MYSTIC — Despite disappointingly gray weather on Saturday, the 61st annual Mystic Outdoor Art Festival downtown attracted a fair number of art aficionados willing to brave the drizzle and occasional downpours.
Stepping around puddles and avoiding umbrellas was the name of the game for festivalgoers, who ducked into the relatively dry display booths to wait out the sporadic deluge and chat with artists.
“I don’t think the crowds are gonna come out,” predicted jewelry-maker Thomas Laraia, of New Jersey, who has been working the art-show circuit for eight years. “The problem with the rain is it kills the crowds.”
“If you’re in this line of work and you do these shows, you have to contend with the weather,” Laraia said. “The heat still brings people out, but the rain really affects the outcome.”
But Laraia had high praise for MOAF.
“As an artist doing quality higher-end shows, the season is spring and fall,” Laraia said. “A lot of summer shows are more festivals. This is one of the better-juried art shows.”
Beatriz Fain, a Mystic artist whose work consists of vibrant floral paintings, took the philosophical attitude of other artists, saying that weather is just part of the game.
“It’s supposed to rain all weekend,” she said. “It is what it is.”
Kim and Jim Irons attracted a crowd despite the downpour, with their abundant display of dozens of inventive sculptures made from junk metal parts.
“This is only one-third of what we’ve done since January,” Jim said.
Kim said her husband had been a metal-scrapper for many years, but she finally convinced him about five years ago to make art from the scrap he was throwing out.
“I told him we should be making stuff out of the junk,” she said. “He taught me how to weld and we’ve been doing this ever since.”
For some, unpredictable weather is just part of the deal with the exhibiting life.
“The weather is definitely always a factor,” Christine Volpe said, her booth filled with glow-in-the-dark glass art. “The heat a couple of years ago was really bad.”
“The thing that’s disappointing this year is that they used to have a lot more tents on the streets,” she said. “I don’t know if the show is just smaller or they just moved the tents.”
Jennifer Milano and Ruben Castillo were festivalgoers up from Long Island for a weekend trip to Mystic.
“We’re here by happenstance,” Milano said from inside the booth of photographer Bruce Franklin, also from Long Island. “Mystic is a great spot for food and bars.”
“Weather’s weather,” said artist Thomas McClean from his booth display of dark impressionist landscapes paintings. “There’s nothing you can do about it. I think the real art appreciators will be out looking.”
Pen-and-ink artist Anastasia Alexandrin of Philadelphia said she was withholding judgment on the weather until the end of the show Sunday evening.
“It’s too early to say,” she said. “I mean, the rain is making an impact, but people are still coming out, and it’s so much better than heat, so I’m not complaining.”
Some artists were philosophical.
“There are two things you can’t change in this life: the past and the weather,” Ben Bonart of Nyack, N.Y., said.
Bonart is relatively new to the art world, becoming a professional artist two years ago, with a former career in branding and advertising. This was his first year at the Mystic show, displaying his near-fluorescent paintings from a booth on Main Street.
“I went and bought this slicker at the Army Navy store, and then the rain slowed down,” he said as he touched up one of his paintings slightly damaged by the wet weather. “The show will end at 5 tomorrow and it will stop raining at 5:10. But this is the life of an artist.”
Mary Pollard, a student at University of Hartford, had her booth of acrylic and mixed-media paintings among a number of young “emerging artists,” a category for art students who want to gain experience and exposure at a juried show.
“I decided to do this because it’s a great opportunity to get together with other artists,” Pollard said. “We can get direction from the community as to which direction to go in.”
“I can see also where I am compared to other emerging artists without the pressure of having to sell all these pieces,” she said.
A “non-traditional” student who is married and has a child, Pollard said she was excited that she had already sold three paintings.
The Mystic Outdoor Art Festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.