Tree of Life

Posted August 23rd, 2012

Samantha PliskaThis bear doesn’t need to look far to find a tree.  There’s one painted right on his belly!  Created as an adorable tribute to the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt’s wildly famous painting, Tree of Life, it’s no surprise that the artist, Samantha Pliska, became attached.  “I was sad to drop off Gus, (Klimt Bear’s nickname) but I am so excited to see him out and about with all the other amazing bears.” We were excited to see him too! Visit him in front of 116 Cottage Street before he heads off to the Bear Fest Gala Auction and Dinner.

Read more about Pliska’s process and inspiration in the Q & A below:


Samantha Pliska

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?

I currently do not have a “formal” studio, just a room where my art supplies happen to be.

My focus in art is very chaotic, I love to try new techniques and I change up mediums as often as I change clothes. At this time I am working on painting images from movies, assemblage with found items, and lowbrow art illustrations.

What was the process you used on the bear?

Spray paint, followed by painting, gilding, gold leafing (removing gold leafing) and adding the tiles and cabochons.

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

The materials I used were Liquitex soft and heavy body paints, gold gilding paint, Liquitex spray paint, small tiles and cabochons. I did use gold leafing, but the results were less than desired, so I had to remove it. I chose these supplies based on what I thought would be the best for my bear.

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

The theme for my bear is Gustav Klimt. I had started with a bear sketch including some 15 artists for the bear, then when I noticed the Klimt section of the bear sketch, I fell in love. It was the last sketch I had entered for the Bear Fest artist search. I am a big fan of Klimt, the one piece that spoke to me most for this project which was the Tree Of Life. From that painting, I took different elements and painted them all over my bear. Other Klimt pieces can also be seen as I used them for referencing Klimt’s shapes and colors.

What have you loved about the project?

I loved every aspect of the project, from entering sketches to pulling off the last piece of paint tape. I was sad to drop off Gus, (Klimt Bear’s nickname) but I am so excited to see him out and about with all the other amazing bears.

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

I can only hope that someone will become inspired by my bear.

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

This was an amazing experience and opportunity; I hope this event will continue on as a tradition.

I would love Bear Fest attendees to be enthralled by public art and want to see more of it or even be encouraged to create art themselves.

Who’s got Spirit?

Posted August 22nd, 2012

Victoria ChapmanSpirit Bear, that’s who! Inspired by the earth and all of its natural elements, Spirit Bear serves as a reminder that all things are interconnected.  Perhaps the most prominent feature of artist Victoria Chapman’s bear are the six feathers that hang from the bear’s outstretched arms, which create the illusion of wings.  Be sure to catch Spirit Bear before he flies away to the 2012 Easthampton Bear Fest Auction and Dinner.  He’s stationed in front of the Massage School at 1 Northampton St.

Read more about the artist’s inspiration and process in the Q & A below:


Victoria Chapman

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?

I work out of my house in the woods of Greenfield. 

When not working on a bear, I do a variety of artistic and creative work.  I’m an illustrator and artist with my favorite medium being watercolors.  I tend to work much smaller than the bear.  My art often focuses on spiritual and nature themes with a very colorful and flowing quality about it.

I’m also a hand crafter.  I sell my handmade work out at local craft events, the Greenfield Farmer’s Market, some local shops and on Etsy.  My product includes prints, cards and other products made with my art, hand drawn batik t-shirts, elven style head jewelry, sewn cloaks and capes, herbal hot/cold packs and more.

Otherwise, I make my living as a graphic and web designer, working with a variety of organizations, businesses and people throughout western MA and beyond.

To see more of what I do, my website is:

What was the process you used on the bear?

The first step for Spirit Bear was to sculpt the six feathers to hang from the bear’s arms.  I made a frame of steel wire, masking tape and paper to form the general shape of each feather.  Then, sculpted over that frame with an epoxy putty, which is very hard when it dries.  Then, I attached the feathers to the arms, wrapping many layers of a smaller gauge steel wire around the arms and looping the feathers through, similar to wire jewelry making, but larger.  Following that, to create a smooth surface again and ensure the feathers are attached securely, I sculpted over the layers of wire with more epoxy putty and then auto-body filler.  Since it wasn’t exactly smooth when done, I then had to sand my little heart out until the arms were relatively smooth again.

