Gail Hoar

Gail Hoar -- Artist

Gail Hoar
The Wilton Arts and Film Festival began in May of 1994 with a dinner at Café Pierrot, a short-lived establishment in Hillsboro Mills.  Live music was supplied by several local musicians including Gene Brochu, who also played several times at film festival receptions.

The Festival lasted for more than a decade, Gail Hoar explained, adding “It laid the foundation for other things. Several members of the original group helped found the Wilton Main Street Association which now runs Summerfest.” It became a three-day event starting on Friday evening with a Grand Gala, Premiere Night, in the town hall; art show winners were announced, and the purchase prize unveiled. The night always ended with Dennis showing a film in the theater after it emptied around 9:30. Later a film contest was added, and the winner was shown in the theater during Premiere Night. Other entries were shown throughout the festival day.

Gail was part of the festival from its beginning.  “We did so many things,” she said, including adding the Town Hall Gallery, which was founded as an outgrowth of the various shows. Entries in the art shows were displayed in the bank lobby and store windows. The high school shop students made the screens for the display.

“We wanted to bring all of Wilton together, give the students the sense of being an important part of the festival.  Main Street and the Park were filled with vendors, children’s activities and music all weekend. The Whimsical People, added after the Festival merged with Main Street, became part of the fun, and served as advance advertising.

“The sale of the art went to the Main Street Awning Program,” she recalled, “but those are mostly gone as businesses changed. Every year we tried to do something different.” One year they attempted to break the Guinness World Record for a kazoo band, which they didn’t. “We gave out 800 kazoos – I still have mine.” The concert was led by the director of the Nashua Symphony Orchestra.

Then there was the year Carl Anderson opened the jail cells in the basement of the former Color Shop. People could pay to have someone arrested, who then had to find someone to bail him or her out. “It was great fun.”

The worst that happened, she recalled, was the year it snowed, “in the middle of May. It was awful, but we got through it.”

Mural“The idea of restoring the horse and sulky mural (on the former Intervale Machine building) grew out of the Main Street program, and was a joint effort with the festival, with many people working on it coming from the festival art committee,” she said.

Gail moved to Wilton from Durham, and her husband Andy from Pelham. They were married at the Red House in 1986, “to form a life together in Wilton.” She grew up on Mercer Island near Seattle, Washington, graduated from the University of Washington with a combined degree in art and art history, and has a master’s degree in counseling from U.N.H.

Over the years she has served on various boards and committees including Main Street, Souhegan Valley Chamber, Heritage Commission, Historical Society and Economic Development, and was an alternate on the Planning Board.

“Now I’m continuing adult education at Fitchburg State University through the ALFA (Adult Learning in the Fitchburg Area) program and joined that board and also serve on their curriculum committee. The Zoom courses offered through this program saved me over the past year and a half where I was still able to see and converse with people I had gotten to know in an environment of shared learning experiences.”

She added, “Wilton feels like home now, even though my heart is still in the northwest. I don’t think we would be able to find a place to live that offers what Wilton does, surrounded by nature with woods and trails outside our door, a great place to swim, wonderful neighbors, and a charming downtown.

PaintingAlthough she has participated in many art shows and won awards, she has not done so recently. “The pandemic has weighed on me and to paint I need to find a place where I have no thoughts other than merging with what I’m working on. I only sign a piece when I feel it is what I wanted to achieve and it satisfies me.”

Over the years she has donated paintings to help many good causes, including Peterborough Players and Andy’s Summer Playhouse, which is next door to her home. “When I’m not painting or hit a dry period, I do beadwork, creating pieces to donate to organizations I want to help or to give as gifts for special occasions. I’m an amateur gardener who loves to garden. I like to be surrounded by plants.”

She will get back to painting, she said, “I never know where life will take me.”

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