Elijah Clark / Seacoast Musician
TEAM / AIA is great! I'm grateful to Scott Ruffner and his team for the exposure and the opportunity as an original artist to be able to share my music in the venues they provide, and the promotion they offer is very helpful. Professional images captured by Raya are very helpful and just the over all feeling of being apart of something that's growing is exciting in a place and time that needs this kind of energy in the community, thanks again.
I have been an active photographic artist for 40 years and in the professional film business for over 20 years as a still photographer, location scout, and producer. I've worked on countless major studio productions all over the country and have worked tirelessly to bring more professional film projects to New Hampshire and advocate for local film makers, both through state tax benefits and support for independent projects. There seems to be a lack of desire for local professional artists to be taken seriously, by themselves AND by the administrators and politicians within the community. Since I moved to the Seacoast in 2007, Scott Ruffner has been one of the few arts professionals providing opportunities and support for those of us who take their work and craft seriously, and are not just interested in being part of a local scene or clique. Since the establishment of the Arts Industry Alliance and TEAM, I have witnessed first-hand the number of paying gigs and community events that legitimately offer growth and real exposure for our local talent.
I am currently a resident of Key West, Florida, but spend my summers in Exeter, NH. I produce and direct concerts featuring local musicians, burlesque shows, variety shows, fundraisers and special events on the island. In addition to performing, I am an art teacher for grades K-8 at May Sands Montessori School in Key West. I grew up in New Hampshire, and studied Arts Education at Plymouth State University.
Though my career in entertainment is very active in Florida, I have had difficulty finding work as a musician and artist in NH throughout my life. I met Scott Ruffner and the artists and musicians of TEAM in 2015 when I was working as a server at Epoch restaurant during one of their events. Not only did I go on to collaborate with many of these people at paying gigs, but we even recorded an album together during my summer in Exeter called “Groove Lounge X Bria Ansara”. The album featured original music, performed by several local musicians and myself. I was fortunate to meet and have positive interactions with like-minded artists and musicians at events sponsored by TEAM and the Arts Industry Alliance. Aside from working with TEAM and AIA, I have not found much luck in booking gigs as an R&B, Hip Hop and Jazz performer. There are many venues offering folk music, bluegrass, and cover bands; but aside from several TEAM events, I have not experienced much variety or diversity in style or genre. I look forward to working with TEAM/AIA in the future, and any other group in NH dedicated to featuring homegrown, unique artists. I think there is a great need in our region for more individuality, and locally-based art and performance. I speak from experience when I say that Scott Ruffner and TEAM/AIA has supported my endeavors in NH, and has nothing but the best intentions in bringing local talent to the forefront.
TEAM is a tremendous addition to Exeter’s cultural scene; it’s fantastic to see such a diverse group of hyperlocal artists coming together to propagate original, unique, and fresh material. They’re actively proving that the town is awake, alive and continuously growing. TEAM’s exciting and unexpected downtown art & music events are a welcome change to the status quo, and they are successful in attracting a young, vibrant crowd with much to contribute. As someone who grew up in Exeter in an artistic family, earned a degree in Art History, moved out of state to live in various metropolitan areas, and relatively recently returned to Exeter, I have found it exciting to witness TEAM challenging the average pattern of the small town arts & music situation.
TEAM & AIA consist of creators whose main goals are making art and setting it in front of those who wish to enjoy it. They focus on the artists, and are both understanding and anticipatory of their creative needs and goals. TEAM & AIA are capable advocates and tenacious allies for artists, and I’m looking forward to both participating in and attending more TEAM-organized shindigs - their use of the beautiful (yet underutilized) Swasey Parkway has been exactly what the town needs. I’d love to see TEAM get behind the Thursday night concerts in the park during the summer months; their handling of the series would certainly mean that I’d start to attend the shows, to which I haven’t been in years. TEAM’s endeavors are rapidly turning Exeter into an artistic destination in the seacoast area, and AIA’s community-building e nterprises are invaluable to the creative masses of New Hampshire.
I lived in the Exeter area until I was 18 years old, and I always felt like there was a disconnect between myself and the area. After living in Edinburgh Scotland, a city completely saturated with unified communities of artists, for 5 years and returning to Exeter I was disappointed to see how stifled the artistic culture is in this area. I know for a fact that there are just as many artists here, but I can’t seem to find them easily. That is, until I started working with Scott Ruffner and TEAM, on upcoming artistic events geared toward supporting and drawing out the local artists for celebration. I have been back in Exeter for nearly two years now, and it wasn’t until I started with TEAM that I was able to connect with people I haven’t seen or spoken to in ten years, as well as meet new artists and newly local individuals. In the short time that I’ve been working with Scott I have seen in the faces of everyone we speak to an openness and excitement I have never been able to draw out of New Englanders too easily. This organization has not only been key to me reconnecting to my hometown but also in reinvigorating my passion for local artist culture and the communities that support them. As a result, this is the first time in my life that I’m actually excited to be here and to be involved in this community; I see the potential for Exeter to become the next artsy funky townscape with the help of TEAM, and I’m passionate about seeing that potential into fruition.
Shaina Gates / Exeter
I am an artist and teacher, living and working in Exeter. I have exhibited in several locations throughout NH, as well as New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Cape Cod. I earned my BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, an MA from the School of Visual Arts NY, and an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania.
