Art center to reopen


RUMFORD – It’s been a long, dry season for art lovers in the community since the Pennacook Art Center closed after Christmas.

But early next month, the art gallery is scheduled to reopen with a new purpose and new sense of energy as it has been transformed from a for-profit gallery to a nonprofit artists and artisans cooperative.

That’s what Betsy Bell, a newly created board of directors and building owner Lem Cissel have planned all along, since the gallery with the only revolving door in Oxford County opened two years ago.

“We had no idea how many people would miss it until we closed for the winter,” Bell said. “So many people had told us we need this, the culture, the exposure to the arts.”

Town Manager Steve Eldridge said he is pleased the gallery is reopening.

“It is one of the economic engines of the region,” he said. “We have a lot of artists in the area.”

Bell said 20 have so far committed to taking part in the cooperative at an annual fee of $30, and at least another 20 are interested.

The art center will be operated with cooperative artist and artisan dues, and community memberships, along with commissions paid on the artwork purchased by patrons.

Bell is also in the process of applying for a variety of grants that are hoped to help fuel the new project.

She and the board are also in the midst of acquiring nonprofit status.

In the interim, they can accept funds through the nonprofit status of the River Valley Arts Council.

The council plans to use a portion of the art center to set up an office sometime within the next few months.

Along with paintings, drawings and sculptures, the cooperative also includes printmaking, photography, pottery, the fiber arts, jewelry, stained glass and other artwork.

Those who become community members, at $25 a year, are entitled to such things as special talks, shows, gatherings and a chance to volunteer at the gallery.

The cooperative, Bell said, plans to reach out into the community by offering art shows, educating young and older people in the arts, school tours and other events as the organization becomes more established.

They also hope to work with a separate board that will be established to operate the fourth floor of the River Valley Technology Center as an arts-related area.

The opening reception takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 5. The gallery will then be open Saturday, May 6, and then Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m.

The newly established board of directors and trustees are: Bell of Mexico, an artist and calligrapher; President Shannon Couture of Peru, a sculptor, artist and manager of an after-school art program for SAD 21; Vice President Debra Stone of Dixfield, a photographer; Secretary Chris Wing of Rumford, an art teacher at Mountain Valley High School and painter; Treasurer June Dragoon of Peru, a painter; Gemma Morrill-Dreher of West Bethel, an elementary art teacher and printmaker; Dennis Dreher of West Bethel, a sculptor; Carole Rickards of Peru, a painter; and Dirk MacKnight of Andover, a photographer.