By Amanda McGregor
A thick, twisting bundle of woody vines crawls across Sue Kassirer's garage, climbs onto her house, and reaches into the windows and toward the chimney.
Kassirer's fantastical creation, titled "Eminent Domain," is one of the artworks that comprise Art Grows Here, a self-guided tour of outdoor art installations created by artists in Hamilton and Wenham that opens today.
"The business of maintaining a suburban home is that the resale value is always on your mind," Kassirer, a Hamilton resident, said of her work. "I've often thought how easy it would be for Mother Nature to take over, and I'm allowing that to be imagined."
Kassirer is among a group of Hamilton and Wenham artists who began gathering at each other's homes in early 2009 to share ideas and critique each other's work.
"I said, 'I need to get together and do more with artists,'" Kassirer recalled. "I feel like I'm on an island."
Over the course of their meetings, the artists shared a dream of seeing more art in their small, neighboring towns and hatched the idea for Art Grows Here.
"We were really looking for a place to show our art and do something different in Hamilton-Wenham," said Jill Herrick-Lee, one of the artists in the group. "The surrounding communities have a lot of art events happening, so instead of complaining, we said, 'Let's try to do something about it.'"
Eleven artists will participate in the inaugural Art Grows Here, with outdoor exhibits ranging from Allan Brockenbrough's larger-than-life "Stick Ball" to Diane Carnevale's enormous fuchsia flower painted from an ant's perspective.
"I stitched two painter's dropcloths together to use as my canvas," said Carnevale, of Hamilton. "I bought a gallon of pink paint plus a cast of supporting colors, and let the alchemy happen."
The artists created a map for the Art Grows Here tour, which runs through July 25. It's available at their website, www.artgrowshere.com.
"We want to put ourselves on the map, literally," said Herrick-Lee, who has lived in Hamilton nearly 25 years. "We live in these two towns, and we want to make art more visible here and make art fun."
The installations are a departure for many of the artists, who typically work in other media, including clay, paint, photography and more. Brockenbrough, who creates traditional paintings and portraits, said his inspiration for "Stick Ball" stemmed from a pile of branches he collected after a violent storm.
"I also like taking conventional materials and using them in unconventional ways," said Brockenbrough, who lives on Cutler Road in Hamilton.
"It's going to be really cool to see everyone's installation up," Herrick-Lee said, "and we've been supporting each other through the process."
Art Grows Here can be enjoyed on foot, by bicycle or even by car.
Susan Quateman's triptych silk painting, titled "Memorial," will be on display in her front yard on Cherry Street in Wenham.
"I see this as a way of integrating art into the landscape," said Quateman, whose training is in planning and landscape design.
"I think public art is very important, and there's not enough of it, and absolutely not enough of it in Hamilton and Wenham."
The artists hope that Art Grows Here will evolve into an annual event and will grow to include more artists around the two towns.
"We want to engage the community," Herrick-Lee said, "and have them look and sort of ask the question, 'What's that?'"
The other participating artists are Deb Barnwell, Elissa Della-Piana, Mark Klobucher, Alissa Mead and Dan Sklar.
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Staff writer Amanda McGregor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.