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What's all the HooPla about? Art installations 'a labor of love' for local artists

  • Three-year-old Egan Ferris gazes up at a display of giant jellyfish created by artist Mia Radysh during the third annual Winter HooPla at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum rail yard and The Art Garden on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • The third annual Winter HooPla at the Trolley Museum rail yard and The Art Garden on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Visitors of the third annual Winter HooPla view the community exhibit “Against all Odds” at The Art Garden on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Attendees of the third annual Winter HooPla warm up by a fire at the Trolley Museum rail yard on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • A large bird created by artist Reed Arahood is displayed during the third annual Winter HooPla at the Trolley Museum rail yard and The Art Garden on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Elisabeth Radysh adds some finishing touches to an exhibit piece during the third annual Winter HooPla at the Trolley Museum rail yard and The Art Garden on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 in Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



Recorder Staff
Saturday, February 03, 2018

SHELBURNE FALLS – Candles resting inside metal coffee cans gently lit the path to the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum and The Art Garden Saturday night as locals trod through the densely packed snow.

At the end of the freight house, Shelburne Falls resident Elisabeth Radysh stood on a ladder adjusting her piece: black hula hoops linked together with strips of white lace and fabric, all dangling from the building’s eave.

“It’s basically black and white and all the shades in between,” said Radysh, explaining how her creation illustrates “the duality of light and dark.”

Radysh, a toy maker by profession, was one of many guest artists who contributed work to the third annual Winter HooPla, a winter weekend outdoor installation. Her daughter, Mia Radysh, also contributed jellyfish she made out of tissue paper and repurposed plastic bags.

Radysh remarked how the event, which she attended last year, reminds her of her chorus participation where she practices and prepares yearlong for one special concert.

“It’s just done for the sake of doing it and for the audience and for yourself,” she said. “It’s a labor of love.”

Artists Laura Iveson and Jane Beatrice Wegscheider are the event’s primary organizers, this year aiming to create a magical environment focusing on winter myths, whimsical and ephemeral winter-related ideas, light and dark, and contemporary issues. Installations were created using found, repurposed and natural materials, as well as light.

Volunteerism, artists say, is what keeps the event alive and thriving year after year.

“It’s amazing how these few people … pull something together like this,” Radysh said.

“The best thing is how all the volunteers come together to make it happen,” agreed Hannah Harvester, an artist from Conway who made four stained glass window pieces for Winter HooPla with help from 8-year-old Conway resident Avi Utterback. Harvester is Avi’s nanny and art teacher.

The stained glass pieces represented the four elements: air, water, earth and fire.

“We just started drawing,” Avi said of the duo’s inspiration, sitting inside The Art Garden’s indoor exhibit about resistance and resilience called “Against All Odds.”

“We just kind of went with our inspiration, just followed the art spirit,” Harvester added. “It feels really good to have finished the project, to have it look so good and see all the pieces come together.”

Outside, guests could make themselves a cup of hot chocolate or warm up by a fire, where Harvester recounted a remarkable experience of listening to a poem be read surrounded by new acquaintances.

Artist Reed Arahood, of Florence, warmed up and socialized by the same fire. Arahood contributed several feathered friends to Winter HooPla including a pair of large cardboard birds – one orange and one blue – that hung outside between buildings, a matching bird’s nest and blackbirds for the indoor exhibit. The two cardboard birds, they said, had been used in last year’s Green River Festival parade.

Arahood noted their appreciation for an event like Winter HooPla that brings people out into the community and out of any winter doldrums.

“Winter is a time of hibernation for most people,” Arahood said. “Not enough people spend time outside. This is bringing light into darkness in a lot of ways.”

“To see it all up at the end, it’s really awesome,” added Sean Robinson, of Buckland, who described himself as the “get it done kind of guy” who helped with setup, as well as the fire keeper. “It’s beautiful.”

Winter HooPla will continue Sunday night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum rail yard and The Art Garden. Avi said he hopes plenty of people will turn out on Sunday and in years to come.

“If they can find The Art Garden, they can find HooPla,” he said.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257