Arts Council of Tamworth (ACT) is delighted to announce the Grand Opening of its new art gallery, Art Works, at 132 White Mountain Highway just south of Chocorua Village, on Sunday, October 7, from 1:00 to 5:00 PM. Cider and refreshments will be served. The gallery currently displays the work of twenty local artists working in many media. You’ll find painting and photographs, pottery, glass, and wood, metal sculptures, textiles, jewelry and more. It’s the perfect place to find a gift for a friend or yourself, everything from a small token for a birthday to a work destined to be a family heirloom. Color, light, and variety of form and media—astonishing local talent, surprising and delightful juxtapositions, beauty—expert craftsmanship, humor, an understanding of the ways art can enrich our lives: these are some of the hallmarks of Art Works.
The story of how this gallery came to be is a testament to the diversity of artistic talent in Tamworth and Sandwich and the surrounding area, the strong support for the arts in this region, and the creative power of a committed group of people willing to work hard for something they believe in.
In 2010, after chairing the ACT Art Show & Sale for a couple of summers, Myles Grinstead, owner of Chocorua Village Pottery and ACT board member, started imagining a permanent place where local artists could show and sell their work.
“The talent in this area is astounding, both in the visual and performing arts,” she says.
She teamed up with glass artist Mary Beth Bliss, also of Chocorua, who had years of experience running a gallery in Santa Fe, NM. Together they conceived of the idea of Tamworth Artisans, a “gallery without walls” at the Tamworth Farmers’ Market. Because of the depressed economy, they planned to bring mostly small ticket items to sell, and a few big ticket ones to show.
“We were expecting to sell coffee mugs and tumblers,” Grinstead says. “Instead we were selling oil paintings. It was a real affirmation that this area supports the arts.”
“For artists, there’s nothing like having work shown, having it look good, having people buy it,” Bliss adds. “Then they can go make more art.”
The open-air gallery did so well that when the weather turned cold the Artisans decided, as a temporary solution, to move Grinstead’s studio upstairs and turn the downstairs of Chocorua Village Pottery into the Tamworth Artisans showroom, staffed by volunteers from the Artisans group. They also created a small gallery space in the Remick Museum Gift Store. Recognizing that they wanted to develop a self-sustaining nonprofit model, Grinstead and Bliss approached Arts Council of Tamworth about sponsoring the Artisans.
“We knew the gallery wouldn’t work as a business in this demographic and this economy,” Bliss says. “But we could do it as a service to local artists. We can be a strong force for economic development and market support in our area.”
They also began to make plans with Susan and Larry Nickerson. (Larry Nickerson’s parents, Bun and Helen, were instrumental in starting Arts Council of Tamworth back in the 1960s.) The Nickersons have long been interested in using land they own on Route 16 in Chocorua to stimulate the local economy and serve local people. They were part of the discussion about starting a food coop in Chocorua, and had followed what the artists were doing, Bliss says, “since we started trying to round up local artists and sell their work in a tent.” The Nickersons offered the Artisans the gallery space, and Grinstead and many volunteers transformed it into the bright, lovely gallery you see there today.
Grinstead and Bliss bring their strong aesthetic as artists to the arrangement of work in the gallery. While many communal galleries show work by artist or by media, “We mix it together,” Grinstead says. “We display it in a way it could be displayed in a home.” By doing so, she says, “You get a whole picture of what art can be in your home and how it becomes part of your life. It’s not sterile. It’s more personal.”
It’s beautiful, too—light bounces off the bright colors of a blown glass bowl and falls onto hand-sewn textiles or hand-hewn wood. The colors and patterns on a ceramic vase echo the colors and shapes in a print or painting hanging nearby. Tableaux of work in several media all in shades of blue, or red, catch the eye. Jewelry sparkles in a glass case. A handmade rug drapes over the edge of an antique sofa. Don’t take our word for it—come see for yourself: gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM each day. More info, call 603-323-8041.