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Crafting an artsy reputation

Cape Ann recognized by AmericanStyle magazine

Joey Ciaramitaro of Captain Joe and Sons with Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco (center) and Kristine Fisher, both of seARTS. Joey Ciaramitaro of Captain Joe and Sons with Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco (center) and Kristine Fisher, both of seARTS. (Lisa Poole for The Boston Globe)
By Terry Weber
Globe Correspondent / June 23, 2011

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When most people visualize Gloucester, they imagine a fisherman casting his nets, or the white sands of Good Harbor Beach, or the excitement of spotting a whale as it rises from the ocean’s depths. Now, thanks to many active artists and art organizations, Gloucester is on its way to reestablishing its reputation as a center for the arts.

The city made the grade as a popular arts destination in an article appearing in the summer edition of AmericanStyle magazine. Gloucester was ranked third in the small-city category with other cities that had a population below 100,000. The top two spots were taken by Asheville, N.C., and Santa Fe, respectively.

AmericanStyle, a quarterly publication with a readership of 125,000, focuses on art, crafts, travel, and interior design. Every year, cities compete to be included in the publication’s Top 25 Arts Destinations edition.

Leading the community campaign to get Gloucester on the ballot was Kristine Fisher, board-elect member of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (seARTS).

Based in Gloucester, seARTS is a coalition of artists and organizations whose mission includes promoting Cape Ann as an arts and cultural center.

Members of seARTS and their community partners, including the Good Morning Gloucester blog; the Rockport Art Association, the Cape Ann Art Haven, and the Cape Ann Museum, pursued the nomination and rallied locals and the readership of AmericanStyle magazine to vote.

To get the nomination, Fisher and members of seARTS compiled a list of well-known arts and cultural hubs. The lengthy list included museums, art associations, theaters, and individual artisans. Then, Fisher gathered more than 100 brochures, sorted them according to attributes, and sent the package to AmericanStyle Magazine.

“We captured a holistic visual snapshot of our richly diverse and active arts community,’’ said Fisher. “We also sent a detailed letter that championed why we should be nominated.’’

Two days later, Fisher received an e-mail from the magazine with notification that Gloucester was nominated in the small-city category.

“Dozens of people and businesses throughout Cape Ann helped us get nominated; it was an amazing community effort,’’ said Fisher. “We were thrilled to get the nomination and although the magazine specifically lists Gloucester as the number three arts destination, the nomination highlighted all of Cape Ann’s arts attractions.’’

Cape Ann comprises Gloucester, Essex, Rockport, and Manchester-by-the-Sea. Gloucester has one of America’s oldest continuously working art colonies, Rocky Neck Art Colony, which has 95 artist members, including 34 whose studios or galleries are open to the public.

Historically, Gloucester was also the home of world-renowned American marine painter Fitz Henry Lane, and it was the summer home of painter Winslow Homer.

“The fishing industry, the maritime history, and the natural beauty of Cape Ann and its coastline go hand-in-hand with the arts community,’’ said Jacqueline Ganim-DeFalco, chairwoman of the seARTS board of directors. “What inspired the likes of Winslow Homer and Fitz Henry Lane still inspires and attracts artists today.’’

Also noted in the article was the annual Cape Ann Artisans Studio Tour which allows visitors to meet artists in their studios, and the annual Gloucester Waterfront Festival, where artists from around the country display their art at Stage Fort Park.

The article in AmericanStyle not only gave a nod to Cape Ann’s history but acknowledged new arts attractions in Gloucester, including the transformation of the historic Blackburn building on Main Street into an art center called The Cape Ann. Artists are invited to show their work inside the gallery for free, and the center also offers live music and theater.

SeARTS is also in the forefront of promoting art appreciation. One seARTS program, called Partner with an Artist, recently linked selected artists with local businesses.

“The PWA program shows how art can be totally infused into our everyday lives,’’ said Ganim-DeFalco.

“Our program ran throughout the month of May, and the two most recent exhibits allowed for colorful and educational prints to be displayed in a lobster warehouse, and stunning photography to be enjoyed by employees of a marine shipyard. Partnerships like this really make a passerby stop and appreciate art in unexpected ways and places.’’

On display recently at Captain Joe & Sons Wholesale Lobster Company on Gloucester’s waterfront were books, graphic designs, and illustrations of Abby Ytzen, an artist from Beverly. Ytzen partnered with Joey and Frankie Ciaramitaro, co-owners of the lobster company, to promote art and educate the public about the fishing industry.

“I am a lobsterman by trade,’’ said Joey Ciaramitaro. “But here in Gloucester, I am surrounded by artists of all kinds and I have learned to appreciate how art can educate and inspire. The way my art partner, Abby, presented fishing statistics in an interesting and artistic visual display is nothing short of astounding.’’

At the Gloucester Marine Railways, John Tagiuri’s photography is on display in the main offices. The shipyard is the oldest operating shipyard in America and sits on one end of the art-filled Rocky Neck neighborhood.

Tagiuri, who is also a sculptor, lives in Needham and his family has summered in Gloucester for years.

“I view these beautiful old ships as basically grand-sized sculptures,’’ said Tagiuri. “People used their hands to build them. I wanted to capture their grandeur in my photography as well as document the history here.’’

Viking Gustafson, general manager of the Railways, welcomed the partnership with seARTS and the art of Tagiuri in her work environment. Gustafson helped arrange photo sessions with the ships’ captains and noted that the Railways, although it is industrial in nature, is a proud supporter of Cape Ann’s art scene.

“The ship captains and their crews who pass through these halls are honored that their vocations are being celebrated through photographic art,’’ said Gustafson.

“There is an art, a science, and a history to how we live and work here in Gloucester and on Cape Ann,’’ Gustafson said. “And we’re thrilled how our locals and our community are receiving national recognition.’’