I owe a great amount of thanks to Scott Ruffner and the Arts Industry Alliance & TEAM for hosting a solo exhibition of my work in October 2017. Moving back to New Hampshire after 2 years away, it was important to be near a vibrant art scene. I chose the Seacoast for this very reason. Considering the level of interest and amount of talent in the area, specifically in Exeter, it is especially important to have spaces in town dedicated to exhibiting art in a dedicated gallery format. With the newly established presence of Art Up Front, run by Rose Bryant, and the FOUNDATION Art Space, run by AIA/TEAM, I can feel the energy of a contemporary art scene forming. AIA/TEAM was supportive in working with me to produce a show of my paintings, and Scott Ruffner worked especially hard to get press coverage for the event. The turnout was fantastic, and the show was quite successful. Scott is committed to keeping the ball rolling on having monthly exhibitions at FOUNDATION Art Space as part of TEAM’s greater project of hosting arts and music related events throughout the year, which benefits the downtown Exeter community culturally and economically. I’m glad to have put roots down in Exeter, and am excited to watch the contemporary arts scene grow as local artists find the support and visibility they need through spaces like FOUNDATION.
Beth Wittenberg / Rochester, NH
I am a non-traditional, contemporary, fine artist working on the Seacoast and currently living in Rochester. I received an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1998 and hold degrees in Philosophy and Fine Arts. I have exhibited my artwork throughout the United States and also in Europe. Recently I partnered with the University of Maine Farmington to develop their annual alternative arts festival, Water Bear Confabulum. I am dedicated to providing opportunities to local artists and open up my studio to the public for collaborative opportunities.
The Arts Industry Alliance and TEAM initiative may be the most influential arts organizations in the area. Scott Ruffner and the artist advisors have set out to establish outlets and venues so that local talent can be recognized for their hard work and contribution to the Seacoast and GET PAID. I participated in TEAM's Fall Equinox Festival and had a fantastic time and was so impressed with the high level of organization and professionalism. I wanted to create live art so that Exeter could see the happenings of a local contemporary artist. There were festival goers of all ages, and I sold a painting to an 8 yr old. TEAM/AIA were very easy to work with, organized, and dedicated to helping independent artists. I look forward to participating in upcoming events.
I have also worked with AIA/TEAM about the opportunity for other LBGTQ artists to accompany me to "Our True Colors", which is an LBGTQ youth conference every March at University of Connecticut. I am volunteering for AIA by presenting workshops as an arts advocate. I am presenting topics which affect under-represented youth. We can take AIA/TEAM’s model and apply it's principles to help other groups. The LBGTQ youth conference is a great place to demonstrate this philosophy.
Erin Thomas / South Berwick, ME
I have shown my canvas paintings, pastels and mixed media originals in several solo and group gallery shows across the Northeast for more than two decades, and have original works held in private collections both locally and around the globe. I have worked and operated or managed creative and art-based small businesses in the Seacoast through consulting, curation and management until more recently taking a more active approach by leading several art initiatives to create a more vibrant arts and culture scene that is driven by the artists themselves. I founded the BAA (Berwick Art Association) and a popular blog and art research group, Modspoke. I am also an active photographer, and respond to local fire and first response scenes to document the on-call and volunteer fire services in our community.
Arts Industry Alliance and the TEAM initiative is one of only a few organizations that I have felt I can get behind. The mentorships and peer to peer exchanges that have been taking place are beyond amazing and inspiring, and the advisors and Director Scott Ruffner are actually LISTENING to what artists need, and applying it to a growing and organic public dialogue and business model that is defined by what artists are asking of it. AIA & TEAM have been speaking on behalf of a large cross section of artists and putting themselves in the line of fire on our behalf. I have been honored to be a part of AIA/TEAM over the last couple years, as they take my opinion, stresses and experience with total seriousness, and they have connected me with the work and mentorships that I need to keep me on the right track to maintain a career as an artist. I can't be more impressed with the willingness to put themselves out there for the greater good of the art scene itself. I hadn’t been to Exeter in years until I started participating in their events, and look forward to my first solo show in years at TEAM’s Foundation Art Space in June. If I were an Exeter resident or official, I would be putting my faith and financial support behind this community organization.
Kym Campfield / Exeter
I first met Scott Ruffner when we worked with him as our realtor 15 years ago when we moved to Exeter. Since that time I have known him to be professional and dedicated, including all of his efforts to bring arts and cultural vibrancy to our town. Many of us have discussed ideas for new festivals and events, but Scott has made it happen with the help of the other artists and musicians of the TEAM non-profit organization. I have personally participated in several of these events as a jewelry designer, and have always felt welcomed and most importantly was promoted as an artist and put in a position to succeed with sales of my work. My teenage daughter was even given a complimentary booth for her custom designed t-shirts so she could learn the ropes of setting up and selling at a festival. Needless to say it was a very positive experience for her. The music is always amazing and reflects a diversity of styles and genres we usually don’t get to enjoy here in Exeter or even on the greater Seacoast. TEAM needs to be recognized for the gem and absolute asset to this community that it is. Some of the treatment and lack of support by certain town officials has been shameful. Let’s get behind the arts and those making it happen. Go TEAM !
Vandy Leigh, M.Ed. / Exeter
I wholeheartedly support grassroots and local arts organizations. These organizations are part of the creative economy that helps to employ local artists (visual, performing, musicians etc). These organizations also often offer educational opportunities along with entertainment to communities. Embracing local artists and arts organizations is a smart economic move as well as a way to strengthen our communities. Creativity can’t be outsourced; it needs to be grown at home.
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