7 colors in the rainbow. Seven wonders of the ancient world. Seven samurai, seven dwarfs, and seven days of the week. Good things come in sevens. So when the SevenArts Local Artisan Gallery opened last weekend in the old Masonic Hall on Main Street in downtown Ellsworth, it made sense, numerologically and businesswise.
SevenArts is run by seven Down East artists and artisans who banded together to both sell their works and help build the creative community in Ellsworth, with its burgeoning art scene. Two heads are better than one – and seven is even better.
Dede Schmitt, Marko Schmitt, Julia Ventresco, Julie Havener, Michael Miller, Kim Walker, and Linda and Ken Perrin all share a similar outlook on art, though the mediums in which they work are all different. Dede Schmitt, a jeweler and metalsmith, and Marko Schmitt, a painter, got the idea for SevenArts after a trip to California last year.
“We visited Gallery Seven, a space run by the artist John Eagle in Laguna Beach,” said Dede Schmitt, who makes bold, earthy, silver-and-stone jewelry. “It’s run by seven artists who banded together to run a space. It’s a great business model for artists, especially if you don’t want to run a shop full time. None of us did. But we figured, if we got seven artists together and each worked one day, and divided up the expenses, it could work really well.”
Ads were placed in local newspapers, looking for five more artists and artisans who could commit to sharing the cost and working one day a week. Early signers-on included Julia Ventresco, an Ellsworth artist known for her one-of-a-kind bags and funky aprons made from recycled paper and fabrics, and Julia Havener, a fiber artist from Northeast Harbor who hand-makes unbelievably soft wool into hats, and fine and vintage fabrics into bags and clothing.
“We shook out a group of people who are like-minded. We all get along really well and share similar visions,” said Marko Schmitt, a painter and sculptor whose warmly impressionistic landscapes and still lifes are on sale at the gallery. “And to be able to speak intelligently about each other’s work is a big thing. We didn’t want to have too many people, or else we wouldn’t be so informed about what we all do individually.”
Tile-maker Kim Walker of Franklin-based Heirloom Tileworks, glassmakers Linda and Ken Perrin of Atlantic Art Glass in Ellsworth, and woodworker Michael Miller, also of Ellsworth, came on board a short time later. The group had found a perfect location – the Masonic Hall on Main Street.
The Masonic Hall, over the past few years, has become a hub of downtown commerce and movement, with Leslie Harlow and Peter Rogers’ opening The Maine Grind coffee shop in mid-2006, and other businesses moving in soon after. The building is now home to The Maine Grind, the It’s a Maine Thing gift shop, the Jazzercise studio, and music promoter Joel Raymond’s soon-to-be-open Shangri-La performance venue on the second floor.
“There’s such a cool energy in this building,” said Dede Schmitt. “I think it has something to do with the caffeine.”
“Ellsworth is a natural place for people to gather, as the county seat. And a coffee shop is such a classic place for people to be, that to enliven it with the art shop seemed like a really good fit,” said Linda Perrin, who, with Ken, runs a studio space on Pine Street, where they make their vibrant art glass. “There seemed like there was already a momentum for it being there, and for people being creative and connecting in one space.”
Though it’s not the first time a group of Maine artists have opened a space together, SevenArts is unique in that it will be open year-round, and will feature a new artist every month, to give more creative local people a platform in which to display their work and gain notice.
The first featured artist has not yet been announced, but plans are in the works to begin hosting one in the late spring.
The new space has also already inspired some collaboration between the seven artists. Marko Schmitt and Michael Miller are working on a series of lampshades, which Miller will carve in the traditional Japanese style he has studied for years, and Schmitt will paint on fine paper using sumi brushes.
The addition of places like SevenArts, Shangri-La, the Courthouse Gallery and many more businesses and organizations only add to the economic and artistic vitality that’s creeping into Ellsworth. Might it be that it’s becoming the new arts destination town for eastern Maine?
“We’re just waiting to see what happens,” said Marko Schmitt. “It’s so much fun to be a part of a new community, and to watch it grow.”
SevenArts Local Artisans Gallery is located at 192 Main St. in downtown Ellsworth. For more, call 667-4472, or visit www.sevenartsandcrafts.com. Emily Burnham may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.