You’re hired — start promoting

Last modified: 1/10/2014 12:02:49 PM
TURNERS FALLS — Suzanne LoManto started work three weeks ago and is still caught in the current of her first event as director of the Turners Falls RiverCulture program, Thursday’s “Wonderful Night.”

“They literally said ‘Congratulations, you’re the new director of RiverCulture, you have an event in less than a month,’” LoManto said.

In her capacity as director, LoManto’s primary responsibility is the organization of the Third Thursday Turners Falls project.

RiverCulture is a village booster project targeting the creative economy. Begun in 2006, it is funded by a competitive grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the town of Montague and local sponsors and fundraising. RiverCulture has had a hand in starting many of the annual and one-time events in town, and in promoting all of them, but the focus shifted this year to the Turners Falls Third Thursday series of events.

“It’s a Wonderful Night in Turners Falls,” a holiday promotion begun in 2011, was the template for these, and is now the first event on LoManto’s plate.

Fortunately, LoManto said, Erin MacLean of Loot and Nina Rossi of Nina’s Nook knew she would arrive late in the game and had already started the ball rolling. Rossi and a friend were behind the original “Wonderful Night” event.

“They started everything, so I just started trying to get everything together and get this event off the ground, so honestly I haven’t had a chance to think about my impression of Turners Falls, I’ve been so busy,” LoManto said.

LoManto believes the focus on a semi-monthly event is the right call; this way, if someone hears about an event they just missed, there’s another one coming soon. The Third Thursday events are scheduled for April, May, June, July, September, October and December, each with a different theme and each business’s interpretation of that theme.

“It’s a way of getting people to think about Turners Falls once a month at least on these seven occasions, and come to Turners,” LoManto said. “It brings people to Turners and when they come to Turners and have a good time, they can see themselves living there, perhaps starting a business there.”

LoManto is already in the process of moving into an apartment on Third Street, in downtown Turners, and has lived in western Massachusetts long enough to be familiar with the village. She has had less luck finding a studio there than an apartment. That difficulty has inspired her to consider a real estate component to River Culture; she is considering adding studio space to the list of things RiverCulture advertises, and is already looking for owners of vacant downtown storefronts willing to host artists, free, as a means of adding more art to Avenue A and, she hopes, encouraging artists to resettle.

LoManto herself moved to the area from New Jersey — she has also lived in Germany, Spain and France — to earn her master’s degree in art history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

She recently relocated to Holyoke from Amherst, her home of 20 years and where her two teenagers still attend Amherst Regional High School, and worked in sales for an audio-video company for a time.

At 45, the new position represents a return to where LoManto thought she would be when studying at UMass.

“I trained in art history and I always thought I would be in an arts administrative position and then I became a mother and I took this kind of detour and it was very difficult to get back on track,” she said.

Which isn’t to say she’s been up to nothing since college; she plays bass in two garage bands, paints and creates audio-video art. Her work can be viewed online on her website,

In her spare time, she has helped plan events and set up shows for other artists and musicians.

“This is a job in which I’m doing the things I do on my own except I’m doing it professionally now, so it’s very exciting,” she said.

For her first of the seven monthly events, LoManto plans to draw the festivities up the hill from Avenue A.

The River Station shop and Evoke glass blowing studio share the former auto garage opposite the gas station at the base of the hill on Third Street. Both are new to town this year and both are participating, Evoke with glassblowing demonstrations and River Station with a temporary holiday photo studio. LoManto plans to direct people down Third Street, also home to The Rendezvous bar and Great Falls Harvest restaurant among other businesses, with luminaries along the street.

“It’s a Wonderful Night” begins at 5:30 p.m. and runs until 8:30 p.m. or later at most businesses. The schedule of events includes carolling beginning from Food City, 250 Avenue A, at 5:30 p.m. and a tree-lighting and Santa Claus appearance at 7 p.m. in Spinner Park, on Avenue A by Fourth Street. A free screening of holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” concludes the evening in the Shea Theater, 71 Avenue A.

A full list of participating businesses and specials can be found on the RiverCulture website, .

You can reach Chris Curtis at: 
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257


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