By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Westborough – Before television viewers nationwide voted for the comic mind-reader Eric Dittleman to become a semi-finalist on NBC's “America's Got Talent” in 2012, the Westborough native entertained locally at the first Arts in Common presented by the Westborough Cultural Council (WCC) in 2009.
The inaugural Arts in Common was held concurrently with the official opening of the Bay State Green, the park located adjacent to the Bay State Commons shopping plaza. A ribbon-cutting was presided by town officials at the bandstand.
The following year, cellist Zlatomir Fung of Westborough performed at Arts in Common and went on to earn several honors locally and internationally.
Among the local acts who have participated throughout the event's five years is the Westborough Community Chorus under the direction of Deb Lukey. She's pleased to have an annual arts festival in her hometown.
“Arts in Common is a brilliant idea,” she said. “There are so many people in Westborough who are involved with the arts. You can go to one place and see so many different forms of artisans – crafts, dancing, singing and performing.”
Also returning annually has been Westborough native Lynn Jolicoeur as emcee and lead singer of the Pulse, a pop/jazz band. She's currently a producer and reporter for WBUR-FM 90.9.
The event's integral organizers are Lynn and Cliff Watts. She served as MCC chair during the first four years of the event and he started as chair last year. They acknowledge that a lesson was learned from its inauguration. Although a rain date was advertised, Arts in Common was held with inclement weather.
“That was a mistake,” Lynn admitted. “There was a push to go ahead and do it. Some people assumed it was cancelled.”
Yet, the event drew hundreds of visitors its first year.
“The fact that people came with all the rain was amazing,” Lynn added. “To be honest, we didn's know what to expect.”
Attendance has increased significantly each year after.
“It's the one time of the year that you see the Bay State Commons parking lot that full,” Cliff said. “We'se seen the enthusiastic reaction that the community has for it each year.”
They'se quick to credit the naming of the event to Donna Driscoll of Marlborough Savings Bank, which is one of the five founding sponsors of Arts in Common. The other founding sponsors are Amica, Emseal, Dr. and Mrs. Richard Irwin, and Roche Brothers. Each continued supporting the event throughout its first five years. Additional funding is from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
The organizers are grateful for equipment and manpower donated by the Westborough Public Schools.
“We'se had a very tight partnership with the schools,” Cliff said. “The Westborough school system provides us with the chairs, tables and sound system, so we don's have to rent them.”
Students also run the sound system; set up the tables and chairs; and assist with the Kids Corner. The Westborough High School Student Council lends its bounce house for the day.
The format has essentially remained the same each year. About two dozen acts perform on two stages: the outdoor bandstand and inside a vacant storefront. Over 40 artisans display and sell various handcrafted items. Refreshments are available from local eateries. A silent auction features items donated by the participating artisans.
Lynn noted, “A lot of what we do is exactly the same as when it began. Surprisingly, most of it worked.”
Forms for performers, artisans, food vendors and program ads are now posted at westboroughculturalcouncil.org.
The sixth annual Arts in Common will be held Saturday, Sept. 28 – rain or shine.