The circus is (still) coming to town

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Sylvi Faldetta, 12, practices poses on the aerial fabric. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)


Riding worldwide tide, local classes in circus and performing arts enjoy rise in popularity


LACONIA — A day after the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced its own demise, circus students at the Laconia Community Center climbed, spun and juggled with eager delight.
Erin Lovett Sherman, artistic director of Artsfest, which offers professional instruction in circus and performing arts for youth and adult students, said the headlines generated plenty of conversation but didn't dampen enthusiasm.
Artsfest started its winter session on Jan. 8. On the second week of class, students arrived to the grim news about the 146-year-old Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announcing the end of performances. Changing tastes and battles with animal rights groups took a toll on the American institution, according to owners of the circus. Ringling Bros.' two circus units will conclude their tours with final shows at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., on May 7, and at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., on May 21, a Feld Entertainment press release reported. (On Jan. 31, tickets go on sale for April 21-23 shows at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester.)
Sherman, artistic director of Artsfest, said she was saddened by the news, as well as the recent bankruptcy of the Big Apple Circus based in New York. An auction of the Big Apple Circus' assets is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7, according to its website ( This circus had been in business since 1977.
"It's crazy," Sherman said, shaking her head, while waiting to start teaching students in Laconia on Sunday, Jan. 15.
But circus is an "emerging market," and despite the grim headlines, Sherman said she can't keep up with demand.
"Every year we quadruple our popularity," she said.
"We're really growing right now," Sherman said.
Artsfest will continue with Sunday classes in topics such as aerial fabric, trapeze, lyra or aerial hoop, Spanish web (suspension of an artist on a long. cloth-covered rope), acrobatics and partnering, hoop dance, handstands, flexibility and strength building, and cyr wheel — Sherman's husband, Michael Manning, climbs into a cyr wheel, a heavy ring in which he defies gravity as he forms the spokes of the wheel and rolls across the floor.
People can join instruction any time, Sherman said. She welcomes new students, even halfway through a session, and she offers scholarships. "If a kid is really interested in this and wants to pursue this, I can take them up to the professional level," she said. "If there's a kid in need, I'd love for them to come join us."
The winter session features several accomplished youngsters, whose feats are a combination of gymnastic prowess and fearless grace.
Jennifer Faldetta, a yoga instructor from Central Massachusetts, said she travels for several hours each Sunday to bring her daughter, Sylvi, 12, to Laconia. Faldetta said, "It's worth the drive for us. These guys together are just really excellent coaches."
Sylvi Faldetta scales the aerial fabric, a pair of dangling ribbons, twisting herself into poses far above the community center floor.
"She's just really passionate about it," her mother said. "She's an amazing athlete.
She's incredibly strong and confident."
Sherman said circus instruction helps instill confidence and stamina.
"It's really excellent for team building and leadership skills," she said.
"It's all the athletic training without the competition. So it really fits in well for a lot of kids who don't do well with the competitive aspect of sports training," Sherman said.
Sherman said Laconia is her home town, and she started the community center program about 15 years ago. She recalled growing up and how she was mentored, and wants to be there for kids seeking direction.
"The groups vary each week. Sometimes we have up to 25 kids and sometimes we have eight. We do circus and performing arts training. Some of the kids might be doing it for fitness or for fun or for professional aspirations."
Sherman is a dancer, choreographer, educator and director of youth programs and outreach coordinator for the New England Center for Circus Arts, nonprofit circus school based in Brattleboro, Vt.
In September 2016, the center broke ground on a new home, "which will be the only custom-built circus arts building in the United States," according to the center's website (
The New England Center for Circus Arts offers a mastery of circus arts, a three-year college program, which is the nearest equivalent of a bachelor's degree, Sherman said.
"We can't make circus artists fast enough to live up to the market right now," Sherman said. "Right now, in the circus world, there are a lot of jobs. It still is this emerging art form. In Europe it's huge. In Quebec, it's huge, and the schools there are sponsored, they're nationally sponsored."
The entertainment form known as circus arts has been evolving, Sherman said. "It's been evolving for years now. With the introduction of Cirque du Soleil, the face of circus has changed, and it's continuing to grow."
Saying demand for circus arts has been "blossoming and growing and developing all over the world," Sherman described a "forward trajectory that can't be matched. I hope that traditional circus stays alive and evolves with it."
"The kids that graduate from our programs, they have good job prospects," Sherman said.
"Circus is the most popular that it ever has been, and looking to the future it's only getting bigger," she said.

