists and their work
Bassett first became involved in raising awareness at the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center, where she worked at the time, and now creates art for that center as well as the Chatham Conservation Foundation where she now works. The two 2021 pieces involve stained glass, after getting help from an uncle, who cut the frames, and a lesson and supplies from a friend.
The Marconi whale represents the Cape and the Islands, with different types of blue-green bubble glass, white glass, and darker blue glass. The Conservation Foundation Whale is an abstract design featuring white iridescent blue-green bubble glass, clear wavy glass, and cobalt blue glass.
She says she was inspired by Antoni Gaudi’s stained glass windows in Barcelona, and that the abstract wave pattern is meant to represent “all the fresh water, salt marshes and green vegetation that we protect.”
Duvall, involved with Art in the Park since its inception, created three whales and three oars this year, working with companies on the ideas: whales and oars for Chatham Works and Cape Cod Chronicle (where she often works), plus a whale for Kinlin Grover Real Estate and a train for Sotheby’s Real Estate.
Tilda Bystrom – who attended the Creative Arts Center in Chatham and was a member of the Guild of Chatham Painters – also decorated at least one whale each summer and sometimes three or four. “I love doing it,” she says.
Her two this year, for Cape Cod Bank 5 and Summer Sitters, have taken weeks to complete, in part because she wants to fill both sides. The Shore Whale, called “The Heart of the Town,” honors the 125th anniversary of the Eldredge Public Library, with the library on one side and Town Hall, church and shops on the other. The Whale Summer Sitters features a Chatham Harbor wharf with a new boathouse, Stage Harbor lighthouse and kids sailing – a nod to her grandchildren taking sailing lessons this year.
Bystrom said she liked the variety of styles, materials and ideas used for the whales.
“I just think it’s amazing to see the talent. And they’re all locals, and you see the same people coming year after year, and every year they get better,” Bystrom says. “People love to go and see them and people remember them too.”
Artist Sydney Whitcomb grew up in Chatham and was a student at Chatham High School when she painted her first piece Art in the Park. It was for Hansen Business Solutions, chosen because Whitcomb was Ashley Hansen’s babysitter.
“I guess it’s just a fun way to get involved in a community thing,” says Whitcomb. “I also really enjoy art, and when I have an outlet for it that also benefits the community, (and) it’s something that I can be during (for) summers in Cape Town, I don’t did not question the desirability. “
She used old family photos to create an outdoor beach scene for her whale this year, as spending an entire day there was one of her favorite parts of growing up in Cape Town. She said she usually enjoys walking around to see all of the artists’ styles and interpretations, but since she’s not in Cape Town this summer, “as soon as the photos were posted I went to look at them all.”
Evans decided to get involved when he started with the shark theme because he is interested in sharks. His work is sponsored by his own company, Chatham Wind and Time, and this year he created the steam-punk themed whale with all the different gear and a white shark in the middle.
“So that’s actually Moby-Dick, and the new unspeakable truth is that Moby-Dick was actually a cyborg white shark,” Evans jokes.
He also creates the exhibition welcome sign and the plaques identifying the sponsors and artists that are placed in front of the whales.
His advice to visitors and residents: “Come see the whales. “