Art on Main Shows Mainly Local Artists

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Alison Hertel Associate Editor

Art on Main, a new gallery in Bristol, officially opened its doors on Monday, Oct. 29. The gallery has been a goal of The Bristol Friends of the Arts (BFA), a non-profit organization in support of the arts made up of Bristol community members, for the past two years, but this fall they decided to make it a reality by embarking on a three-month trial run.

When Deer Leap Books owner and BFA member Carol Wells donated the 2,000 square feet of space behind her store to the gallery, Leslie Wright, a BFA member, said, “We chose a name and leapt.”

Because the space was previously used as a warehouse, a lot of renovations were necessary. Darla Senecal, hired two weeks ago to manage the gallery, said, “A tremendous transformation [of the space] was done through volunteer work.” Middlebury College even helped with the renovations. An e-mail was sent to Diane Burnham, academic department coordinator for the History of Art and Architecture Department. Several students went to the gallery and volunteered their help to create what is now a gallery space. Senecal said, “It’s been fun putting this all together.”

The gallery has truly been a community project. Wright said, “I’m just one of the many artists and art lovers involved. We are people who enjoy colors and textures.”

Over the past few months they pushed to find art for the gallery. Wright has been part of the effort looking for exhibitors. She has traveled to craft fairs and looked through the lists of other artistic organizations. Currently, they have juried the work of over 60 artists. Wright said, “There are a lot of artists in the hills around here.”

However, there is still room in the gallery for more art. Senecal said, “We are still looking to fill our shelves.” The first submissions have been heavy on the fine arts, but a broad range of art is represented, from jewelry (silver, bead and amber) to apple dolls to mittens to woven chenille scarves to oil paintings to etchings to photographs to woodwork. Only Vermont artists are represented right now, but they hope to include art from all over New England, though Wright said, “We have a soft spot for local artists.”

BFA is working to attract more artists. Wright said, “We’re a rural village off the main thoroughfares, and we’re trying to lure artists our way.”

They would also like to explore the possibility of having sister galleries around the country and around the world so that work could be shared. Senecal said, “That would be great for the artists as well as us.” Wright explained that with the exchange, they would be able to create an even more varied “palette of different kinds of work.”

In addition to display space, there is an area in the gallery where they could have performances, and they hope to keep the gallery open later on Fridays for such performances. There is also a space in the basement for art classes.

Art on Main will be run as a cooperatve, with artists receiving a larger percentage of a piece’s sale price if they volunteer to work in the gallery for five hours a month.

The gallery will be open 50 hours per week. Senecal has been hired to work 30 hours per week, and during the remaining hours the gallery will be staffed by volunteers. So far, Senecal is enjoying her new job. She said, “I’m surrounded by beautiful things all day.”

Art on Main does not aim to compete with the other galleries in the region. Wright said, “We’re going to be a little bit down home and funky—featuring really local crafts as well as fine arts. We want to keep our own flavor.”

The mission of BFA is to promote arts in Bristol, especially among children. As a result, one goal of the gallery is to always have a section showing childrens’ arts. Eventually they would like to put the profits from the gallery back into the community to support the arts.

Though Wright admitted however, “It’s kind of a tricky time [in terms of the economy] right now,” she remains positive. She said, “It’s really fun. We have this little window of opportunity to make it work … We’ll reevaluate at the end of the three months.”

Senecal said, “We are feeling confident that we will be able to continue on.”

Art on Main will be holding its official opening in November.

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