Hali Keeler, the director of Bill Memorial Library in Groton, recalls how Audrey Heard came to speak to her about a brainstorm she had more than a half-dozen year ago.
"She said, 'You've got these (library) grounds, I've got this great idea - let's do an art show that'll be a fundraiser for the library,'" Keeler recalls. "She felt that, with people putting art all over the fences on the property, it would mimic the Left Bank of Paris back in the day when artists did that."
That idea blossomed into Art on Groton Bank, which hits its sixth year with its show this Saturday. Alas, this will be the first Art on Groton Bank since Heard passed away in March, at age 87.
Heard didn't want any big tribute after her death. Organizers, though, plan to make a little nod to Heard, with a photo and a small placard on view, recognizing her contributions.
Heard had decided a couple of years ago that she wanted to spend more time painting and less time organizing, so she stepped back from her Art on Groton Bank duties. Chris Rose, who is gallery director at the Gallery at Lighthouse in Groton, has taken the reins and worked with a very dedicated group of volunteers to keep Art on Groton Bank thriving.
Art on Groton Bank expects to have upwards of 20 artists exhibiting Saturday - watercolorist and jewelry maker, wood turner and photographer who takes pictures with his iPhone. (Artists are allowed to register on site as well.)
The festival aims to offer something in every price range. Larger canvases are for sale, yes, but so are small prints and note cards.
More than 200 artists and artisans have taken part in Art on Groton Bank since Heard envisioned the art show and then created it in 2007 with several other people.
(Although it was Heard's original idea, the festival ended up not being a library fundraiser; the library does, though, get a small stipend or gift from the festival each year.)
Beyond the works, Art on Groton Bank offers a scenic setting - the expansive library lawn looks down over Groton's Thames Street and is located right next to historic Fort Griswold.
Rose says of the show's appeal, "It's small. It's local. And it's in a beautiful place."
Keeler, who is the library liaison for Art on Groton Bank, offers a similar sentiment, saying, "It's a great sense of community. There's not the pressure you might feel at other shows. People see each other every year. ... It's very friendly, familiar. Everything about it is professional - these are excellent professional artists, but it's a casual, informal atmosphere."
She recalls one man coming each year just to see what was on the refreshment table. People bring their kids. (There's a place where youngsters can create their own art.) Visitors bring their dogs.
"It's very festive. It's like ol' home week," Keeler says.
Art on Groton Bank, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Bill Memorial Library grounds, 240 Monument St., Groton; free; artongrotonbank.org.