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Creativity reaches into Swampscott through ReachArts

Jackie Kinney and Heidi Shear are organizing the Community Connections Festival at ReachArts. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — ReachArts, the non-profit community arts center on Burrill Street, has grown by leaps and bounds in two short years. Most days, the place is a beehive of activity, with residents practicing yoga, enjoying art exhibits, and taking dance classes. The kids take over a couple of mornings each week when Peabody-based CFCE of the North Shore hosts free parent-child playgroups.

It’s hard to believe ReachArts is run entirely by volunteers.

The group’s most ambitious program yet, the Community Connections Festival, will take place April 26-28. A collaborative effort between ReachArts, S.U.R.E. (Swampscott Unites, Respects, and Embraces) and Swampscott Public Library, the festival will feature three days of culture, cuisine, arts, music and fun.

The first night’s event will be a fundraiser to benefit ReachArts and S.U.R.E., a volunteer community group that celebrates all aspects of human diversity and aspires to raise community awareness and acceptance through fun and educational events. The gala will include a wine and cheese tasting, comedy, live music and more.

The events on April 27 and 28 are free and geared more toward families, said program committee chair Heidi Shear.

The April 26 fundraiser, at ReachArts from 7-10 p.m., is a ticketed event. Tony Gallo, TG the Wine Guy, will talk about vino. Christina Carman of Blossoms Cooking will present a Rice Around the World demo. Comedian Jeff Medoff will perform, and there will be music by Gallo and John DiTomaso.

Tickets, $35 in advance or $45 at the door, are available at https://events.time.ly/vjyep64/28390979/tickets. Included will be

all entertainment, two glasses of wine (courtesy of Burrill Street Liquors), cheese and rice samplings, and one raffle ticket. Raffle prizes include a locally-made Couture Planet handbag and Burrill Street Liquors gift card.

On Saturday, April 27, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Swampscott Public Library in collaboration with local organizations will accept donations of paper goods (diapers, toilet paper, feminine products, etc.). Library Director Alyce Deveau will discuss “Help with Genealogy Searches” and artist Anita Balliro will help attendees create Origami peace cranes. These events will be at the library.

Sunday, April 28, from 2-5 p.m., will be “Friends and Family Meet Your Neighbor Day” at ReachArts, in collaboration with S.U.R.E. and the library. There will be free food samples, arts & crafts and games, music by Lois Lane and Miracles in Music, and the creation of a community mural. “Anyone who comes to the event will be able to add their own creative flair to the mural,” said Shear.

Jackie Kinney, president of ReachArts, said the festival’s scope was all-encompassing at the start. She said the organization’s volunteers and Pat Gorham, a teacher at the high school and ReachArts’ Inclusion and Diversity coordinator, shared resources and helped narrow the number of activities.

“This is the first time there’s been a collaboration between S.U.R.E, the library and ReachArts,” said Kinney. Other organizations in town, such as Seaside Cooperative Garden, reached out and want to get involved.

Shear and Kinney agree that ReachArts could use many more volunteers, and they hope some of those attending the festival will express an interest in helping out. “Our next goal is to have the building open longer every day. There is a lot of activity here, now. People are coming and going. It would be great to staff it with volunteers,” said Shear.

“Numerous times when I’ve been working here, people will be walking by and will ring the doorbell, to see what we’re doing,” added Kinney. “I invite them in, talk a bit about ReachArts. … and they’re impressed. Our location is great, about four blocks from the train station, a short walk to the beach, right near the library.”

Summer programs being considered include a Porch Fest event, much like Somerville’s annual shindig, where attendees walk from house to house to watch singers, bands and artists set up on a porch and entertain. Phillip Alexander, the musician who founded and manages the successful Swampscott by the Sea Summer Concert Series, is spearheading this effort.

For more information, go to reacharts.org.

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