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Artists find Holyoke to be a great location

Date: 1/21/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE Holyoke has been known as "The Paper City" for over a century, but perhaps it will get a new nickname due to its growing number of young artists in the city's former factory buildings.

Adam Mulcahy of Holyoke and Lisa Betournay of Chicopee are among the latest artists who have established a studio in the city's factory district. Their Fire City Studio is on the third floor of 460 Race St.

The space's tall ceilings allows for huge exhibit spaces for the two artist's mixed media work. Betournay is a painter, while Mulcahy makes sculpture from found metal objects and pinstripes. They also collaborate on some pieces.

The two artists described themselves as largely self-taught, but readily listed the artists who influenced them. Mulcahy said that underground cartoonists such has Robert Crumb and Robert Williams were important to him, as were hot rod designers and artists Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and Von Dutch. He also likes today's skateboard graphics and graffiti art.

Betournay, who paints in acrylics, said the fine lines and dark images of French illustrator and engraver Gustave Dore appealed to her. Betournay explained she was drawn to art as a way to express herself.

Mulcahy worked as an auto mechanic who taught himself welding. He said he had been "drawing forever," and started welding sculptures of discarded metal. The materials he uses in his sculptures are all objects he recycles. He scours tag sales and scrap yards for old tools and other objects. Wrenches and drill bits become arms and legs, while old gauges serve as eyes.

Although some people might be thrown off by the recurring skull motif in his work, Mulcahy's work can also be whimsical, such as an exuberant motorcyclist on a huge spring or a Grim Reaper with a clock for face.

He has several pinstriped serving trays on exhibit.

Mulcahy doesn't fabricate the sculptures at the Race Street studio, but rather at home. Betournay said, with a smile, the studio allows them to "get back their living room." The home was "jammed to the ceiling with art work," Mulcahy said.

"The rooms were closing in on us," Betournay said with a laugh.

Holyoke is a great place for artists, Mulcahy said. There are huge spaces available at reasonable rents. The city is part of a region with a huge art community and is close to both Boston and New York City, he added. The former factory space provides a place where the public can see and hopefully buy their art.

The pair has weekly open studios every Sunday from 3 to 8 p.m. and plan to host monthly events to encourage Holyoke-based artists to meet each other and the public.

To learn more about their artwork, log onto