By Rob Gosselin
If there is one lesson that aspiring artists quickly learn it is that the second biggest challenge to creating a great work of art is finding a place to sell. Fortunately for local artists there is a small gem of a store in Leominster that provides them with the opportunity to make money.
The Leominster Art Center, located at 69 Main Street, is a community-supported gallery and retail space that is maintained by the exhibiting artists. This type of artist involvement really adds to the charm of the establishment. Displaying artists can volunteer their time as sales-staff at the center, and instead of being paid for their services, are able to accrue points to help defray the cost of their exhibit space. And don’t let the name of the center fool you into thinking that the center is just for Leominster artists. The center provides display space for artists throughout the surrounding communities.
The day I visited the gallery it was filled with many high-quality pieces of art from many different disciplines. The walls were covered with oil and watercolor paintings. Tables full of bright colored glass and handcrafted jewelry were situated throughout the store. Woodworkers and photographers were also represented throughout the gallery. It is not uncommon to find enthusiastic art-center volunteers working their craft while you visit. On the day I dropped by I was able to watch renowned local water color artist Luann Hume put the finishing touches on some wonderful Christmas cards. Luann’s work is prominent throughout the center, and her paintings of birch trees are well known all over New England. She has started displaying works in pastels, and viewing her pieces give reason enough to make a trip to the center. There is one aspect of the Leominster Art Center that does require criticism. The extensive list of volunteer and exhibit guidelines are available as part of the center’s member kit. While rules are certainly necessary, some of these guidelines appear to run counter to some very basic concepts of artistic expression.
Volunteers are asked to dress in business-casual attire. In this writer’s opinion the way most artists dress can be just as artistic as the works of art they produce. Another guideline asks that all works be family-friendly, so if you are an aspiring Rubens or Michelangelo make sure you put clothes on your models. Finally the requirement for all paintings to be “matted or framed” seems a bit excessive, as most artists prefer to spend their limited funds on paint, canvas or paper. One gets the impression that in a center specifically created to be an outlet for artistic expression, these limiting factors can only reduce the overall atmosphere of this potentially outstanding creative space. That being said, the center is clearly trying to carefully tread the line between artistic space and retail establishment, and overall it appears to be succeeding in its efforts.
A few words of caution! If you visit the center with small children make sure they are closely supervised. There are many breakable items within reach. There is limited on-street metered parking available, but for those who don’t mind a short walk there is a large public-parking facility just one block away. Currently the parking meters, and the municipal lot, are free on weekends. For those in the surrounding communities that do not have a car, the MART bus will conveniently drop you off just steps away from the front door.
Since the center is volunteer supported the hours vary greatly, and the best way to find out when they are open is to check their web site (www.leominsterartcenter.com). At the site you can also find more information about how to become a member, and you can get a list of their current display rates. If your studio is filled with paintings or other works of art that are looking for a new home, I highly suggest you check out the Leominster Art Center. It is a pleasant gallery that is convenient, friendly and affordable.