By Kelly Burch
---- — An Andover art instructor has organized a winter exhibit in downtown Haverhill that’s open free to the public with one caveat: You must leave your wallet at home.
“Under the Same Sky” displays 750, 4-by-6-inch photographs of the sky from around world.
Sharon Silverman said the premise behind the show concept is simple.
“It’s art for art’s sake,” she said. “I do it because it’s a nice things to do for the arts.”
The pictures, coming from 19 countries, were submitted by 93 artists, including some of Silverman’s own students at The Studio at Dundee Park in Andover. The show runs through the end of February at Angles and Art Gallery (lower level), 80 Wingate St., Haverhill.
Silverman came up with the idea for the “Same Sky” exhibit more than a year ago.
“I was sick of all the negativity that we get bombarded with,” she said. “This exhibit is a metaphor for peace. No matter what your circumstances, we are all under the same sky. People really responded to that idea.”
Silverman reached out to the International Union of Mail Artists, a global organization that supports free art events. Artists in the union submit their work to the person putting on a show, with the understanding that the show must be free to the public and none of the work is for sale during or after the exhibit. A member of the group for years, Silverman has sent her art to shows around the world.
“The whole philosophy of ‘free’ is something that I’m really passionate about,” she said. “It is a totally different philosophy from what this country is used to. When you take the ego out of art and take the money out, it blows people’s minds. They can’t wrap their heads around the fact that it’s free and there is nothing to buy.”
In addition to submitting her art for exhibits, Silverman has organized free shows in the past. One of them, “The Contemporary Faces of Jesus,” was seen by more than 100,000 people.
“The idea is to get all economic backgrounds into these shows for free,” she said.
For the “Under the Same Sky” project, Silverman asked people around the world to take pictures of the sky above them. She didn’t want landscapes, wires or birds – just straight shots of the sky.
“I asked people to shoot above their heads, wherever they were,” she said.
The results, Silverman said, were better than she was hoping for.
“It blew my mind. The textures and colors are just phenomenal,” she said.
In one picture, clouds curl over, looking like the surf breaking on a beach. In others, lightning cracks or a full moon shines. One picture shows the beginning of a tornado, while Silverman can quickly pick out the pictures from Greece because of the vivid color of the sky over the Aegean sea.
“Some of the pictures are so peaceful and muted and some are so in your face,” she said. “People hear that the exhibit is pictures of the sky and wonder how different they can be, but the atmospheres and colors are amazing.”
One artist wrote to Silverman saying, “Thank you for making me look up again.” That sentiment was exactly what Silverman was hoping to inspire with the project.
“That made me feel great. Everyone should be thankful for their blessings. There is beauty around us, but we’re so stressed that oftentimes we don’t notice it,” she said.
Silverman is dedicating the show to two friends who could not be there. Ed Romano, a local artist who recently died of brain cancer, left Silverman all of his mounting boards so that she could properly display the photos. Rose Krikorian was a family friend who recently died at 93 years old.
“She never missed a single art show that I did,” she said. “You can’t do something like this without people who are kind.”
After the show, Silverman plans to turn some of the pictures into postcards, which she will use to mail thank-you notes to the participating artists. The rest of the pictures will be given away, in line with the International Union of Mail Artists’ philosophy of distributing free art.
The pictures are displayed from top-to-bottom on one wall at Angles and Art, with chairs facing them. Silverman hopes that people will come in, make themselves a free cup of coffee or hot chocolate and lose themselves in the art.
“I want everyone to take a deep breath and take a break from whatever is going on,” she said. “No one is saying ‘buy this.’ There aren’t many places like that.”