Month: April 2016

Illuminated Windows

Julia O’Halloran Faraci



Projection artist Marc Pettersen initiated the Illuminated Windows project to, as the Middletown Press’s feature article said, “illuminate Middletown’s downtown.”


Call for Artists was released through the Illuminated Windows website on April 13. Powered by Weebly, the site  also features mockups and sketches, artist bios, and FAQs giving detailed instructions to potential artists.





The video below, Illuminated Windows Sculpt Day 1, was published on MAC650’s YouTube just afterwards, on April 15.


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In a partnership with two restaurants on Main Street,  the Vietnamese restaurant  Lan Chi’s, and, across the street, the Mexican restaurant Iguanas Ranas iguanas, the Illuminated Windows project will feature a large figure in each restaurant window that symbolizes each cuisine, making them focal features on Main Street and attracting visitors to the North End.

A giant dragon, five feet long, will pulse with color in Lan Chi’s window. Flashing its bright scales, the dragon will – breathe fire!  Across the street, a  four-foot figure of a frog will squat in Iguanas Rana’s window. Strumming a little guitar, it too will be animated by projected lights.


For the window of Lan Chi, paper artist Ben Parker has created a paper dragon. Practicing an art called “geometric origami”, he created the five-foot body from an uncut piece of paper, with the head, flame and legs from additional paper.

Visual artist Jeanette Andriulli, who is featured in the Sculpt Day 1 video above,  is creating a guitar-strumming rana  for Iguanas Ranas.  Andriulli’s background is as a production designer and artistic director on films, with a particular interest in horror.

Pettersen is casting small models of the figures from Quik-Dry cement. The miniature frogs and dragons will be sold to the public. Artists are invited to paint the creatures, which will be displayed at the exhibit opening on May 6th at a reception at MAC650.


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Frog and Dragon figures, cast by Marc Petterson, with origami dragon by Ben Parker.                  Photos by Julia Faraci

Two pieces will be chosen to be projected onto the sculptures in the restaurant windows – the giant guitar-strumming frog in Iguana Rana’s window, the imposing origami dragon in Lan Chi’s. Pettersen will use Adobe Afteraffects to create a looped video to animate the images of the selected figures onto the sculptures.



Experimentation with projection mapping by Marc Pettersen, posted to Facebook page Illuminated Windows Reception and Call to Artists!

Pettersen has been working with projection for some time. In 2013, he collaborated on “Projected World Experience” exhibit, which surrounded visitors with video and sound in a Middletown alley at the “Middletown Remix” arts festival.

“Projected World Experience” photo courtesy of  Marc Petterson

As Vice-President of MAC650, he is active in facilitating and leading events there, including open studios and figure drawing workshops.



Pettersen has primarily used social media for networking and connecting with other artists. When he was new to Connecticut, he used MeetUp frequently to promote events and find people who were interested in workshops. Through MeetUp groups, he found organizations like Hygienic Arts; through Google Apps, he found MakeHaven and the Grove in New Haven.



Ben Parker, the artist who created the dragon, uses a variety of social media to curate, exhibit and demonstrate his work. His website includes a gallery of his origami, a detailed discussion of his philosphy, and links to the publisher of his bookSix Simple Twists.  He discovered Flicker (brdparker) in 2007, and uses it to display his work from wedding invitations, to Trashion Fashion show, to recreations of building (Chicago’s Hancock Building, among others).  He recently started to use Instagram (brdparker), and his artist Facebook page is BRDParker.



As Jeanette Andriulli, the creator of the frog, is also a blogger and writer, she has an active social media presence. She has several websites including her website for her production work at and a blog @rtful Pursuit; she also blogs for MAC650, the artist living space in Middletown, which is the home base for the Illuminated Windows project.




MAC650 and the artists who live and work there are a great part of what keeps the North End vital. Art lovers are attracted to the bright airy space for exhibits and readings and events. The Illuminated Windows reception on May 6th, with the exhibit of painted dragons and frogs accompanied by other works by the participating artists, will be a highlight of Spring arts in Middletown.

