Artists are doin’ it for themselves
Who says nothing goes on in the local arts until summer? During this years’ chilly spring, a couple of Midcoast galleries have gone from conception to reality. Both will be open and welcoming visitors over Memorial Day weekend and throughout the coming season.
Said season gets under way in downtown Rockland Friday, May 23, from 5 to 8 p.m. with the annual AIR (Arts In Rockland) kickoff art walk. AIR has 20-plus members, many of which will be hosting open houses and opening receptions on what is always a lively night. The regular First Friday Art Walks continue June 6. Meanwhile, the downtown Belfast art walks are moving to Final Fridays, giving walking lovers of art a chance to take in both cities’ events each month.
Rockland has lost some galleries due to acquisition by the Center for Maine Contemporary Arts of the Winter Street building they inhabited. Gone is the Yvette Torres Gallery and the more recent Somewhere. Eric Hopkins Gallery had already been in exit mode, and the Jonathan Winter Gallery & Frame Shop has relocated next door to the Park Street Grille.
Also gone is Rougette Gallery, on the second floor above Art Space Gallery on Main Street, after a decade of showcasing outsider art, one day a week. That space is where Andrew Reichline, who had his psychotherapy practice down the hall for a number of years, and his California-based siblings Neil Reichline and Rhonda Reichline Dubin have opened the Fischer Gallery, named after their portrait-painter grandfather. The photography studio had its grand opening May 2, with all three artists on hand.
Andrew Reichline is one of the Art Space founders, having noticed the street-level space for rent. He had a studio at the former Lincoln Street Center for Arts & Education, where his wife Sally Landsberg, one of the arts center’s founders, had a writing studio. Art Space began as a way for LSC artists to show their work downtown.
“I was the first president of Art Space and I learned a lot about working with fellow artists (there is a kind of sibling rivalry that can occur),” he said, adding he is proud the cooperative gallery is still thriving 10 years later.
When he contacted his sister, who lives in the San Francisco area, in late March with the idea of opening a family photography gallery, she had no hesitation.
“It has always been a fantasy of mine to show my work with my two older brothers, but living on opposite coasts (we form a geographic triangle) I never dreamed we could pull it off,” she said.
Neil Reichline, a busy director of Photography in Los Angeles, also got on board and the siblings got to work. Rhonda designed a logo, using their grandfather’s image, and the gallery’s website (thefischergallery.com). Neil served as production manager, printing signage and advising on shipping, packing and other matters. Andrew took care of the business end and renovated the gallery space, including adding lighting and other accouterments. The night before the opening, the family worked non-stop to hang the show.
Some 90 people came through the one-room space at the gallery’s grand opening May 2. The Fischer Gallery is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., to 8 p.m. on art walk nights.
“I had a fantastic time at the opening of the Fischer Gallery. Rockland is a clearly a special town with a growing and vibrant art scene,” said Neil, who added he hoped there is enough interest and sales “to keep this gallery going for a long while.”
Rhonda said she is grateful to Andrew and Landsburg for stewarding the whole operation and offering to run it.
“It gives me great pleasure that in our sixties, busy lives, families and careers elsewhere, that my brothers and I could embark on this venture together. Mom and Dad would have been proud,” she said.
Around the same time Fischer Gallery came to mind, another family of artists — bound by geography, rather than blood — decided to open a shared gallery on Main Street in Port Clyde. Gallery By The Sea is a new gallery with an old name — in fact, its sign is the same one that hung in the same space for 15 years. The original gallery’s owner, Sally MacVane, is the new one’s curator, and there is, in fact, a family connection in that her daughter, Sylvia Murdock, is one of the artists. Also on board are Kathleen Fox, Otty Merrill, Wilder Oakes and Chuck Paine.
“We’ve got three females and three males, once deceased,” said Paine, referring to the late Leo Brooks, whose watercolors and drawings MacVane brings to the mix.
The “living artists” have been hard at work, clearing out, cleaning and painting the space that most recently hosted Stonefish, which has moved into the former location of the Jackson Memorial Library. The aforementioned sign, which had spent the last decade in MacVane’s basement, has been restored to usable condition.
The work will be varied. Murdock and Fox will be showing watercolors; marine artist Paine will have large oils and pen-and-ink drawings; Merrill will show encaustics, silk screens and sculpture; and Oakes, who calls his approach visionary fantasy, will have watercolor, oil and acrylic paintings, as well as painted wood applications.
The first-floor space (Fox shares studio space on the second floor) has four rooms, the smallest of which once was a kitchen … a kitchen Oakes, whose primary muse is Port Clyde, spent time in as a child.
“My ‘Aunt Fan’ lived here; I was fascinated by this thing,” he said, pointing to the wood peg nailed into the doorjamb and covered with the same white paint. “She sat here all day, knitting trap heads.”
The gallery will show all original art — “No prints,” said Murdock. The artists, who will take turns manning the gallery, all have worked and shown for many years.
“It’s a fine art gallery, these are all professional artists,” said MacVane.
The hope is to be open Friday evening, May 23, but the work was still to be hung a week out. The gallery is certain to open its doors Saturday morning, May 24.
“We’re not having an opening reception, but we want people to feel welcome to come in. We’ll have some snacks and I may make the recipe I have for Nat Lewis’ punch,” MacVane said.
The group plans to have special events through the summer, perhaps a musical night. Hours will be Wednesdays through Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery will remain open into the fall.
“It’s the reinvention of Gallery by the Sea,” said MacVane.