Once the sculpture process was done, I put a layer of gesso over the entire bear to give it all an even painting surface.  Then, the artwork! I started by creating pencil and marker outlines all over the entire bear to mark out where everything should be.  Following that, I painted and painted and painted with several layers, making sure the colors were solid, vibrant and blended smoothly.  I did my own layer of clear coat on the bear after all the artwork was done, before sending it to have auto-body clear coat done by Full Tilt.

Some of you may have noticed that during the process, I also had a live streaming web cam available for people to watch me work.  That was a new experience for me, but it made it fun! I was able to reach out to people and let them take a peek into how I work.

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

For the sculpted parts, I chose the steel wire, because it’s sturdy and it makes a good base.  I chose the epoxy putty at the recommendation of another Bear Fest artist, who had used it in 2009.  When it dries it is very solid and once painted, is also UV resistant.  I also heard it holds up well to the elements in general.

For the paint, I chose acrylics.  I normally work with watercolors, which isn’t realistic for working on the bear.

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

I named my bear “Spirit Bear” after the rare Kermode bear from the Pacific Northwest.  One in every ten Kermode bears come out white.  To the native people of that area, they are known as Spirit Bears.  They are very sacred and are protected by the people as they are seen as spiritual messengers.

My Spirit Bear incorporates many natural elements of land, water and sky, including creatures, plants and even the Earth’s inner core, as well as the great heavens above.  Worked into the flowing landscapes are common symbols of native tribes of the American Southwest.  I chose these symbols because they are more universally known and represent natural resources as well as spiritual messages.  The Zuni Bear in the center of the tree, for example, is the most prominent.  The Zuni Bear is associated with healing and protection, which is something the Earth needs greatly.  It is blue because the bear is also associated with the west and blue is the color of the west in Zuni medicine.

At the back base of the bear, I included a proverb, which reads “The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.” We cannot drink up our pond, the Earth, or else we too will have no home.

What have you loved about the project?

I’ve loved being able to spend a lot of time doing what I love most–making art! I also love that I can spread a message about something I’m passionate about through my art and have the public see it.  It’s very powerful knowing that what I have created will be available for thousands of people to see and that I can say something to those people, using art as my medium.  It’s extra nice knowing that my art is also going to a good cause and that I can help make a difference within our community through something that I made with my two hands.

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

I hope that Spirit Bear will make people stop and say, “Wow, this land is full of beautiful things.” Perhaps in that moment of beauty, it will instill inspiration to do something to preserve what we have, even if in a small, individual way.  Plant a tree, donate to a land trust or even just give thanks for what we have so that we all can appreciate it more.

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

I’m so honored to be part of such a wonderful event.  Bear Fest is an example of the close-knit community we have in Western Mass that I’m so happy to be a part of.  We live in a unique area where art is appreciated and artists are given opportunities to do really amazing things for themselves and for the community.

Have You Seen the 41st Bear?

Posted August 14th, 2012

41st Bear by Kathy LaCroixThe question on everyone’s lips will soon be, “Have you seen the 41st Bear?” This bear without an artist’s design has already started making appearances at Bear Fest events and businesses throughout the city.

The 2009 Bear Fest while proving to be a huge success was slightly tainted by a number of bear thefts. While some of the stolen bears were sadly never recovered, perhaps the most unfortunate incident was of the sculpture that did resurface. Bearly There, aka Chrome Bear by artist Michael MacTavish, stolen from his post within 24 hours of installation, was recovered months later in a state that many thought was damaged beyond repair.

Enter man about town and 2009 and 2012 Bear Fest artist and volunteer, Gary LaCroix. LaCroix heroically took on the task of mending the vandalized bear back to its original blank state. LaCroix is no stranger to bear repairs. Gary says, “My first bear, Mountain Park Bear, lost his arm in an accident during the 2009 Bear Fest, so I had experience repairing him. It has given me a sense of satisfaction to restore The 41st Bear, aka White Bear, to take part in celebrating 2012 Bear Fest.” Since then Gary has been the foremost bear repair expert on the maintenance committee.

Following its completion, the bare bear has taken on numerous pet names amongst Bear Fest volunteers from “Naked Bear” to “Buster” to “Tabula Rasa”. At the Bear Fest Auction on September 20th at the Log Cabin, the highest bidder will be able to give the bear a permanent name as well as a unique design. “This is an unexpected occurrence for the 2012 Bear Fest. There have been numerous artists and businesses ask if they could create their own design on a bear after the 2012 Bear Fest submissions had already been juried and selected. Here is their opportunity to transform the unknown bear. However, they must be the winning bidder at the auction.” says Burns Maxey, ECA+ Coordinator.

