Jeremy Barnett’s seven custom-painted canvases were unveiled July 4 at Marblehead Little Theatre
When the Marblehead Festival of Arts was canceled this year due to COVID-19, Marblehead native and Oakland University Theatre Professor Jeremy Barnett proposed and executed a project for seven custom-painted canvases to be installed on the façade of the Marblehead Little Theatre in Marblehead, Mass.
“Marblehead is home for both my wife and me; and it’s the town that our parents still call home,” Barnett said.
Barnett’s father is the facility manager and technical director at the Marblehead Little Theatre, his mother designed their logo, and his wife sewed costumes for their shows with three generations of her family.
“It’s sort of a family business,” said Barnett, who had his first backstage experience working on an MLT production of Oliver in 1992 when he was 14 years old. Since then, he has been an award-winning scenic designer for theatres across the country and, as an artist, has exhibited in venues on three continents.
It was while speaking with his father about the cancellation of the Marblehead Festival of Arts and other events in his hometown that Barnett became inspired to create the canvases, which were unveiled on July 4.
“There was a lot of Marblehead community life being cancelled all at once and, perhaps because my family was seeking shelter from the uncertainty of the world in my childhood home, those cancellations of favorite childhood memories shook me hard,” he said.
The next day, Barnett reached out to the Marblehead Little Theatre’s Board of Directors and offered to paint five canvases that would be “aggressively non-cynical in these cynical times.”
“The point of the project is to share something with the community and to symbolically and creatively bring the community together at a time when we need to be a little bit apart from one another,” Barnett said.
Four vertical canvases featuring organic shapes were arranged to the left and right of the theatre’s wooden doors. Two more canvases across the tops of the doors create a frieze depicting summer scenes. The final painting — a 7-foot-high and 20-foot-wide canvas — is located on the building’s second story. It features a series of vibrant shapes suggesting the energy of summer, fireworks, ice cream sprinkles and bursting bottles of champagne.
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