Person of the Week
Helping BACA Open ‘The Painted Doors of Branford’
Artist and educator Maryann Beatty Cook will share several beautifully painted doors among some 80 original designs on display at Branford Arts & Cultural Alliance’s (BACA) The Painted Doors of Branford, which she’s helping to organize. The free public art walk is coming to downtown Branford Saturday, Nov. 7 and Sunday, Nov. 8 to help bring crowds to support local businesses along the stroll and to benefit non-profit BACA’s first student Arts Scholarship. (Photo courtesy of Maryann Beatty Cook )
“Branford, art, and Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance are gifts I already receive daily, teaching in an innate gift that I thrive on.”
Last week, artist and educator Maryann Beatty Cook spent a good portion of her birthday on Oct. 21 talking to The Sound about gifts she cherishes that can’t be unwrapped. She was also in the midst of creating her own gifts to share with her community: several beautifully painted doors that will be on public display, among some 80 original designs, during Branford Arts & Cultural Alliance (BACA)’s The Painted Doors of Branford.
The free public exhibit is coming to downtown Branford Saturday, Nov. 7 and Sunday, Nov. 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., both days. All proceeds from sponsorships, a silent auction, and other fundraising efforts taking place over the weekend will fuel non-profit BACA’s first student Arts Scholarship, says Maryann, a BACA board member and event co-chair.
The Painted Doors of Branford will feature full-sized doors transformed by artists working in multiple mediums. Doors will be set up outdoors among shopping and strolling spaces stretching from Harrison Avenue to Branford’s Main Street in the Town Green area. The open air art walk is both an art experience and a metaphor for helping the community to open doors to supporting local merchants, restaurants, and businesses that have been coping with the strains of the pandemic since March, says Maryann.
“Our vice president, Robin Sandler, has a wonderful saying that this is ‘the metaphoric reopening of Branford.’ It also coincides with Phase 3,” of Connecticut’s phased reopening, she says.
Phase 3 began Oct. 8 and provides for increased capacity in numbers/percentages of people visiting commercial and public places. Masks or cloth face coverings are still required to be worn when in public, together with social distancing.
Maryann also gives props to Milford Arts Council for sharing with BACA its expertise from successful past “Doors of” installations in Milford.
“They were a big help,” says Maryann. “One of their members is also a member of BACA, and she gave us a lot of guidance.”
Maryann also credits Sandler and her BACA co-chair Jeanette Mobeck for their valuable support of all things BACA, including this event and its goal of funding BACA’s student art scholarship fund.
“Jeanette and Robin are both unbelievable fundraisers,” says Maryann.
The first scholarship will be given to a Branford High School (BHS) student in 2021. Helping BACA build a student scholarship program has been a goal for Maryann, a Branford native, since first signing on with BACA in 2015.
“Since our success has grown thanks to enthusiastic attendance to our varied menu of events, I have been promoting a scholarship for students dreaming and planning careers in music, dance, theater, writing, and art,” she says. “BACA is now, in its sixth year, able to promote and support a first scholarship for Branford students planning higher education in the arts.”
Much of that initial support will come thanks to the remarkable response BACA has received to its invitation to artists, sponsors, organizations, and community members to sign on as participants of The Painted Doors of Branford. Sponsoring organizations have signed on at rates of $250 and $500, while individuals/groups contributed a $35 entry fee and received a door as their canvas, supplied through Branford Building Supplies.
Maryann also thanks the Vigliotti family for generously sponsoring BACA with an event base for organizers and volunteer operations out of 1004 Main Street (former Denali’s). During the two-day exhibit, BACA will be assisted by local youth volunteers, such as handing out bags of tokens the public can use to vote to select People’s Choice awards. BACA will recognize the top three artists (with the most tokens collected) for each of the exhibit’s categories of professional, amateur, and youth artists.
The Painted Doors of Branford will also include a silent auction component for bidders to vie for the purchase of several original doors donated by some of BACA’s extraordinarily talented member artists. Still other BACA member artists will be offering their doors for sale during the event and will donate 35 percent of proceeds to the scholarship fund.
“We have some really valuable doors,” says Maryann. “Some very valuable artwork is going to be out there.”
As an artist, Maryann says one of the benefits of BACA is that it helps members to not only find a venue to share their art, but to elevate their own abilities and belief in the power of their work.
“We have some [who qualify as] professional artists that would never think they were professional artists,” says Maryann. “There’s a lot of us—even myself, as a retired teacher—who, before we got involved with BACA, had very little confidence to put our work out there. And this is part of what BACA is. There are artists and musicians that will be playing music or doing art in their basements unless we get them out there.”
Before retiring from teaching, Maryann taught at Hamden Middle School. She went on to work with at-risk youth through Job Corps and later joined Branford Public Schools (BPS) as a paraprofessional, as well as teaching summer art enrichment programs with BPS students. She continues to tutor students as a certified professional art instructor and maintains her Connecticut teaching certification (K-12). Maryann completed her B.S. in art education at Monmouth University in New Jersey and graduate studies at Southern Connecticut State University. Her professional career spanned many years in corporate and contract design ahead of her education and art careers.
Maryann creates in watercolor, acrylics, oil and pastel from her Branford studio (www.maryannbeattycookart.com) and her home, which she shares with her husband, Mike Cook, who expresses his artistic talents in creations made with found/recycled objects.
“His motivation was 9/11,” says Maryann. “He started doing yard art, street art, unusual things with found items and recycled things.”
In addition to thanking her husband for supporting her volunteer work with BACA, Maryann also thanks her brothers, Mike and Barry (Bear) Beatty, for being “stalwart volunteers” of many BACA events and efforts. Bear Beatty also shares with BACA his expertise and equipment from his firm, Estate Solutions CT.
“My brother Bear has been the ultimate volunteer since the very beginning, and my brother Mike [helps] with everything from providing the muscle to helping figure out logistics,” says Maryann.
As a member of the Shoreline Arts Trail, the Lyme Art Association, and the Greater New Haven Arts Council, Maryann counts herself very lucky to be on the board of BACA, where members share their experience and are committed to helping students as mentors in the arts. BACA is also looking at other creative ways its members can help to inspire and support the next generation, she says.
“As BACA moves forward, another arm of our student focus will be sharing our personal experiences,” she says. “Students and parents are now facing a pandemic with its economic fallout. This, combined with some parents who may be a bit startled when their student dreams of a college degree in the arts, is where many of us can relate.
“Parents may think, ‘Is my young person going to be able to find work, a real career, and a stable income as an actor, artist, writer, musician, or dancer?’ These are legitimate questions,” Maryann adds. “Many of us in BACA are of the same 1970s vintage [when] there was a deep recession. I did not get an art teaching position right away, but instead had surprising opportunities and growth. A long creative business career was built on my art education foundation [and] other members have wonderful experiences to share as well. Mentoring today’s arts students is another service that BACA volunteers are ready to do, to lift families to a see a bright future.”
The Painted Doors of Branford
Visit The Painted Doors of Branford on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7 and 8 in downtown Branford from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (raindate is Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 14 and 15; check @BACACT on Facebook for updates). For more information on BACA, or to make a donation to support non-profit BACA or to become a member, visit branfordarts.org.