Belfast Theater to honor ‘instrumental’ volunteer who died from COVID-19 with art exhibit

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BELFAST, Maine – Gary Hinte, an 87-year-old artist and writer who liked to say he was born in a vaudeville theater, was larger than life.

Even in his ninth decade, he painted sets, wrote screenplays, and envisioned ways to help his community. After his death in January in Mexico from COVID-19, members of the Belfast Maskers, the community theater group in which he had played a pivotal role, decided to do something big to honor him.

An art exhibition this Friday will showcase his diverse and creative work.

“He has had such an amazing and full life and so many fascinating stories,” said Sasha Kutsy, chair of the Belfast Maskers board on Thursday. “This energy, this joy of living has never left him. Every day he came up with a new plan. He was bubbling all the time.

Hinte, who jokingly called himself “The World’s Greatest Artist,” was prolific. When he and his wife, Carol Samuels, left their Belfast home in 2018, his studio was teeming with oil paintings and charcoal drawings he didn’t know what to do with. Kutsy took a bunch of them and used these paintings as a starting point for a art exhibition of Hinte’s works.

Gary Hinte’s art, including this portrait, is due to be shown this weekend at the Basil Burwell Community Theater in Belfast. Credit: Courtesy of Sasha Kutsy

She also borrowed paintings that Hinte had given to her neighbors for the show, which transformed the walls of the Basil Burwell Community Theater in Belfast into a vibrant and colorful glimpse into the artist’s mind. Portraits of people and animals, art that served as social or political commentary, sets for plays and musicals, it’s all there.

“My hope is to share and celebrate the amazing artist Gary Hinte was with people,” Kutsy said. “That’s all he’s contributed to this community in his 10 years of living here and creating art.”

In addition to his works of art, Hinte was a man of stories. He has told many versions of his origin story of the vaudeville theater. Her mother was a vaudeville dancer at the Liberty Theater in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where her father was a stagehand. Whether he was born on stage – or perhaps conceived behind the scenes, according to some stories – it was clear that his heart had been in the theater and the arts from the start.

When Kutsy and his family moved to Belfast in 2013, Hinte and Samuels were their neighbors and they got to know each other straight away.

“He was the kind of neighbor who would come knocking on your door and hang out and talk for a really long time,” she said. “He loved interacting with the neighbors and everyone. ”

Even though he was 80, he was a tireless volunteer for the Belfast Maskers, sharing his artistic skills with the theater troupe. In the summer of 2016, Hinte was the set designer for the musical “The Addams Family”. He helped build the outdoor stage, painted sets, taught interns how to use tools and worked with volunteers at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center in Belfast.

“He was there to do the job, and it was amazing,” Kutsy said.

But after this experience, Hinte decided to simplify. Rather than building elaborate sets, he decided to do background paintings and then project them as sets at the back of the theater. This rear-projection model allowed him to create convincing atmospheres without as much physical effort for shows such as “Blithe Spirit”, “On Golden Pond”, “Annie” and “The Music Man”.

He and Samuels also helped the theater troupe find their new home in an old church several years ago, Kutsy said.

Gary Hinte, a longtime artist who died in January, painted numerous sets for the Belfast Maskers. Credit: Courtesy of Carol Samuels

“They were very helpful in helping us get our new home,” she said. “We walked around and looked at the land together. He always thought big. The theater we have now was just a springboard for him. He wanted it to be huge.

Hinte and Samuels spent about a decade in Maine moving to Cuernavaca, Mexico in late 2018.

It was a loss to the community, Kutsy said – although the couple made sure to buy a house big enough for people to come and visit.

Samuels, who is in Mexico, plans to be at the art show virtually. Kutsy said that she and Samuels are working together to make the show the best it can be.

“Gary was such a dreamer,” Kutsy said. “He had dreams and we made them come true, as much as we can. ”

The Gary Hinte Art Show will be held on Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Basil Burwell Community Theater in Belfast. Later this summer, there will also be an auction of some of his paintings to benefit the Maskers.


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