Shakesbear in the Park

Posted July 12th, 2012

ShakesbearShakesbear in the Park may not be quite as big of a production as the world renowned Shakespeare in the Park, but he sure is cute!  Created as an ode to the Bard himself, this little Romeo is meant to inspire viewers to go forth and create art or better put by the man himself, to “breathe life into a stone.” Stationed in a lovely little garden right next to the Easthampton Senior Center on Union St., Shakesbear invites you to sit on the bench beside him and dream up a masterpiece.

Jill Lewis, the artist behind Shakesbear, tells us about her process and inspiration in the Q & A below.


Jill Lewis

What town/city do you live in?


Where is your studio? What is your usual artistic focus/genre, when you aren’t working on a bear?

My Studio is located in the Riverside Industries Building, at One Cottage Street, on the 5th floor.

I am a photographer, digital and film.  Yes! I still love film.   I also create mixed media pieces, and greeting cards from recycled materials.

What was the process you used on the bear?

My process was very simple in the beginning, deciding what colors to be used, and then painting his body and clothes.  Then I began to create his cloak.  Initially, I began with a wire armature and plaster, which became far too heavy…needing me to sand it down and move on to a lighter material, which happened to be a muslin sheet.   It was then coated with many layers of sealant, paint, and varnish to keep him safe from the elements.

What materials did you use and why did you choose them?

I used traditional outdoor house paint.  The color selection is endless!  As mentioned, I used wire mesh to sculpt the cloak…it allowed me to be more creative in its fabrication, it allowed a more fluid appearance.  I also used the white filter from a traditional auto filter, covered with lace, and many, many coats of sealant!  And last but not least, a turkey feather.

What is the theme for your bear and what was the inspiration?

My bear is “Shakesbear.”  It is bad karma to not tell the whole story so hear is his “history.”  My landlord (thanks John) had the idea, and we were to make him together if selected, however he took a job in Montana.   Needless to say the renderings and final result were left to my own vision.  He is pretty cute though.

What have you loved about the project?

As odd as this may seem, I really enjoyed the fabrication of his cloak.   I also enjoyed the initial planning stage, which did not work, the “critical thinking,” as to how to rework it, and ending up with a satisfactory result.   It was refreshing and satisfying to use my artistic skills in that manner.

In what ways do you hope your bear will move the folks who view it?

Primarily, it is my wish the viewers will be inspired to create art of their own.  With the decreasing art classes in schools, it is our responsibility to encourage those with art interests.  Secondary, I am hoping the younger generations will be curious enough to ask who “Shakesbear,” (Shakespeare) is/ was,  learn more about him, and hopefully read some of his works.

What else would you like to say about your project or the Bear Fest as a whole?

As one of the selected artists for the first Bear Fest, I was delighted to be chosen again.  The city of Easthampton will be humming with visitors as before, a welcome site, and an opportunity to tell folks about our multifaceted city that has much to offer in the way of artists, musicians, and writers and performers as well.  The ECA+, the many volunteers, and Burns Maxey have risen to the occasion with what appears to become another terrific event for the City of Easthampton.  Thank you all!

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