Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coming Down To The COTA Wire

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) held its general meeting at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA on Tuesday August 26th to plan their 37th Annual Jazz and Arts Festival which is scheduled to be held September 5th - 7th. I arrived at the meeting a bit later than usual and found the room packed with jazz and festival lovers eagerly absorbing the news shared by the Board of Directors and committee chairs. Unfortunately, from my vantage point, I couldn’t hear much of what was being discussed but I could feel the energies as they were focused upon making the final preparations for the festival.

One if these preparations manifested itself in the announcement that the New COTA Tee Shirt were available for distribution to volunteers who would support this year’s festival as staff members. So, when the members of the Tee Shirt Committee, Norma and Ron Hart, pulled one of the garments out of the box they were stored in, an enthusiastic round of applause filled the room. The reality of another festival and all the memories it will create became much closer to the attendees as they picked up their shirts at the end of the meeting.

The meeting came to a close and I shared some joyously thoughtful words with my friends before bidding them adieu. I then traveled to the neighboring Presbyterian Church of the Mountain who were hosting the second of three rehearsals for The Celebration of the Arts Jazz Mass which takes place annually on the Sunday Morning of the festival. Members of the Choir led by Teresa Marino and Orchestra led by Richard Chamberlain played together in the church’s fellowship hall as their harmonies blended into a beautifully appetizing foretaste of the wonderful spiritually nutritious meal that awaits all those who will be present at the Mass.

The final general meeting is scheduled to be held at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA on Tuesday September 2nd beginning at 6:30pm. The public is invited and encouraged to attend this meeting as all ideas are welcomed and opportunities to participate as volunteers are provided. You’ll find more photographs taken during the Tuesday August 26th meeting at The COTA Meetings 2014 Gallery at

The mission of The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) is to present and to support the art of jazz in all its forms and historical breadth through youth education, performing arts presentations, scholarship opportunities, and community outreach throughout the Pocono area. Please Explore The Celebration of the Arts Facebook Page at, their Website at, or by calling 570-424-2210 to learn how you can become a volunteer and to learn for more information all about COTA has to offer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Art of Dog

The School of Visual and Performing Arts (SVPA) in Stroudsburg, PA held an Artists’ Reception on Saturday August 16th for their exhibition titled, “Dog Days of Summer” featuring the work of local artists. To many, the term from which the exhibition’s title derives reflects the searing temperatures associated with the scorching aspects of the season which usually occurs at its zenith during the month of August. However, as the Summer of 2014 in the Northeast Section of PA has been a practically cooler one than normal, the atmospheric heat needed to be generated so the exhibition’s title would have any merit was left to the gallery and the work it presented.

The bright searing colors found in much of the work brought their sweltering essence to those who were drawn near to the warmth they emitted while some pieces shared their brightness through some cooler hues hinting at the temporal realities of the season. The well attended event also generated a warming trend as conversations filled with love and excitement for the art being displayed filled the gallery and hearts of those who engaged in them. The entertainment and creative demonstrations which took place throughout the evening would serve to enhance the congenial warmth shared by the gallery’s visitors.

These began with a Tai Chi demonstration which was proceeded by some welcoming words given by the gallery’s director, Jody Singer, along with several announcements relating to the school and future exhibitions. Shane Izykowski also shared his welcoming sentiments with the gathering along with news relating to the much publicized Street Art Project: II and how local artists and art lovers can become involved through their skills and support as the video found at describes in detail. A special Fund Raising event will take place at the school on Saturday August 23rd. It was after these sharings did the Tai Chi demonstration given by Kevin Cormier of Glowing Energy Tai Chi begin.

Several members of the gathering took their places in their stoking feet upon the specially matted floor reserved for the dance lessons the school conducts while Mr. Cormier offered a basket filled with slips of paper to individual spectators so they could select from them a series of concepts in which those participating would explore through their movements. The gentleness observed by those who viewed the exercise found its way in the countenance of all as a profound quietness was felt among the entire gathering. In addition to his work at Glowing Energy Tai Chi, Mr. Cormier also teaches these ancient techniques at Ensley’s Martial Arts in Stroudsburg, PA and owns Burnt Toad Studios offering screen printed tees and other items and art stuff. The demonstration came to its conclusion leaving all with an appreciated sense of peace and wholeness which enhanced their experiences of the reception as the evening moved on.

