Since 1968, we have been celebrating the creative spirit of the South Shore.
The first annual Pembroke Arts Festival was conceived by artist Brooks Kelly. He was assisted and supported by eight other young men who were active members of the community from all walks of life. Kelly had noted that art shows in Boston, Plymouth and Scituate had folded and felt that Pembroke could step up and fill the gap. He and his eight friends first met at his and his wife Anne's home on Oldham Street in the Spring of 1968, and followed up with many planning sessions at the Nine Owls Restaurant on Mattakeesett Street. Seed money was pledged by four area businessmen John D. Walsh Jr., James B. West, Ken Henrich, and Lawrence Henrich. The rest of the funding came from donations and artist entry fees.
The men brought various skills to the table. Brooks, the Committee Chairman, had connections in the art world and was able to secure three jurors including Boston Globe art critic Ed Driscoll. He also obtained flats from a previous area festival that were no longer being used in order to hang the show. Ed Quill took charge of Public Relations, sending out weekly updates to all the area newspapers. Electrician Dick Keen strung the many lights. Assistant Superintendent John Maloney cleared the way for use of the Center School. Engineer Bill Zoino handled the fundraising and worked with salesman Burton Sherman to line up the entertainment. Burton loved balloons and took charge of blowing up dozens of them! Insurance agent Bob Gillette served as treasurer. Alan Dunphy was an interior designer who lent his artistic eye, and salesman John Braley filled in wherever needed. While several of the original members have passed away we were delighted to have Anne Kelly, Ed Quill, Bill Zoino, and Dick Keen with us to celebrate at a Founders' Appreciation Night at the Pembroke Public Library on Tuesday, August 1, 2017.
Ed stated "It was the wives who did all the heavy lifting". In those days many of the men commuted to Boston while the wives stayed at home raising lots of children, most of whom were under the age of ten when the Festival began. Anne said "We laughed a great deal because we were flying by the seat of our pants! It was all cooperation and helping each other". Delores Quill, Alice Braley, June Gillette, Ann Zoino, Rose Maloney, Barbara Keen and Anne Kelly pitched in with all their children in tow. They and the children moved the artwork for jurying, hung the show, hostessed at the event, and took everything down at the end. Barbara decided that flowers were needed so gathered bouquets from her own gardens to decorate. They also enlisted the help of up to forty townspeople who volunteered throughout the weekend in two hour shifts.
That first year the nine founding men all wore straw boater hats and the wives wore badges to be easily identified as committee members. There was no bandstand at the time so a piano was brought out and Festival-goers danced on the blacktop in front of the school. The juried art competition included many entries, approximately 200 of which were selected for exhibit, and prizes ranged from $50 to $150. There were also food stands, craft demonstrations, and performing artists, as there are to this day. But unlike the more current festivals there were no photography entries, craft tents, raffle, or children's exhibit.
Remarkably while there have been many changes with the times the Pembroke Arts Festival lives on with much of the original spirit of appreciation of the arts and community camaraderie. We have the Founding Fathers and their families to thank for that. We were happy to honor them in our Fiftieth year, and look forward to continuing to honor their vision in the future!