CAC's Popular Festival Of The Arts Returns To Chase Park

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Arts

One of Harwich artist Rick Benson's sharks. COURTESY PHOTO

As with other aspects of life in Chatham, sharks have worked their way into the 45th Festival of the Arts sponsored by the Creative Arts Center (CAC) in Chatham.

“I have always loved sharks,” said Rich Benson of Harwich, a woodcarver, one of 120 artists and craftsmen participating in the show which begins on Friday.

“I began carving whales, stripers, tuna and all kinds of fish back in the ‘80s,” Benson explained. “I had no formal art training and just learned by doing. I spent a lot of time on the water as a Coast Guard-licensed captain and daily saw firsthand what I would later recreate in wood. I did a lot of shark fishing over the years and tagged nearly 100 percent of those that were caught.”

What’s popular in Benson’s inventory now? Great whites, of course. “Probably 50 percent of sales are great whites,” he adds.

Benson creates his sharks and whales from Eastern white pine and basswood. “After I have cut out the shape I want from a particular piece of wood, I use a large hand-held angle grinder to remove as much as I can before I start with hand tools,” he says. “I make a lot of sawdust. As I make most of my pieces to appear realistic, it takes a lot of time to get to the point when I can start the painting process.”

Benson is one of 16 woodworkers who will participate in the popular three-day festival that includes 120 juried, nationally-known artists and craftsmen who will showcase their original handmade items in Chase Park. The festival “celebrates the importance of art in our community and in our individual lives,” says Angela Zoni Mault, CAC executive director. Over 100 volunteers make sure the festival runs smoothly.

As well as Benson’s sharks and whales, available wood items by various artisans range from cutting boards, furniture, boxes, signs, birdhouses and bowls to decoys.

There truly is something at this festival for art lovers of all types. Whether you’re looking for things made of fiber such as clothing, handbags and scarves, jewelry, pottery or fine arts, it’s here.

The field of photography will be represented by 16 photographers, including Shareen Davis of Chatham, who is well-known for her photographs revolving around the fishing industry, particularly weir fishing. Her work extends beyond fish to portraits, seascapes and more.

The ever-popular sharks make their way into the festival’s photography booths, too, in the photographs of Wayne Davis, a Rhode Island pilot and photographer who photographs sharks from a Citabria airplane that allows him to stay in the sky for up to 12 hours pursuing sharks, whales, swordfish, tuna, dolphins and seals. Davis’s travels have brought him often to Chatham where he has created such photos as “Chatham Fog” and “Monomoy Fog.”

Once a commercial photographer, Cam Chapman now travels the back roads of the U.S. in a “vintage motor coach” looking for “an enhanced reality—the perfect day in the perfect light.” He brings to the festival photographs of East Coast lighthouses.

Sixteen fine artists will be on hand. Laurel Wilson of Yarmouth Port has painted a watercolor called “Windy Day, Stage Harbor. “This is a view from the Oyster River of the backside of Stage Harbor Lighthouse on a windy day,” she writes in her description. She has also painted skiffs on the Mitchell River and many other marine and beach scenes around Cape Cod.

If you’re looking for something different, Oana Lauric has painted her way through many European cities as well as Boston. Many of her original acrylic paintings are available in limited edition giclée prints.

Gill Wilson at Chatham Stoneware offers wheel-thrown and handmade mugs, pitchers, lamps and more. “I believe in the philosophy that ‘function dictates form,’” he says on his website. Many of the items in deep green and blue glazes are stamped Chatham and show either an anchor or a lighthouse, making them nice keepsakes as well as functional items.

Furniture by Frank Criscione’s American Handcraft will also be available. Criscione is an adjunct professor of industrial design at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He creates custom furniture and objects using wood, steel, textiles and ceramics using both new materials and recycled materials.

Also featured at the festival will be a children’s tent with face painting and more. Food will be available from two gourmet food trucks. A free shuttle will run continuously from parking lots at the CAC at 154 Crowell Rd. and Chatham Community Center at 702 Main St. to Chase Park on Cross Street. The festival, which will draw artists and festival-goers from across the U.S., runs for three days: Friday, Aug. 19 to Sunday, Aug. 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free. For more information on the festival and its artists and craftspeople, visit