Art Happening brings community together while reflecting Pelham Art Center’s history

The Pelham Art Center reflected its past as well as the growing ability of the community to come together again on Saturday with its Pelham Art Happening, an outdoor festival whose history dates back to 1970, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art called on communities to create events that celebrated art.

In April 1970, the Junior League of Pelham ran a townwide arts festival dubbed the Art Happening that included artwork, performances, music and a marionette show.

Among this year’s activities—celebrating the art center’s 50th anniversary a year late—were a live painting competition, raffles, community artmaking, a dance performance, creation stations and music.

“The Art Happening is so important as a way to bring back the community members to celebrate art together,” said Charlotte Mouquin, the executive director of the art center. “Art literally ties people together through arts and culture, and human history, and getting exposed to new ideas and new concepts.” She said the reason the Pelham Art Center exists is because of that first Art Happening and, as a result, the center wanted to celebrate its 50th anniversary by staging the happening after canceling the event in 2020.

“Art keeps people alive with hope and creativity,” said Mouquin.

Accent Dance NYC,  a diverse dance group founded by Pelham resident Andrea Ziegelman, performed for attendees. The group is a movement-based initiative that performs both educational and professional performances, said Ziegelman.

“Danzon,” the company’s first piece, was a mix of contemporary and ballet, while the second piece, “Finesse,” combined ballet and hip hop. The company’s show was followed by an interactive dance workshop for everyone at the festival.

Ziegelman said the Art Happening was the first live performance for the troop since the Covid-19 pandemic caused so many performances and after-school dance programs to shut down. “Giving back to the community is so important,” she said. “Dance is a great way to celebrate.”

The Art Happening also had many guest artists. Maria de Los Angeles constructed a dress at the event. Kris Campbell showed her floral tapestries. And Capucine Bourcart knitted a blanket out of plastic bags. The event also had a live art competition between artists Jamey Jackson, Heidi Wilkinson and John Gilbert, who took first place prize.

The planning committee at the Pelham Art Center worked hard to make the event a success. There were Covid-19 protocols in place, including mask wearing, sanitizing and social distancing.

Michelle Costanza, communications manager at the center, said she was happy to “see everyone out and about again and supporting the arts.”