A History of the Mabray “Doc” Kountze Art and Film Festivals: MACI (Medford Arts Center, Inc.)
Once upon a time....
In 1997, Medford artist Adele Travisano was inspired by art exhibited in the windows of businesses in Somerville's Davis Square. She believed that Medford artists could do likewise. So, that summer in West Medford Square, local artists were assigned a place of business to display their artwork for the season.
This tradition continued for the next few years and expanded to include Medford Square and parts of Haines Square.
In 2002, with artist Barbara Zeles as chairperson, we celebrated with a dance at Medford City Hall to kick off the summer season of the Doc Kountze Festival. Two bands played and it was a big success. Each year the number of artists grew in anticipation of this event. We usually wrote a grant to include expenses for maps, brochures, posters, and entertainment. Meanwhile, the group “ Medford Arts and Artists” was meeting informally on a monthly basis with guest artists speaking about their work.
Meanwhile in 2000, The West Medford Open Studios formed a non-profit organization to display artwork in this close knit neighborhood where homeowners, schools, and businesses would host an artist for the weekend. People would visit, walk around, view, or buy art for sale by local artists. The West Medford Open Studios has continued this annual event every spring. Many artists still participate each year.
In 2003, Patty Saunders stepped in for Adele Travisano as chairperson of the “Medford Arts and Artists” while also chairing the Doc Kountze Festival. This would be the last year of the window art displays for the art groups as recruiting volunteers became too difficult. The following year in 2004, Sharon Kennedy hosted an all day event at the Congregational Church in West Medford calling it the “Seven Year Itch” for the Doc Kountze Festival. With music and entertainment all day long it was a big success.
While these activities were going on a group of artists from West Medford Open Studios and Medford Arts and Artists were meeting to discuss the idea of converting one of Medford’s old schools into an arts and cultural center.
Medford was in the process of replacing older elementary and middle schools with new schools and having some of the old school buildings sold and renovated for use as condos, etc. The “building committee” toured many of the schools in the city and finally determined that Swan School on the corner of Washington St. and Park St. was best suited for artist studio space and classrooms.
Mayor Michael McGlynn strongly suggested that another anchor should share this building... that would be local cable access station TV3 whose lease was up on their Canal St. location. Both groups then started the long arduous task of forming a non- profit , creating a curriculum for teaching classes, and interviewing artists who were interested in renting space at the school.
Sadly in 2004, the artists lost their bid to obtain a school building for an arts center. It was also the demise of ' Medford Arts and Artists' as so many artists simply left the organization and moved on.
But just as the legendary “ phoenix” rose from the ashes, a small dedicated group of people got together and proceeded to form the non-profit, Medford Arts Center, Inc. Its objective was to encourage and promote an appreciation of the arts in Medford and provide a vehicle in support of Medford artists.
MACI has received many generous donations over the years. It has received a great deal of support for producing big events such as the Medford Arts Festivals, the poetry slams, and especially the popular Mabray “Doc” Kountze Art Festival. By 2006 the “Doc” Kountze arts festival morphed into a film fest which included artists in film and live entertainment as well as those from other disciplines.
A Short History on Mabray “Doc” Kountze
Mabray “Doc” Kountze, a West Medford native, passed away in 1994 at the age of 84. He spent a lifetime writing and breaking boundaries. A spokesman for the Negro Baseball League, he was the first African-American to receive a press pass from the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Braves, and the Boston Bruins. “Doc” was a reporter for the Medford Transcript, The Medford Daily Mercury, The Boston Guardian, The Boston Chronicle, and The Boston Greater News. He wrote three books, all histories: “ This is Your Heritage”, “ 50 Sports Years Along Memory Lane”, and “ A History of the Early Colored Press in Massachusetts and A Second Sketch of the Boston Guardian”. Having organized the National Negro Newspaper All-American Association of Sports Editors (NNNAA) in the 1930’s, his newspaper work often pushed the question of the segregation of the baseball leagues. “Doc” is credited by many with the eventual desegregation of the Boston Red Sox. He was recognized for his civic work on several occasions. He Received the Boston College Annual Griot Award, and was honored at Fenway Park in a Tribute to the Negro Baseball League. Plays and festivals (that's us) have been organized in his honor in his hometown of Medford, Massachusetts.
A Short History on Adele Travisano
Adele Travisano has been a resident of Medford since 1981. She received her MFA from Pratt Institute. She is an artist who volunteered to teach art classes in the Medford Schools. Adele has received many grants from the Medford Arts Council to paint portraits for public buildings. She is the founder of the Mabray ‘Doc” Kountze Arts festival and the Medford Arts and Artists. She also worked for several years in an attempt to obtain a school building to be used as an art center and has received two awards for her efforts with the arts in Medford.
A Short History on Patty McCarthy Saunders
Patty McCarthy Saunders is a fine arts photographer and past president of the Medford Arts Center, Inc. She has been a member of the board since its inception. Prior to that she served as chairperson for the Medford Arts and Artists and was one of many artists on the committee to obtain an arts center in Medford. Patty has photographed all over New England as well as locally. In 2005, she wrote the book “ MEDFORD: Then and Now”. She has chaired the Doc Kountze Film festival for the past five years and has also received two awards for her efforts with the arts in Medford.
The “Doc” Kountze film festivals began in 2006 after a group of artists decided that we needed to showcase a different art medium. And, since a few of the members in the group were filmmakers, we decided to write a grant that year. Several of the films were world premieres and others had never been shown in this area, while some have been broadcast on PBS, Discovery, or been seen by millions on YouTube. The Filmmakers ranged from students working on their first projects to inspired amateurs to young directors and editors making their marks in the film world to award winning directors with international credits. The films were shown at the McGlynn Middle School the first three years and then at the Cohen Auditorium at Tufts University. The majority of the filmmakers had a strong connection to Medford.
The Medford Arts Center, Inc. continues to showcase artwork of many artists in Medford as well as artists outside the area in a variety of venues. It all started 15 years ago and we hope to continue for many years to come.