A delight filled the air as it was announced that a touch of musical theater was to be presented. The song titled, “So In Love” from the Cole Porter musical “Kiss Me Kate” was performed by the school’s Senior Theater class members Gil Janes as Joseph and Theresa Hunter as Olivia with direction provided by Shellie Bransford who is the course’s instructor. The presentation was a joy to watch as the talent of the actors danced lightly into the hearts of those who viewed them. The conclusion of the performance was followed by some appreciatory sentiments expressed by SVPA’s facilitator, Kathy Kroll, who also invited those present to explore the school’s schedule of classes and discover the enormity of their wonderful talents through them.

An opportunity to explore the work further and to purchase raffle tickets so those who did so would be eligible for a chance to win a piece created by one of the many artists whose work hung upon the walls was affored as a break in the evening’s entertainment ensued. While doing this, The Mountain View Vineyard and Winery which is located in Stroudsburg, PA offered a variety of their satisfying blends of wines for sampling. The tasty elixirs enhanced the conversation further as the musical performance of the evening began to take their place.

From the very first notes Jazz Saxophonist Adam Niewood played upon his instrument led those who gathered for the art and conversation to become transfixed to its melodious sounds. Mr. Niewood has gained a reputation for his talents in the local jazz community and beyond and those who listened to his musical blendings were pleased to learn this reputation has been well deserved. Mr. Niewood was joined by his musical friends which included Gene Perla on Upright Bass, Vaughn Soffey on Guitar, and Bill Goodwin on Drums. Each musician has become well known for their outstanding talent with their instrument in their own right, but, together, the gentle beat of the music they played filled the room as only the best jazz could.

It was when the performance given by Adam Niewood and his friends concluded did the invigoratingly soothing effects of the music soon became accentuated by the announcement that the evening’s Art Raffle, whose proceeds would be utilize toward the endeavors of The School of Visual and Performing Arts as it continues to serve the artistic community, would soon take place. Many hurriedly moved toward those who were designated to provide the tickets for purchase so they could be placed in cups corresponding to the coveted pieces of art that were offered as prizes. Last moment selections among the cups were being made as Jody Singer and Shane Izykowski joined together to begin the exuberant process of calling the numbers who would determine who won each item.

It was then when the artist who donated a piece for the raffle were invited to come forth in order to pick a numbered ticket from the cup that were placed before his/her creative endeavors which was held beautifully by the even more beautiful Ashley Catherine Fontones whose elegance enhanced the qualities of the work she touched. A quietness filled the air until it was shattered by an exclamation of piercing delight as the final digit called revealed the winning ticket’s owner. This joyful process of acquisition of art continued until the final item was awarded to its new owner and the evening began to experience a number of fond farewells that were shared among the company as they began to leave.

The evening proved to be a profoundly wonderful one reflecting the wonderful aspects of the Summer season through the marvelous work presented, the mindfully peaceful Tai chi demonstration, the delightful show tune performance, the delectable wines that were wantonly sampled, the mood enhancing jazz, and the climatic excitement that come from winning some wonderful art to adorn the walls of their home. Yet, everyone who gathered at the SVPA for the Artists’ Reception of their Dog Days of Summer Exhibition took something with them to adorn their soul as well. You’ll find more photographs taken during the Artists’ Reception in The SVPA 2014 Gallery at

The School of Visual and Performing Arts is located in Stroudsburg, PA and has been instrumental in the creative development of its students for over 20 years. The facility holds classes in dance, ballet, and movement led by Diane Verdi, Paul Heeschen, and Kathy Kroll as well as classes in the theater arts led by Jazmin Ospa and Shellie Bransford. The school also offers a number of workshops with each focusing on a variety of creative disciplines. You can learn more about The School of Visual and Performing Arts by exploring their Website at

The exhibition titled, “Dog Days of Summer” will be on display in The School of Visual and Performing Arts until September 15th. Their next exhibit is titled, “Changing Seasons, Changing Scenes” with an Artists’ Reception scheduled for Saturday September 20th beginning at 6pm. The exhibit will continue to be on display until October 13th. All area artists are welcomed to participate by placing their work related to the theme in the exhibit.  The drop off dates are September 18th and 19th. Please contact Jody Singer at for more information.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Threading the Needle for The COTA Tapestry

The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) held its general meeting at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA on Monday August 11th to plan their 37th Annual Jazz and Arts Festival which is scheduled to be held September 5th - 7th. A great number of Jazz and Festival fans attended the meeting while sharing the anticipation of another year filled with the magic of the event. These included a number of newcomers to the meetings who were eager to serve the festival and all it brings to the community through their willingness to volunteer in the many opportunities the festival provides those who want to help.

