Winter HooPla in Shelburne Falls to bring ‘magical experience’

The Art Garden’s annual Winter HooPla event, pictured in 2018, will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17.

The Art Garden’s annual Winter HooPla event, pictured in 2018, will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

The Art Garden’s annual Winter HooPla event, pictured in 2018, will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17.

The Art Garden’s annual Winter HooPla event, pictured in 2018, will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 02-10-2024 5:53 PM

Modified: 02-12-2024 7:13 PM


SHELBURNE FALLS — The Art Garden will showcase local artists’ creativity once again with a night of ephemeral art installations at the Winter HooPla event.

For the past eight years, artists have transformed the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum’s freight yard with radiant installations, ranging from shadow boxes and silhouettes to faux stained glass crafted from paper, fostering community engagement during the chilly winter months.

“It’s a magical experience for people in the community,” said Jane Beatrice Wegscheider, founding director of The Art Garden at 14 Depot St.

The event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. Limited parking is available for individuals with mobility issues. Organizers encourage participants to park downtown or at Salmon Falls Gallery and walk to the event.

Starting in 2016, Winter HooPla emerged as a response to the need for a winter event that unites the community. Initially featuring ice, snow and frozen fabric sculptures, the event has evolved due to unpredictable weather conditions. Now, much of the art is crafted using repurposed materials and illuminated in various ways.

Winter HooPla continued even during the pandemic, with installations filling downtown Shelburne Falls instead of the area surrounding The Art Garden. Artists took a break last year, making this the first Winter HooPla to be held since 2022.

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Participation is widespread, with about 20 artists contributing annually. Many others assist with the larger installations. The artists vary, including recent art school graduates, seasoned professionals and children.

In the weeks leading up to Winter HooPla, individuals have been diligently working in The Art Garden studio, engaging in cutting, sewing, drawing and more to prepare the installations. The Art Garden’s goal is to promote collaborative art making, particularly through an intergenerational lens. Many individuals collaborate to bring large, glowing visions to life.

Several art pieces are arranged in trolleys, illuminated from within to the delight of guests. Other installations stand independently, creatively using the space in unexpected ways.

After viewing the art, attendees can warm up by fire pits on the grounds. Hot chocolate will be served.

Simultaneously with Winter HooPla, a new community exhibit will be on display inside.

One notable art display this year, crafted by Betsy Corner, draws inspiration from the research of Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard Kennedy School scholar. Corner, part of a local Climate Emergency Circle, aimed to create an installation as part of her activism. Chenoweth’s research reveals that 3.5% of the population causing disruptions around a cause can bring about substantive change. Thus, Corner, with a group of volunteers, crafted 100 cutouts of people using feedbags. Corner plans to illuminate 3.5% of them to symbolize the small number of people needed to prompt action.

“People feel helpless. They think they cannot do anything,” Corner said. “Through this, people can see how a small number of individuals can make a significant change.”

The event, which is free to attend, is sponsored by the cultural councils of Buckland, Charlemont-Hawley, Colrain, Conway, Heath, Leyden, Plainfield, Rowe and Shelburne.

The Art Garden has numerous events planned in 2024, including art-making groups for teens, pre-teens or “tweens,” and adults. In late April, The Art Garden will host its 12-hour drawing marathon called Draw-Around.

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.