You might say that Melanie Therrien is ahead of the curve: While wine-sipping, highly social paint parties and similar events have soared in popularity in recent years, to Therrien, it’s old news. The owner and operator of Wicked Illustrations studio and gallery on Canal Street in Lewiston, she’s been doing this kind of thing since 2007.

When it comes to the local art community, Therrien is right in the center of things, both physically and otherwise. We caught up with her recently and picked her brain about the local art scene.

How and when did Wicked Illustrations come to be? In 2007 I had been doing murals and commissions for about 16 years, but my plate started getting really full. That was when I began illustrating a series of children’s books by J. Bean Palmer called “The Cape Cod Witch Series.” I had to create a DBA (actual business) and come up with a name. Wicked is a common Maine expression and I thought it was a fun name.

What goes on over there? A lot! We have art classes for all ages, art parties called Art and Whimsy and art camps in the summer. I still do murals and commissions and work on illustrations for the “Cape Cod Witch Series” as well as other publications. In the retail section we have art supplies and local handmade items. We also have resident artists and featured artists.

Do you ever find people with no art experience at all who turn out to be pretty decent artists? All the time! It is the best part of my job to be able to show people what they can do, whether it is in an art class or during an art party. I love teaching people how to see with the eyes of an artist. They are not just learning how to make a pretty picture; they are learning how to see the world in a whole new light.

How do you explain the popularity of paint party events? When I started in 2007 I used to call them workshops. Only, artists would show up to work together. We also had open studio when I was at Captive Elements Art House. But when you give something a cool name and call it a party it is more welcoming. People have always gotten together to create: Quilting, knitting, tole painting, ceramics, etc. It’s relaxing, inspiring and fun. The blank canvas is a little more intimidating to some. When you have someone walk you through a “quick” painting though, one begins to see their potential.

Does it seem like Lewiston and Lisbon Street in particular is experiencing a kind of renaissance? Most definitely. I was born and raised here. My husband and I live and both own businesses in Lewiston. Mr. Paperback is gone, Sears and even Flagship Cinema. From my business on Canal Street though, I can walk to an assortment of wonderful places to eat, and there are a bunch of great businesses and places that show art. The (monthly Lewiston-Auburn) Art Walk is very exciting. It makes me emotional to see all the people that come out, the music, the art, the food and the sense of community. I have older people tell me it reminds them of how Lisbon Street use to be and I have younger people tell me they are seeing a side of Lewiston they didn’t know existed.

How are you contributing in the bigger art scene in the L-A area? We are part of the Chamber of Commerce and I am a member of the Union of Maine Visual Artists L/A Chapter. We also have a scholarship program funded by selling paintings I create during art parties. This fall we are creating an art bag program to get art supplies to those who would otherwise not be able to afford them. This year during the Art Walk I have led the children’s portion of the free paint parties. We put on a fun treasure hunt that involved nine other businesses. I gave away books from the “Cape Cod Witch Series.” And for the last Art Walk of the season on September 25th we have something extra special planned! Hope to see you there!

Comments are no longer available on this story