Tickets to the Bear Fest auction can be purchased  online and the ECA+ Gallery at 43 Main Street, Easthampton, MA, 01027.

What a Weekend!!

Posted August 8th, 2012

Due to weather, Shiprock and Anchordog will now be performing at White Square at 88 Cottage Street at 4:30 p.m. Hope to see you there! The outdoor picnic is cancelled.

Pioneer Valley Ballet, Teddy Bear Picnic, and Pink Bear

If there was a weekend in the month of August to have a staycation in Easthampton this would be the one.  On Saturday, August 11th, there are three exciting events taking place in collaboration with Easthampton Bear Fest and Art Walk Easthampton.  The events are catered to a variety of tastes and ages, so there’s a little something for everyone.  Dance lover? Indie-music aficionado? Film buff? Picnic fan? Hungry? Young at heart? Children’s picture book enthusiast? We’ve got you covered!

First up: Join the Pioneer Valley Ballet (PVB) on August 11, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. for the video installation Detected/Interrupted projected on an alley wall in between Popcorn Noir at 32 Cottage Street, Easthampton and Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream. An artist reception will be held at Popcorn Noir’s newly opened café The Lobby during projection hours in conjunction with Art Walk Easthampton. This event is free and open to the public.

Next up: Join Easthampton City Arts+ and the Easthampton Bear Fest in a celebration of Buy Local, Eat Local at the Art Walk Easthampton Teddy Bear Picnic—a summertime community picnic around Nashawannuck Pond on August 11, from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. If you act fast you can still can register to win one of 6 available prize picnic baskets at Big E’s Supermarket.  The cupcake truck, SugarBakers Cake Truck, will be stationed nearby to provide sweet treats. Children are encouraged to bring their favorite Teddy bear to share in the festivities and the band Shiprock and Anchordog Acoustic Greatness will be performing live for picnic goers.

Last but not least:  In conjunction with the Teddy Bear Picnic and Art Walk Easthampton, Lucy Mueller Young, illustrator of the book Pink Bear, will be reading at White Square Books at 6:00 p.m. Pink Bear is one of the many wonderful gifts included in the prize picnic baskets.

With so much going on, there’s simply no excuse not to go out, have fun, and bear witness to some of the wonderful events happening this weekend!

Into the Woods

Posted August 7th, 2012

Birch Bear

Today’s modern world is very technology driven with people spending more and more of their time staring at some kind of screen trying to stay connected and informed.  All the while, they sometimes miss out on the details and beauty of the natural world they inhabit.  Artist Phoebe Siter created Birch Bear to serve as a reminder for us to slow down, take a walk in the woods, and listen to the world breathe.

Learn more about her inspiration and artistic process in the Q & A below:


Phoebe Siter

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 in my home. I enjoy painting things from nature; flowers, landscapes, animals.  I also enjoy doing all things crafty, sewing, making and painting pottery and making useful art.

What was the process you used on the bear?

I started with just wanting to capture the birch texture.  I added the chickadee and flowers and created a little woodland scene.

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

I stuck with what I’m comfortable with which is paint and polymer clay and epoxy clay.  I enjoy copying real life with paint and I love sculpting.

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

My theme is called “Birch Bear.” Ever since I was little I have loved the textures and smells of the woods.  I love the tiny worlds of mosses and lichens and the strange little things you find growing in the woods if you look really carefully.  My research for “Birch Bear” involved a lot of walks in the woods!

A nice surprise right after I turned in my bear, we had a little chickadee move in to our birdhouse right after mother’s day to start her own family.

What have you loved about the project?

Getting the chance to meet other artists and share my work with everyone.  I’ve never really tried to paint birch texture before so it was I challenged myself to really inspect and get to know what it looks like.  I spent a lot of Zen moments contemplating birch paper peels.

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

I want it to remind people to look slowly and closely at the natural world around us.  Take the time to stroll through the woods and spend a quiet moment listening to the leaves rustle and the world breathe.

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

I really love the public art projects going on around the valley. I’m so honored to be part of it and hope it catches on with more towns.