The Artsfest Circus and Performing Arts program includes instruction for students ages 4 and up at 3 p.m. on Sundays at the Laconia Community Center. For details, visit

An 'intentional community'

01 10 communal farm mug EjarqueAlton farm being groomed as a communal living project


ALTON — Nearly 50 acres of farmland here could become home to an "intentional community," a group of people growing their own food and living communally, based on the vision of a retired aeronautics engineer.
On Thursday, the architect of this community welcomes interested people to attend a meeting in Durham to explore the idea.
Peter Ejarque of Durham said he is a retired engineer for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration with an interest in sustainable agriculture and renewable energy.
"By trade I'm an aerospace engineer. I used to work for NASA. I've lived in a community before, and I'm really fascinated by this," Ejarque said.
The farm he envisions is called "Sunburst."
"I've had a lot of interest. We've had a lot of people apply already," Ejarque said.
But the idea remains in the planning phase.
"We're still in our infancy. We don't have any buildings up on the farm yet," Ejarque said.
According to his Craigslist ad, "Sunburst is a community with plans to be self-supporting, providing jobs through intense aquaculture, hydroponics, beekeeping, internet business, recumbent-bicycle making, and the production of electric bicycles and trikes. Sunburst is a home for those who share high ideals and who know that tomorrow is built today. We are presently in the formative stages: We now own 50 acres of farmland and are in the process of purchasing another 45 acres on which to build our buildings and residential housing. We are building the relationships and the organizational foundations of a community. We are planning on building a cluster of energy-efficient mini-homes/moveable mini-homes on trailers and developing a conference and education center which will demonstrate conservation of energy resources and sustainable agriculture."
Nic Strong, town planner for Alton, confirmed that Ejarque owns 46 acres on Coffin Brook Road in Alton.
"He did get a building permit to put up a couple of pole type greenhouses for his personal use which have not yet been constructed," Strong reported in an email to the Sun. "The property is located in the Rural District, and Agriculture is a permitted use in that district. Depending on the particular agricultural use that is proposed for a property, it may require a minor site plan with the Planning Board. No applications have been submitted to the Alton Planning Board."
Ejarque explained, "We are presently in the formative stages."
The community could spread out to encompass 140 acres, including the nearly 50 acres of farmland in Alton and 48 acres on Lake Wentworth. Another 46 acres about four miles from the Alton site in Barnstead are owned by a nearby property owner who is interested in Ejarque's vision of building residential housing, also in a communal-living style and possibly as an adjunct to the farm, Ejarque said.
Ejarque explained that he learned about the 46-acre site in Barnstead about four months ago, and this discovery of a potential housing hub ignited his interest in gathering a community of people at Alton to generate food on an educational farm.
"We're trying to get this thing to take off. We're not sure how many members we want to have on the farm, in the community, but we have about 15 people who are really interested," Ejarque said.
Ejarque said he lived in an intentional community in Twin Oaks, Virginia. The key is to find like-minded people who will contribute to the farming and living effort, he said.
"We're trying to provide a place where someone can work in in exchange for free room and board," he said.
Ejarque expects to host monthly meetings, with the idea of screening participants. People who have "tiny homes and/or small homes on trailers" are invited to join the community. Ejarque said he plans to bring in two large greenhouses in the spring. He also envisions two storage containers, electric fencing and a small moat around the greenhouses for irrigation. If the project takes off, the farm could include cutting-edge growing methods and solar power.
Citing experience at NASA with hydroponics, the science of growing plants without soil, Ejarque said his home in Durham features a composting heating system, where woodchips and horse manure organically heat up a system of piping.

Many of these areas of study would be incorporated at Sunburst, according to his Craigslist meeting notice.

"The community house will include a pro-type aquaculture system utilizing fish and vegetables. Also we plan to install an underground thermal storage tank for our compost heating system combined with our solar hot water and rocket stoves. This spring we will be putting up another greenhouse for our hydroponic gardens. In addition we will be building a 'living pond' and constructing two sheds to house our rabbits and chickens," he wrote.
Sunburst is ideal "if somebody wants to quit their dead-end job and come out and live on a farm and come out to a community and support it, build up a farm where you can generate your own money," Ejarque said.
Some of the produce may end up in local grocery stores, based on his early inquiries, he said. The intentional community would not hinge on religious affiliation or any kind of "cult" mentality, Ejarque said.
"We're looking for people with a sense of the future and who have some grand ideas and want to change the world," he said.