The meeting began with the introduction of Constable Jeff Williams of the Delaware Water Gap Police Department. He was welcomed by the gathering and a great deal of the ensuing conversation with him related to the relationship the department and the festival has had in the past and will have during the upcoming event. As the conversation with Constable Williams concluded, it was announced Bob Widner will now be the new official COTA Photographer as David Coulter has left the position. It was also announced a birth of a child to one of the celebration’s longtime volunteers but I neglected to get their name. Still, I shared with the gathering their communal congratulatory expressions to the parent and child as well as to all who were mentioned.

In the commencement of making the final preparations for the festival, some upcoming activities were shared with the group. These included the annual clean up of the site by the members of this year’s COTA Cats who are high school students who receive special musical training by seasoned Jazz musicians and will perform during the festival as an orchestra. The date for the cleanup is set for Saturday August 17th and those who wish to join these hearty students are welcomed to do so.

It was also mentioned that the process of preparing other physical needs of the festival site such as placing fences around the ground’s perimeter and the raising the stage’s tarp is scheduled to begin Saturday August 23rd. The later often proves to be a spectacular event reminiscent of tent raising events provided by traveling circus in days of old. Those who wish to partake these hearty endeavors are also welcomed to do so.

Many more topics were shared and discussed until the meeting came to its conclusion. However, the adjournment did not vacate the Inn as many lingered in order to share more conversations about the festival and how their lives were in general. The next general meeting scheduled to be held at The Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap will be on Tuesday August 26th beginning at 6:30pm. The public is invited and encouraged to attend this and all future meetings as all ideas are welcomed and opportunities to participate as volunteers are provided. You’ll find more photographs taken during the Monday August 11th meeting at The COTA Meetings 2014 Gallery at

The mission of The Celebration of the Arts (COTA) is to present and to support the art of jazz in all its forms and historical breadth through youth education, performing arts presentations, scholarship opportunities, and community outreach throughout the Pocono area. Please Explore The Celebration of the Arts Facebook Page at, their Website at, or by calling 570-424-2210 to learn how you can become a volunteer and to learn for more information all about COTA has to offer.

A Decade of Blues

The 10th Annual Bushkill Blues Festival took place at the Lehman Township Community Park located in Pike County, PA on Sunday August 10th. SheilaMark, Teddy Young and the Aces, and The Merchants of Groove performed throughout the beautiful Summer day which was enhanced by the serene atmosphere provided by the park’s natural setting. Although each band played an individual set, musicians from all three ensembles played together in support of each other and the wonderful music they shared a love in.

I arrived at the festival site as Teddy Young (the festival’s organizer) and the Aces were performing. I immediately became transfixed by their musical stylings as I endeavored to set up my folding chair in order to enjoy the day. Their melodic riffs and chord changes inspired a soothing sensation among the crowd while leading them through a journey in which each note served as a stepping stone to their soul. The band consisted of Teddy Young (who is considered a world-class guitar player and has toured extensively throughout North America) on vocals and guitar, Rob “Frog” Fenstermaker on Bass Guitar, and Neil Longo on drums.

Mark Hamza of SheilaMark was also on stage to lend his talents to the performance with the Hammond B3 Organ. During their set, Teddy Young and the Aces were joined by Sheila Stratton (also of SheilaMark) who lent her incredible vocals to a number of pieces adding a nuanced substance to each song her soulful phrasing blessed. You can learn more about Teddy Young and the Aces by exploring their Facebook Page at and SheilaMark from their Facebook Page at

A break ensued after the performance and I took advantage of the time to explore the natural surroundings of the park as well as to engage in some delightful conversations with the many Blues Lovers who populated the grounds. I thoroughly enjoyed the discoveries I encountered in the visual and verbal scenes I came upon. I met a number of festival goers by the food concessions set up by The Bushkill Outreach who were also offering raffle tickets and other items whose proceeds were gathered to provide food, clothing, and services to needy families in the Pike County, PA area. You can learn more about Bushkill Outreach and all they do to enhance the lives of those living in their community by exploring their Website at

