[This article was originally published in the August 2011 edition of The Middletown Chronicle.  For a PDF of the print version of this story, please click here.]

Across from Coldstone Creamery in the Riverview Shopping Center on Main Street, passersby can catch a glimpse of a unicyclist, a stilt walker, a Shakespearean actor, and an Irish quartet, all waiting for the community to take notice.

Each weekend afternoon and evening through Labor Day, the Middletown Commission on the Arts has scheduled local arts groups to bring a little fun downtown with its first annual Arts Walk.

“We’re really looking for discovery down there,” said Lee Godburn, chairman of planning and projects for arts commission.  “People have plenty to do if they’re eating on Main Street, but there’s nothing to do after that.  I want them to come down any time and find something happening.”

Although off to a slow start due to modest publicity and the recent hot weather, the Arts Walk was designed to bring a festival-like atmosphere and enhance the community feeling of Main Street with interactive performances and entertainment from area nonprofits.

Breandan O’Donnell from the Wesleyan Center for the Arts clutched a stack of flyers to hand out on Saturday, July 16.

“it’ll be good to see some vendors next year.  This definitely has the potential to build up,” O’Donnell said.  “Right now it’s kind of a test drive to see what they need to do to get it to develop.”

Together with CFA Assistant Director for Programming and Events Kyle Clary, O’Donnell tried to interest the few pedestrians wandering by with handouts about upcoming performances that round off Wesleyan’s curriculum and cultural horizons.

“It hasn’t been a large crowd so far, but it’s good to get out into the community and meet people,” Clary said.

A slim gathering watched the CFA’s final scheduled entertainment of lilting Irish music by Ceol Go Main, an Irish band whose name translates to, more or less, “play ’til morning.”  The group attracted an audience made up of the odd bystander and customer from the ice cream parlor next door, though outdoor diners at nearby Amici strained to listen as well.

ArtFarm, the previous weekend’s arts group, had a similar turnout July 8 to 10.  Clusters of children came in twos and threes to play with ArtFarm’s hula hoops, costumes, juggling pins and devil sticks.

But the crowd thinned when Jackie Colman read a theatrical story from Shakespeare’s “Tempest,” and even stil walker Heidi Kirchofer got little more than waves and smiles as she twirled ribbons through the air on the sidewalk in front of the police station.

“I see where this could go long term,” said Allison McDermott, who performs in ArtFarm’s environmental show, Circus for a Fragile Plant.  “This is a great launching pad for building arts and community in Middletown.”

ArtFarm’s motto — Theater.  Simple living.  Activism. — complements the Arts Walk’s ideals of inviting the community to be more involved together in the Main Street experience.  And though this season has hardly begun, Godburn is planning for next year, seeking vendors and local nonprofits alike.

“I’m hoping this will be a lot of fun, artsy-related types of things that will just enhance your visit to downtown,” Godburn said.  “All of my participating organizations are already making a two-year plan.”

Upcoming arts groups for the Arts Walk include Wesleyan Potters, The Buttonwood Tree, and Wesleyan’s Green Street Arts Center, with the Middletown Police Department involved as well.

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