Arts and culture take center stage at Newton’s FunFEST

Music, laughter, and bubbles filled the air at Newton’s FunFEST this weekend.

The overcast day on May 18 didn’t stop Newton families from thronging the city hall grounds, which were filled with local vendors, community organizations, and, of course, carnival rides.

Fried Oreos may have been part of the draw, but in between rides families got to enjoy music from student musicians, watch as student muralists added finishing touches to their designs, and even contribute to community art themselves.

Community mural artist Howie Green poses with his design. Photo by Julia Taliesin

Local artist Howie Green designed the community mural at this year’s FunFEST. What started as an outline was an explosion of color by midday Saturday, thanks to the many children, families, and residents who added their own painted flourish.

It’s celebrating being outdoors in Newton, the arts, and Newton’s 150th anniversary,” he said. “It’s sort of like a giant paint-by-number, so everybody is encouraged to come and paint, especially the little kids. The kids make kind of a mess but that’s ok because it’s fun that we can clean it up.”

Conservatory at Highlands owner Dave Carroll had students performing at FunFEST on Saturday.

“Everybody got a moment to shine, and they rocked it,” he said.

He praised Newton’s parks and culture department for bringing so much art into the community event.

“It gives the kids at our school the ability to go out and play, which means so much to them,” he said. “It gives kids this incredible inspiration and reason to practice, and a good, old fun time. It’s such a positive experience, and it’s community building for the school and also Newton.”

Conservatory at Highlands owner Dave Carroll (left) and student Jake Morris (right) work a booth at FunFEST. Photo by Julia Taliesin

FunFEST weekend also includes two performances of a new show, “Pinocchio and the Golden Key” from the Commonwealth Lyric Theatre at the Newton City Hall War Memorial Auditorium.

Newton shines a spotlight on young artists

Student SHINE murals leaned against trees and poles around the city hall grounds. Project SHINE is a city program that engages student artists to create murals inspired by a theme, which this year is “why I love living in Newton.” Finished murals are displayed in parks and playgrounds around the city.

Charlotte Pinto, a junior at Newton North High School, was adding finishing touches to her mural on May 18. 

“When I was a kid I remember laying down in the grass, and it’s a hot day, and you’re with your friends, and it was just really fun to go outside,” she said. “I want them to be happy and laughing.”

Newton North eleventh grader Charlotte Pinto adds finishing touches to her mural on May 18. Photo by Julia Taliesin

Pinto said her school has been really supportive, especially her art teacher. This is Pinto’s second year as a SHINE artist.

“I really enjoyed my experience last year, just interacting with the community was so fun,” she said. “You get to meet so many different people I typically wouldn’t meet. It’s been fun to see people from all different backgrounds.”

Lucy Hurwitz, an eighth grader at Brown Middle School, was also participating in SHINE for the second time. She painted a postcard of important Newton landmarks.

Brown Middle School eighth grader Lucy Hurwitz poses with her mural depicting her favorite places in Newton. Photo by Julia Taliesin

“It’s supposed to represent how it’s our hometown and it’s always somewhere you can come back to,” she said. “I decided on the landmarks I visit the most. ‘Entering Newton’ is the center to show where it is. These are the places I appreciate the most because I go to them.”

What FunFEST is all about

Newton’s Director of Cultural Development Paula Gannon said FunFEST is all about celebrating families and the talented Newton youth.

“It’s the first big festival we run this spring,” she said, “so it’s that coming out of the winter doldrums and getting outside and being together – it’s always an uplifting and fun time.”

A big part of it is the carnival – Cushing Carnival has been coming to Newton for more than 40 years. Gannon remembers bringing her own child, and called it a rite of passage for local kids. 

One of the biggest elements of FunFEST, though, is the arts.

“We’re all about equal access to the arts, connecting with the youth in Newton, and giving them a platform to show their talents,” she said.

Children contribute their artwork and messages to a Newton snow plow. Photo by Julia Taliesin