Weird wonders abound at stART on the Street


Sunday brought sunshine, clear skies and mild temperatures, which in a season of rain and wind might have been specially ordered for the day.

At the 19th annual stART on the Street festival, held Sept. 17 on Worcester’s Park Avenue and spilling a bit into Elm Park, crowds, performers, food vendors and artisans took over the thoroughfare, reveling in the good weather. For dancers, singers and makers, it was a time to shine with the sun.

‘It’s a beautiful day’

Tia Kinsman, of Fitchburg, offered her darkly whimsical designs on items such as patches and carrying bags, and stained glass pieces bearing the likenesses of creatures such as luna moths and beetles flying free, their underwings spread wide beneath their opened shells.

“Everyone has been really nice,” Kinsman said. “I’ve made a lot of sales. It’s a beautiful day.”

A true artist will tell you that almost any object or material can form the basis of a new creation, even if they didn’t start out their lives that way. David Dawson, of Scrapped and Found, offered cheerful, robot-like figurines, made from motor oil dispensers and croquet balls, and greeting passersby with eyes fashioned from bottle caps.

“I’m here almost every year,” Dawson said. “This is one of my top three favorite fairs.”

Performing art stations were set along the way, including one for dance, where an audience stopped to applaud Worcester flamenco instructor Edmy Ortiz swirling a shawl, known as a mantocillo.

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On a raised stage, singer Taija New, of Springfield, engaged her audience with uplifting songs and a dash of tough love, including about walking away from unhealthy relationships.

A feast of the senses

There were booths representing community organizations, such as Worcester Animal Rescue League, and some live action, such as a swordsman ship demonstration by the the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Amid the sound and colors, a curious figure stood on a pedestal. In ghostly white from head to toe, a statue, one arm raise gradefully, drew onlookers, some of whom cautiously approached. When a child tentatively put a dollar bill into a tip box, the statue, like Pygmalion’s Galatea, came to life, with a gracious gesture of thanks.

The “statue” was none other than A Silent Soap Box, a performance artist whose actions really do speak louder than words.

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This year’s festival drew a crowd of 35,000 to 40,000, said Tina Zlody, festival co-director. “It was a little less dense than last year. Last year was the first one where people were out of the house after COVID, and it was mobbed last year,” Zlody said.

With a slightly smaller turnout, however, Zlody said, “People had better access to booths, and purchasing things.”


Artist Tia Kinsman of Fitchburg at stART on the Street

Artist Tia Kinsman of Fitchburg talks about her unique designs at stART on the Street, held Sept. 17 on Park Avenue in Worcester.

Margaret Smith, Worcester Magazine

This helps fulfill part of the festival’s mission, of supporting makers, and giving prospective customers more opportunity not only to purchase items, but understand something about how they are made.

“We look at handmade crafts. We look at handmade arts, and what it takes to produce that work. It’s a chance to interact with artists and makers,” Zlody said. “What does it take to forge iron? What does it take to sew and stamp leather? Also, being able to appreciate something that is handmade.”

‘The broad spectrum’


Fencing at the stARTon the Street Festival in Worcester

Society for Creative Anachronism members Sean Veale and John Davis demonstrate fencing at stART on the Street, Sept. 17 on Park Avenue in Worcester.

Margaret Smith, Worcester Magazine

Zlody said this applies not only to handcrafted goods and works of art, but to food and drinks.

By all accounts, competition in the maker market is increasing, and if you’re a maker, you surely know this. Applications for a table or booth at a craft fair or seasonal event can draw more makers than there are spaces. “I think we had over 500 applications for 200 spots,” Zlody said.

For makers, nonprofits and performers, Zlody said the selection process is done with with a mind toward supporting and reflecting the whole community. “We also look at the broad spectrum … we go back to the community, the nonprofits, people who give you ideas for shelters if you need it, to help find food, dress for success,” Zlody said.


Edmy Ortiz, of Flamenco Worcester, performs at stART on the Street

Edmy Ortiz, of Flamenco Worcester, performs at stART on the Street, held Sept. 17 on Worcester’s Park Avenue.

Margaret Smith, Worcester Magazine

Selection also means striking a balance. For example, Zlody said, “What stART wants to do is not just to be open to fine art. It’s to find working people doing unusual things you wouldn’t find other places, nontraditional, seasoned, and younger artists. People who are really just trying their hands at new things. We want to be inclusive.”

With this year’s festival behind them, organizers are regrouping, but there is still work to be done. “I am driving to the storage facility to wash out trash cans, clean up tents and organize everything,” Zlody said. 

Next year’s festival will highlight a special milestone as the 20th year. When the festival ended on Sunday, Zlody said, “We all went out to dinner, anyone who could stay away long enough to do it.” It was a time to talk about how the festival went over all. Next year, Zlody said, “Of course, for the 20th, we are going to look at something special. We don’t know what it is.”

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