The North End thrums with life. Scents of pho and enchiladas and cupcakes waft from restaurants. Scenes of families and friends in bright spring clothing will color the warm evenings. Sounds of laughter and conversation and music will float from the Buttonwood and Eli Cannon’s and local bars.

And amid dancing lights,  a dragon will breathe fire, and a frog will strum a guitar.


Oddfellows Playhouse

logoby Julia O’Halloran Faraci

Its vibrantly magenta-headed History web page proclaims “Oddfellows Playhouse was founded in 1975  as a community-based, multi-cultural theater program designed to include children from all backgrounds.” Throughout its 40+ year history, Oddfellows has been all of that – and more – having  a lifelong effect on thousands of young people in Middletown and beyond.

Today, young people from  “Little Fellows” of 3 and 4, through elementary and middle-school students, and on through high schoolers, explore themselves and their world through the practice and play of theater and circus.

littles 2  bow

Through their participation in Oddfellows, young actors learn different forms of performance craft – acting, movement, circus, improvisation – and practice, perseverance and teamwork. An atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance is nurtured, and differences are respected and celebrated.

The Teen Rep company has performed plays from every genre from ancient Greek and Shakespeare to American and world classics to original and experimental plays.


Oddfellows directs its social media toward three main groups – to families (young people and their parents), to community members and potential audiences, and to Oddfellows alums, an especially large group considering the many children who have participated in programs over the years.

Jean Ann Wertz, Operations Manager

Jean Ann Wertz, Oddfellows Operations Manager, finds Facebook the most powerful platform to capture the attention of her wide ranging audience. Families are the prime audience – parents of the young performers currently attending Oddfellows as well as potential students. Since Facebook is used by adults as well as young people in OP’s target audience, she finds that it is a particularly effective means of contact to families.




Wertz used Facebook’s “Boost” to promote the Spring production of Photo-Two-WebCoE-240x300Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors”. A Broadway World article was posted, resulting in 114 likes and 24 shares – and national attention. Oddfellows can almost always count on coverage from the Hartford Courant  and the Middletown Press – these are popular and Wertz will post links to these articles.

She will also post links to items of interest to young actors and their families: workshop announcements , articles about youth theater, and Oddfellows history.

Twitter  is used too. Timely information, like snow closings, registration reminders, and show blurbs are tweeted – and so are #tbt, announcements of Oddfellows playwright awards, and rehearsal and performance photos of current productions.

wizSpring is a busy time for Oddfellows. After the March production, auditions start for the Spring production and applications are coming in for campers and counselors for the Children’s Circus.

Announcements for registration on the Oddfellows website and Facebook page are accompanied by attractive and bright photos of happy, active, and engaged children.

Registration can be completed easily on a form on the Oddfellows website, and paid through PayPal.

As part of Oddfellows’ mission to serve all children regardless of ability to pay, the Playhouse has financial aid available to any child who otherwise would be unable to attend.


open house

Program registration is open – look what fun you will have with us!

The Children’s Circus is the highlight of the summer for many Middletown families. Every year, hundreds of children spend five weeks learning to juggle, dance, clown, walk on stilts, tumble, and ride unicycles from circus artists – many of whom were circus kids themselves. On the last Friday of the program, they gather in the schoolyard of a Middletown school, and with costumes,handmade props, giant puppets, and colorful sets, they put on the greatest show in Middletown.

3Uni  FireRing   ThreeAcrobats

pyramid     MaAndPa
MountRushmore1 cows

All photos by Kisha McWilliams Michael from “Headin’ West”:  2015 Children’s Circus (

On its webpage, The Oddfellows Circus link has information about the program, which is full-time for the first time in 2016. Since registration is through Kids Arts, the site links to a fillable form through the City’s website.

And because of Oddfellows’ mission to serve all City children, no matter their families’ ability to pay, fundraising is critical. The website’s Donations page links to a JustGive site.


The Oddfellows Alumni Facebook page is used by the many adult children who were Oddfellows Playhouse and Circus kids. Alumni keep track of each other’s life journeys and share memories.

