Arts on Main helping to revitalize downtown Stafford

By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Wed., Apr. 17, 2013
Student artists from Somers and Stafford high schools - (l-r) Onie Tumel, Erica Lawler, Jack Yarrows, Charlotte MacGregor and Joshua Gluck - sit under their artwork. Photo by Kitty LeShay.
Student artists from Somers and Stafford high schools - (l-r) Onie Tumel, Erica Lawler, Jack Yarrows, Charlotte MacGregor and Joshua Gluck - sit under their artwork. Photo by Kitty LeShay.

It is hard to find a parking spot downtown near Main Street on the second Friday of the month. People are bustling about, with some going out to eat, and others frequenting specialty boutiques. Many do both at two businesses which serve as art galleries - Middle Ground Café and Three Graces Vintage Clothing. Students from Somers, Stafford and East Catholic high schools displayed their art in both locales for an April 12 exhibit.

The enthusiasm on the part of business owners for Arts on Main’s Second Friday series is palpable. They are a dynamic group from all walks of life dedicated to making Stafford a vibrant downtown which promotes many interests. The revitalization of Stafford is the story of enthusiastic, dedicated people coming together. It starts with the owners of several buildings on Main Street, Howard Buckland and David Bacchiochi. “They have been very supportive of the arts and have been dreaming and working toward developing an artistic community,” said Lisa Zelonka, owner of Three Graces.

Three years ago, Kathy Aspelin opened Middle Ground Café, which serves as an art gallery where the art changes every month. Aspelin left a secure, well-paying profession as delivery nurse at Rockville Hospital to follow a dream. “I started with regulars in the first year and now people come from all over. Babies I helped deliver are customers,” Aspelin said.

“In the last year the candy shop, the Windowbox, a boutique, Rustology, an antique store and Stained Glass Creations and Beyond have opened on Main. I am celebrating my first anniversary being open. It’s amazing,” Zelonka said.

Across the street that evening, musicians were performing at the stained glass shop. “We have been working very hard to make Arts on Main a success. It is just getting bigger. The Main Street Business Association meets every month to plan events,” said Renee Goodwin. She and her husband moved the business to Main Street from the mills.

“We want families to come downtown to enjoy a community kind of event, to slow down, talk and enjoy. That is one reason why we did the student [art] show,” Zelonka said.

Big plans are coming together for the future. During the warm season, there will be street art and music offered the second Friday of each month. Rustology is planning an open air market, and the Palace Theater will be hosting The Windham Arts Council Film Festival in October.

Even people from surrounding communities have marked the second Friday on their calendars. Jessica Jahnke, a resident of Mansfield, comes to Stafford frequently. “I love what they have done here - the art, shops and restaurants. Stafford has become a destination,” she said.


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