RUMFORD – The long, dry spell without a downtown art gallery ended late Friday afternoon when the Pennacook Art Center reopened with a new focus, new ownership and new art and skilled craft work.
“When this place closed, it created a hole in the community,” said Burt DeFrees of Rumford. “We had been spoiled by all the interesting art.”
DeFrees was one of scores of people who streamed through the revolving doors to take a look at watercolors by June Dragoon, glass and metal sculptures by Dennis Dreher, weaving by Grace McKivergan and pastels by Eileen Kerr, among others.
The gallery opened almost two years ago as a for-profit business by Lem Cissel. He planned to eventually turn the gallery over to an artist cooperative.
That’s what happened between the time of the closing of the gallery at the end of December, until its reception celebrating the reopening of an artists’ and artisans’ cooperative Friday night.
Betsy Bell, manager of the gallery, said the venture is now governed by a board of directors and supported by monthly artists’ fees, artists’ commissions, and soon, by annual memberships from art enthusiasts.
“It’s so great to see the gallery full again,” she said. “This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.”
Bob Jenkins, a math and science professor at the Maine College of Art in Portland and a resident of Jay was visiting the gallery for the first time.
“It’s amazing to see the energy and creativity,” he said.
“I’m so glad it has opened again,” said Christine Mulvaney of Andover. “This area is so full of art and artists. This is a place for them to show.”
The cooperative’s board estimated a need of about $1,100 a month to keep the gallery open.
Along with hors d’oeuvres and art, visitors had a chance to become a member of the gallery at a fee of $20 a year, which entitles people to a newsletter subscription and training to become a volunteer at the gallery, among other things.
The gallery will be open from noon until 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. Those interested in becoming a member, or in showing their work at the gallery may phone Bell at 364-9972.
She said a reception and new exhibit of works will be held on the first Friday evening of each month.