As the break come to a conclusion, The Merchants of Groove came on stage to fill the air with their kick ass rhythms that shook the crowd with their beats encouraging many to bop and weave their heads while listening with their entire being. During their set, the high octane nature of the majority of the songs they performed allowed a contrast to manifest itself when they occasioned to present more thoughtful pieces that spoke to the heart of each listener through the language of pathos. The Merchants of Groove consisted of Paul Lyon on vocals and guitar, Joey “Hotbox” Simon on harmonica, and Mike Basalyga on drums.  Rob “Frog” Fenstermaker remained on stage with his Bass Guitar as did Mark Hamza with the Hammond B3 Organ and Teddy Young with his Guitar. You can learn more about The Merchants of Groove by exploring their Facebook Page at

The day was filled with sights and sounds to wander and ponder as the magnificence of the 10th Annual Bushkill Blues brought a delight to all who were touched and enlivened by the music. Although I left before the festival was officially over, I could already tell the many who attended the event would be eagerly awaiting the 11th Annual Bushkill Blues Festival which will take place in 2015 when it’s final notes did arrive. I count myself among the eager many. You’ll find more photographs taken during the festival in The Bushkill Blues Festival 2014 Gallery at

The Annual Bushkill Blues Festival is a free event and is open to the public. It takes place in the Lehman Township Community Park which located on Winona Falls Road in Pike County, PA. The Festival was founded by Teddy Young and is sponsored by Lehman Township Supervisors John P. Sivick, Richard C. Vollmer, and Paul Menditto. You can learn more about The Annual Bushkill Blues Festival by exploring their Facebook Page at

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Storm of Sculptures for UUFP

On the final day of July (which was Thursday the 31st), members and friends of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Poconos (UUFP) ventured out of the Pocono, PA area and into the Hudson Valley region of New York State in order to explore the magnificence of a Sculpture Park located at The Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, NY. Many of the company of adventurers met at the UUFP location in Stroudsburg, PA around the 8am hour to honor the environment by practicing the art of car pooling. From there, two car loads of thoughtful Unitarians and friends left for the communal destination with each traveling different routes while a third vehicle left the site in order to pick up additional friends and members from their homes.

The route of the car I was in led us upon the highways that traveled across the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. This route proved efficient in regards to the time it took to arrive at the destination during the early morning hours. However, a number of scenic vistas came to our attention and we were moved to stop at one in order to partake of its life enhancing beauty. After journeying through more areas filled with the sights of tremendous rivers, flourishing forests, and impressive rock formations, we eventually took the exit ramp in New York State that brought us even closer to our destination which led us to discover several small towns that shared their quaintness with our wandering eyes along the way.

As we arrived to our destination, we went through the entry gate and moved our vehicle to the north parking lot where UUFP members Barbara and Bob Harteis welcomed us with an adorned picnic table with a few culinary goodies in place for those who wished to replenish their energies as they prepared for the art filled treks they would soon experience. The remainder of our company arrived a few minutes later and, being indicative of the independent spirit Unitarians are noted for, the gathering instinctively divided into smaller groups and began their walking tour of the site. The experience would later prove to be an even more individualist one as conversations later in the day would reveal that the work each viewer encountered effected the soul and thoughts in very unique ways.

I was immediately impress with the vastness of the site. The rolling hills with their staggering steepness, the endless fields with their towering blades of grass, and the variety of forests with some protruding from the ground like islands in a grassy sea while others framed the picturesque scene with their wooded beauty enticed the exploring nature of the human soul to delve deeper into its natural majesty. In more common words, it was wow.

Throughout the park, a huge number of sculptures were waiting patently to be discovered. The enormous presence of these gigantic structures touched the imagination through their ability to reach so high into the heavens while blending seamlessly into the topography of the landscape. In fact, it was near impossible not to cultivate a desire to be lifted up upon their pinnacles in order to partake of the breathtaking sensations their intoxicating dimensions while simultaneously immersing oneself in the earthy hues they submerged themselves in. Along with the multitude of pieces on permanent display, there were a number of them which were presented as special exhibits for the park.

One these exhibits was titled, “Zhang Huan: Evoking Tradition” which featured the incredible peaceful work of Zhang Huan who began his career during the 1990s in Beijing, China where he created a body of work that was frequently politically engaging as it touched on issues such as poverty and personal freedoms. He moved to New York in 1998 and expanded his skills there until his return to China in 2005 inspired him to reconnect with the traditional elements of Chinese society. The gentleness and peace found in the country’s Buddhist faith is found throughout the work presented at The Storm King Art Center whose size of the pieces magnifies their serene qualities.