For more information about Sunburst, visit the Fellowship for Intentional Community at
The meeting in Durham is at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12. Anyone interested in attending is asked to make a reservation first via


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Peter Ejarque's house in Durham features renewable energy systems and a spot for his electric car. Ejarque hopes to convert a farm in Alton into an "intentional community," a place for people to live communally and grow food. (Courtesy photo)

Hip-hop poet Aaron Jaffer is in Tamworth this week

TAMWORTH — Spoken-word poet and playwright Aaron Jafferis takes Tamworth by storm through Jan. 13. Through hip-hop theater and performance poetry, Jafferis explores human identity. Using rhythm and verbs he tells his story of growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, with honesty and honor, and teaches us to tell our own.

Arts Council of Tamworth welcomes Jafferis for a weeklong artist's residency, culminating in a final performance on Friday, Jan. 13, at the Tamworth Lyceum at 7 p.m. Jafferis and beatboxer Chris Celiza will perform Aaron's original work, "Smooth Criminal," "the story of a nerdy New Haven kid desperate to liberate his people—as soon as he can figure out who they are." Tickets are "Choose Your Own Ticket Price": Adults, $5-$30, Kids, $0-$5 and can be reserved online at Coffee and small plates will be available for purchase.

Aaron Jafferis is a hip-hop poet and playwright whose honors include a Creative Capital Award, Richard Rodgers Award, Sundance Institute/Time Warner Fellowship, NEFA National and a MacDowell Fellowship.

"I write to link my personal experience with what's happening in the world," said Jafferis. The mission of Arts Council of Tamworth is to inspire and empower our rural community through exposure to and collaboration with master artists and performers representing diverse cultures and art forms.

This residency is funded in part by the New England States Touring program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies. Support also comes from area sponsors: The Other Store, BEAM Construction, Club Motorsports, Cooper Cargill & Chant, Settler's Green, White Mountain Oil & Propane, White Mountain Survey & Engineering, Winnipesaukee Driving School.


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Aaron Jafferis

The Art Place – The art of Tim Campbell

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by Barbara Gibbs
The Art Place

Tim Campbell identifies with the term of outsider art, which was coined by an art critic in 1972 as an English synonym for "art brut"– French, meaning raw art or rough art. The critic, Roger Cardinal, used this term to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture. The term outsider art is often applied more broadly to include self-taught or naïve art makers. Campbell's work reflects his sharp sense of humor, and interest in primitive folk art as well as contemporary political and religious imagery. His work covers a vast range of subjects, including North American birds, his "Animals as People" series, and folk-style map paintings. He also loves to create caricature-like portraits, accentuating odd features and stretching proportions to fit the look he wants. "I like anything that's not right. I don't like perfect things."

His collection of maps includes one of Lake Winnipesaukee with our own "Nessy" popping up out of the water. Tim's collection of birds includes a robin, cardinal, chickadee, goldfinch, as well as New Hampshire's own purple finch. Of course, he has added a loon or two to the collection. This series demonstrates a more specific and detailed approach to his art. He paints his native New Hampshire fish series in a more Americana style. Having a birthday on October 31, Tim has made a lot of images relating to the Halloween holiday. He has an entire series of popular Halloween scenes and images that he has made into cards. These and other holiday cards go over very well. Tim states, "My work is both thought provoking and humorous. It has taken Folk Art to a new level." Tim also creates sculptural pieces. "They are created entirely from recycled wood and metal. Using vintage pieces for my painted furniture gives them a primitive appearance. Each piece is unique and one-of-a-kind."

Tim was born in Keene, New Hampshire, and decided to be an artist in second grade when he beat even high schoolers in an art competition. Later on, Campbell actually failed an art class in high school, but didn't let it kill his passion. Tim's art career has flourished since then, and his work can be found in galleries around the United States and internationally. In 2010, Campbell was honored with the highest award as a traditional artisan in "The Early American Life" magazine's Directory of Traditional American Crafts.

Campbell works in his studio in Keene, New Hampshire, with his dog Otis, a Jack Russell terrier who keeps him company while he works, and serves as a muse for this whimsical self-taught artist. His original art, as well as prints, can be seen at The Art Place in downtown Wolfeboro.