Friday, February 22, 2008

Alternatives to the Cineplex for Film Buffs

Are you dispirited to look at the listings for the only movie theatre in town, to discover there's absolutely nothing you want to see on any of the sixteen screens?

Sure, there's always Netflix, the library's excellent DVD collection, or the local movie rental store, but some people still pine for the get-out-of-the-house, communal feeling of sitting in a dark room with a lot of other people and watching a movie on a big screen.

There are alternatives in The Ham, if you know where to look.

Framingham State College offers an international film series, with several screenings during the academic year in the College Center. Next up is the Danish film After the Wedding, on March 27. Check out the FSC events schedule for more information.

The Framingham Public Library has a frequent and varied schedule of free films screened at the main library downtown. On March 6 the award-winning American independent film Sweet Land is scheduled. Check the library events schedule for more information.

Amazing Things Arts Center has a very cool Indie Film Night on the third Wednesday of every month. This series features local, independent film makers, who both introduce their works and answer audience questions afterward. If you've never had this opportunity, it can open up a whole new aspect of the cinematic experience for you. And popcorn is included in the admission price!

So next time you're in the mood for a good film and the cineplex offerings don't cut it, plan ahead a little and have an alternative cinema experience in The Ham!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday Acoustic Open Mike Night at Firefly's

As promised, here's another review of one of The Ham's live music venues. This time, we're visiting Firefly's, the self-proclaimed "Bodacious Bar-B-Que" at the Stop and Shop plaza on Old Connecticut Path.

Wednesday nights from 8-11 p.m., regional blues legend Bruce Marshall hosts an acoustic open mike sure to get your toes a' tappin'. Bruce opens with a 45-minute set of his own, and then opens the mike up to anyone brave enough to scrawl their name on the sign-up sheet resting on a clipboard next to the small stage area in the restaurant's bar. After about a year and a half, the open mike has built up a steady following, and the sign-up list often has fifteen or more names waiting for their time in the spotlight.

Ostensibly begun as an acoustic blues open mike, in reality a number of other music styles are frequently represented, including folk, rock, and jazz. There's a heavy presence of singer-songwriters playing acoustic guitar, but if you just want to sing or play another instrument, Bruce is ready and willing to support you with his guitar, as well as lead or backing vocals. With over thirty years as a professional musician, the man is a walking jukebox, and if he doesn't know the song you want, he can probably wing the guitar part pretty well if you tell him the general style and key.

And there's no cover, so feel free to stay for just a song or two or the entire evening. Many people come for dinner and then linger over a few drinks enjoying the music, supporting musician friends, or maybe belting out a few tunes of their own. The talent ranges from pros dropping in to practice new material, to amateur musicians eager to get some experience playing before a live audience. A two-song maximum per person keeps things moving nicely, from perhaps a Delta blues to a Bruce Springsteen cover, to an original folk song.

And of course there's also an occasional surprise guest who sits in for Bruce's set, and maybe with some of the open mikers as well. A recent standing-room only crowd cheered and clapped wildly when reknowned blues harmonica player and singer James Montgomery played an hour-long set with Bruce Marshall, then graciously played harmonica for a few of the open mike participants that followed.

So if you think Wednesday is just another boring middle of the week night, come on down to Firefly's for some barbeque and equally hot local music!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Our Diverse Art Scene

For a suburban town, we've got a pretty healthy art scene. All of the components are present: gallery space to show the work, and of course, a strong community of working artists to actually create the art work. Having an acclaimed art museum, which also offers classes, additionally gives legitimacy, strength and diversity to the local art community.

The Danforth Museum of Art, with its eye-catching metal sculptures on its front lawn facing Union Avenue downtown, is a high-visibility icon of the role visual arts play in the community. Its exhibitions have featured artists with national and international reputations as well as regional and local practitioners.

Its permanent collection focuses on 19th and 20th century American and European artists, including household names like Whistler, Picasso, and Matisse. Its museum school offers over a hundred classes and workshops and includes fifty working artists on its faculty.

The Framingham Artists' Guild is, after over fifty years of existence, the town's oldest artist organization. To some people in town, the most visible evidence of the group's work is at the exhibits they offer during the band concerts on the town green in Framingham Centre every summer.

Saxonville Studios, a group of artists with loft studios in the old mill complex on Concord Street in Saxonville, is widely-known for its annual spring open studios, which brings a little bit of Soho or the South End to the village every year. In existence for sixteen years, the fifteen artists represent a wide diversity of styles and media.

Fountain Street Studios, in the historic Bancroft Building in South Framingham, is both the new kid on the block, founded in 1996, and the largest collection of artist spaces in town, with over fifty working artists represented. Fountain Street also opens its doors for an open studios weekend each spring.

So where else in town is original art being exhibited, and often available for purchase? The Mazimanian Art Gallery at Framingham State College features student, faculty, and professional artists in exhibits that change nearly every month during the academic year.

The Tower Gallery at Framed In Time, a frame shop on Central Street in the Saxonville mill, offers numerous exhibits throughout the year.

Amazing Things Arts Center exhibits art work in its Saxonville location on Nicholas Road, as well as its "satellite gallery" at the Starbucks coffee shop on the corner of Route 9 and Prospect Street. Looks for Amazing Things to bring more visual art to downtown Framingham as it completes its transition to its new location at the fire house on Hollis Street this year.

Espresso Paulo, the coffee shop/bookstore in Nobscot Shopping Center on Water Street, has regular art exhibits, as does the lobby of the main branch of the Framingham Public Library downtown on Pearl Street.

So with all this great art to see all over town, it's not hard to find if you know where to look. And while you're at it, consider buying a piece from a local artist, and give them the support and motivation to keep creating!