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A scene from the 2006 Art in the Park.

Tim Jean
Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

The Park will be transformed into an outdoor art gallery next Saturday, Sept. 20. But residents won't bat an eyelash at the more than 100 watercolors, photographs and other works hanging in the green space at the corner of Bartlet and Chestnut streets.

Now in its 34th year, the annual Art in the Park event, organized by the Andovers Artists Guild, has made artwork seem to belong among the benches, bandstand and trees of the Park.

The event allows artists to connect with local residents in a more relaxed, casual atmosphere than a museum or gallery, said Diane Butler, a member of the six-member Art in the Park planning committee.

"I enjoy seeing the variety of art, and all the different talents that people have," said Butler, a photographer. "People just wander around at their leisure. Families come with dogs. It's a relaxed day, people are out and about (and stop by)."

About 80 artists have signed up to exhibit this year, said Butler, and photography, drawings and paintings in oil, watercolor and acrylic will be displayed. The event runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a rain date of Sept. 21 at the same time.

A disc jockey will play popular music, and refreshments will be for sale, said Butler. Money from exhibitor registration fees goes to a scholarship for a student from an area high school who plans to study art in college.

Participating artists keep all the proceeds from pieces they sell that day, said Butler. A panel of three judges will give out ribbons and cash prizes to artists.

Andover resident Janet Hamlin, a watercolor painter, has been showing pieces at Art in the Park since 2001. She specializes in paintings of her hometown — images from her favorite spots in Andover. This year, she'll show a series including scenes of St. Augustine Church, Ballardvale, the Shawsheen River, Essex Street, Central Street and South Church.

"(In 2001) I had done my first series of paintings of Andover, and decided to be brave and put them out there. It was a wonderful reception of my work, encouraged me to continue on and I have continued to paint Andover ever since," she said. "'The Wizard of Oz' is my favorite movie, and the saying 'There's no place like home' (rings true). My life is here, my eyes are here and my hands are connected to my eyes, so that's it."

Hamlin lives with her husband, David Schleifer, and two sons, Charlie, a ninth-grader, and fifth-grader Jack Hamlin Schleifer. Most often, she takes a photograph of a scene and then paints it in her home studio, she said.

Art in the Park is a favorite venue, said Hamlin, because it's "always a very happy day," with people in great moods.

"My favorite thing is the kids. It always amazes me - I have over 50 images of Andover, and the adults don't always know where the places are, but the kids do. Nothing is lost on kids," she said. "They recognize the Historical Society, places that you wouldn't think they'd remember.

"I'm forever looking for sites in Andover that speak to me," said Hamlin. "Sometimes people look at their own town in a new light (through my paintings), the beauty around us that we don't always see in our busy lives."

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