WINTHROP — Jim Decker kept painting, under a corner of the open-sided tent that covered the Richmond artist’s watercolor and acrylic works of art, as the once-hard rain lessened and people started to trickle onto the streets of downtown for the 31st annual Winthrop Sidewalk Arts Festival Saturday morning.

“I’m just entertaining myself — making the best of a bad situation,” Decker said as he worked on his “A Walk in the Maine Woods,” acrylic painting featuring a footpath lined by birch trees hanging on to their fall leaves.

While early rain dampened the first couple of hours of the art show, the rain cleared out and things picked up.

Most artists, during the rain, just moved under the shelter of their tents and waited for passersby to come check out their art.

Decker said all his paintings have a story, and many of their themes, he said, are based on his desire “to record things that are going away quickly,” such as the days before cellphones when people engaged in actual face-to-face conservations. His “Good Neighbors,” for example, featured neighbors sitting down for a meal together, while “Did you know?” featured two ladies chatting on an old porch. His works were for sale but he worked on his painting rather than wait by a cash register for sales.

“I put my whole heart into this and sometimes people just walk by,” he said.

Nearby Diane Fontaine Wheeler, of Manchester, owner of Creative Basketry, had numerous baskets she made by hand on display and for sale. She said the baskets are protected by a stain and she was not concerned about them potentially getting a bit damp from the rain. She noted the reeds used in her baskets are soaked in water to make them flexible so they can be shaped into baskets, anyway.

“I’m not too worried,” about the rain, the retired Department of Health and Human Services caseworker said. “The only problem with it is no one comes out.”

She said some her colorful baskets, some of which she also does small paintings on, can take eight or nine hours of work each, over several days when drying time is included. She said she loves making baskets, which she said is good for relieving stress and taking your mind off things.

Artist Larry Bowler, a Winthrop native whose booth featured mainly re-purposed items such as a pair of trimming shears bent at a right angle to form a table that would hang from a wall, old electrical system insulators turned into a lighted kitchen pot rack, and a 1940s refrigerator door turned into a likeness of the front of a Volkswagen microbus, said he likes to do pieces that keep his mind working.

He said as soon as he saw his friend’s old refrigerator door he knew he wanted to turn it into a VW bus. He said earlier Saturday morning he’d spotted his former elementary school art teacher, “Mrs. Turcotte” checking out works of art at the show.

Pam Turcotte, Bowler’s former, long-ago, teacher, was indeed there, and was indeed checking out works of art at the show, as she and fellow former art teacher Jane Higgins, who taught at Winthrop and Hall-Dale schools, were serving as judges for the show.

Turcotte said the pieces they’d seen so far indicated this year’s edition of the annual art show was going to be a wonderful show.

Photographer Krystin Kemp, of Monmouth, displayed wildlife and other photographs she took on one side of her booth, and signs and wall art she made with her mom, Roberta Kemp, on the other.

Their work included wall art, including a fish and a state of Maine outline, made by cutting the shapes out of old Maine license plates with tin snips.

Dawna and Eric Gardner, of Wayne, displayed rustic wooden signs that Eric, a woodworker, made and Dawna, a painter working as The Blue Collar Painter, paints with messages. They were not worried about the rain — the signs are made with house paint.

The arts festival, organized by the Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, is part of a larger event, the Winthrop Summer Festival, which runs Saturday and Sunday. Other events include lawn sales, live music and children’s activities.

For the second straight year, the festival featured a community-participation project, a mosaic made of bits of stained glass and other materials, which organizer Faith Benedetti invited passersby to stop and help decorate. On the wall were two mosaics done at last year’s festival, with a sign, between them, which said “LOOK what we made together last year.”

“Come on in and work on the community mosaic, if you’d like to add something to it, back there is a big buffet of glass,” a cheerful Benedetti said.

She said adults are often hesitant to be among the first to place items into the group work of art, but children have no such hesitation.

Carolyn Downing, who has helped paint parts of large murals community members have done together in downtown Winthrop before, said taking part in such group-projects is a treat.

“I love it, the whole project,” she said. “The creativity and that everyone is taking part, just like the murals.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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