Wertz also keeps in touch with Playhouse alums by sharing articles and news. Recent posts have included “Running Away to Join Circus Theatre” by Gary M. Kramer, published on American Theatre magazine’s website, community announcements,  current photos of Oddfellows kids, and of course, TBTs.


Engaging photos and vibrant design draw users into the website and Facebook pages of Oddfellows Playhouse. The organization reaffirms its long commitment to bringing the arts to the Middletown community with its outreach, communication and service to families.

Photos from, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Videos from Youtube.



by Julia O’Halloran Faraci

The excitement is building for the live and local Middletown Music Festival. Hosting 29 bands on two stages, the Festival, fast approaching on the weekend of August 5-7, promises to be one of the hot events of Middletown’s Summer 2016.

Bands. Food trucks. Vendors. Funding. And – of course – Audiences.

Many things need to be brought together each year for the Festival to work. Musician, singer/songwriter, artist, poet, arts and entertainment writer, blogger, activist, radio host, producer, J-Cherry (aka Jennifer Shafer Wood) uses social media to make music, arts, and activism accessible to the Middletown community and beyond.

The producer recently shared her new Festival trailer on social media.943816_498277387030076_3172598954257564915_n The J-Cherry presence spans many platforms, linked through her blog.

Facebook is one of her most effective means of getting the word out. Middletown Music Festival has its own page. The producer will often use “Boost” to bump publicity through the J-Cherry Facebook page, though though she must keep an eye on her Paypal account as the feature can rack up charges quickly. Shares and comments through posts on her personal Facebook page to her many friends can be most effective.




“People love pictures” and J. Cherry serves up lots of them, along with videos and recordings.  Animals and kids are the most popular visuals. She keeps a GoogleDoc document loaded with blurbs and links that make it easy for her to share posts at intervals before events.

Dotty the Donation Festie Piggy Bank


Through her blog, J-Cherry keeps her audience on top of new additions to the band lineup, and to links to the websites and social media of the the Festival’s acts. By creating partnerships, she extends the reach of her publicity for the event – and the online presence of the artists as well.



Besides the Middletown Music Festival, J-Cherry has her fingers in a range of artistic and activist pies.

BmH_4I0IIAA6ZtmHer band, J-Cherry and the Strawberries, play their blues-rock music at a variety of festivals and venues, including SWAN Day, The Buttonwood Tree, the Performance Hub, and of course, the Middletown Music Festival.






The band recorded their debut album, “In The Belly of The Beast”, in 2014, financed in part by a Kickstarter campaign. J-Cherry and the Strawberries are on Youtube, Reverbnation and CDbaby.


J-Cherry and her husband Timothy Sparks founded the popular “Anything Goes” open mic at The Buttonwood Tree. Though they have handed off those duties to others, they continue their support of Buttonwood through blog posts.

B6r9dULIAAA1ytzCurrently, they also showcase local talent by hosting Voice of the City on Wesleyan radio station WESU 88.1 Middletown.  Featuring “live and local Connecticut arts and music” in a “bi-weekly show featuring the areas finest artists and musicians of every genre”, the show further extends J-Cherry’s audience as well as networking for future events. 



The couple also expressed their commitment to the Sanders presidential campaign by welcoming canvassers to use their home as a base.

J-Cherry’s active Twitter presence attracts like-minded people locally and nationally. Many of her recent tweets are directed toward her passion for activism and politics.



J-Cherry’s GooglePlus page , which has over 190 views, shares her music through links to recordings on Soundcloud. In addition to sharing her own recordings and appearances, she publicizes other local bands and events, from the Monster Mash at Wild Bill’s to the WESU Record Fair. Her blog posts in support of causes from education to water justice to politics have also gained her a following.


Branding her productions and activities through her logos makes the J-Cherry name a distinctive entity. From the Middletown Music Festival to her band’s appearance at Swan Day to WESU’s page for her radio show, to her Instagram, all are tagged with a link to the J-Cherry Presents website.




J-Cherry’s long involvement in Middletown arts and her journalistic experience have given her a knowledge of the community, an affinity for creating partnerships, and expertise in publicity.


Images and videos from the social media of J-Cherry.