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Art festival finds old home amid new park improvements

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Art festival finds old home amid new park improvements

SOUTH PORTLAND — Great art requires time, but Art in the Park organizers and construction crews raced the clock to prepare Mill Creek Park for the 9 a.m. Aug. 11 festival.

"It's a pretty fancy trick to make over a park and have an art show," said Linda Eastman, who is chairman and fundraiser for the 33rd annual festival.

The "fancy trick" is about $340,000 worth of work to the park, built just after the end of World War II. New retaining walls for the pond, new pedestrian paths and a reconstructed park entrance at Ocean Street and Broadway are part of the first phase of work funded through a Community Development Block Grant from the Maine Office of Community and Economic Development.

Eastman said organizers like to have at least a day to get set up.

"We work the entire day before, literally stake out the sites for the artists with a hammer," she said.

On Wednesday, crews from Buxton-based Peters Construction were putting finishing touches on the pond retaining wall near Ocean Street. City Manager James Gailey said he was confident everything will be ready to go.

"The work in the park is moving along nicely, they are making great progress after a slow start," Gailey said.

The annual show attracts about 185 artists who compete and sell their work. The top prize is $800 for the best painting and $500 for the best photograph. City Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis will award prizes at noon.

"The artists who are coming know it won't be pristine," Eastman said. "We are going to smile and make the very best of what I think is more than acceptable."

Art in the Park also features a student art tent with work from local public school students and a Kids in the Park area open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This year's musical lineup includes a concert by children's artist Rick Charette at 12:30 p.m. and acoustic music in the park gazebo by Jim Gallant from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Admission to Art in the Park is free, and the food court near Broadway and Ocean Street is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Eastman said time will show how the park is improved.

"I think a year from this date people will be able to appreciate and really see the transformation," she said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.