In addition to the structures presented as a special exhibition in the park along with some that will remain on permanent display at the Storm King Art Center, some relatively smaller works created by Zhang Huan was on display at the center’s Museum Building. These include ash sculptures which are crafted from incense ash gathered from Buddhist temples along with Marquettes (preliminary models), drawings, and video offering insights to the artist’s inspirations and creative process. The entire display will be presented at the center until November 9th. You can learn more about the artist and the display by exploring the special Storm King Art Center website at

Another of The Storm King Art Center’s special exhibits that was on display is part of their yearly Outlooks Series and features the work of Virginia Overton. Ms. Overton lives in Brooklyn, NY and has exhibited her work throughout the world. Her untitled piece can be found in one of the Storm King Center’s hay fields and consists of a brass tube which is four inches in diameter and is elevated above the ground. The length of this installation is 500 feet and those who visit it are encouraged to speak into one end as another person would be able to hear what one says on the other end.

Virginia Overton is the second artist invited to participate in the center’s Outlooks series which invites emerging or mid-career artists who has demonstrated a particular facility and promise in working outdoors to create a temporary work of art specifically for The Storm King Art Center. The installation was organized by Nora Lawrence who is the center’s Associate Curator. The work will continue to be on display until November 30th. You can learn more about the artist and the display by exploring the special Storm King Art Center website at

After touring the grounds and partaking a portion of what the center has to offer, the company of friends and members of the UUFP gathered at the picnic table to share a meal with one another. It consisted of a variety of nutritious delights which were as lovingly unique as the person who bought the delectable contribution to the pot luck cuisine. It was during this time a number of topics were explored relating to the esthetic discoveries of the day. This did much to feed the soul of those who shared in this meaningful conversation and ignited a desire to explore more of the grounds when the meal had concluded.

While some sought to venture once again upon the landscape on foot, many took advantage of the tram that the park offers its many visitors. The vehicle traveled over a great deal of the park’s vast areas but, in recognizing it could not realistically touch every area of the site’s offerings in any truly satisfying manner, the tram frequently stopped so those wishing to partake of a more intimate experience with both the art and the natural surroundings could freely do so. While many members and friends of the UUFP of disembarked from the tram at different times, I chose to explore the park after the meal by tram and remained on it until it returned to the point which I embarked upon it. My feet was tired.

I was pleased to see several more of the sculptured pieces than I did during my walking expedition of the park before returning to its picnic area. It was a while after this time did my friends and I gathered together so we could embark on our journey home. Thoughts of returning to this serene park over a more extended period of time filled my mind as in doing so I could explore the work presented more deeply and learn more of each pieces essence and all it has to share with me. In a reflection of our unexpressed communal desire to linger a little while longer with the discoveries of the day, we found a scenic overlook before leaving New York state from which we found ourselves further enchanted by the beauty encompassing the Hudson Valley Region. The experience of viewing the splendor of the rock formations and the river that flowed through them reinforced by desire to return and I most certainly will. You’ll find more photographs taken during the day’s event in The Special Events 2014 Gallery at

The Storm King Art Center is located near the town of Mountainville, NY which is in the Hudson Valley region of New York State. Its season of operation runs every Wednesday through Sunday from April until November. The center complements its permanent installation of sculpture with a variety of special exhibitions which include smaller works and supporting materials shown in the center’s Museum Building. Exhibitions include both works from Storm King’s permanent collection and loans from artists, private collectors, galleries, and museums. In addition to the sculptures they have on display, the center holds special events such as screenings of short films presented upon a screen erected upon it’s vast landscape, weekend Wanderings and Wonderings programs designed to provide a more imaginative exploration of Storm King, and their Annual Gala Dinner and Auction whose proceeds are gathered to support the park. You can learn more about The Storm King Art Center and all their offerings by exploring their Facebook Page at or their Website at

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Poconos (UUFP) is located in Stroudsburg, PA housing a congregation which strives to create a place where people can feel inspired to see, hear, and think in ways that deepen their understanding of life, themselves, and each other. The excursion to The Storm King Center was introduced to the fellowship by member David Learn and supported by members Barbara and Bob Harteis. Service are held every Sunday Morning at 10am and all are invited to attend. You can learn more information about the UUFP and all they offer the community by exploring their Facebook Page at or their Website at