25 Years on Main Street

Local Colors Artists' Cooperative celebrates its 25th year on Main St, Gloucester this October. The celebration which is open to the public includes an artists' reception on October 25th from 6 to 8 pm with new original artwork, live music, refreshments and a raffle to benefit the Cape Ann Animal Aid. The raffle item is a stained glass nautilus piece donated by the remaining founding member, Donna Amero. "Having this raffle as part of our 25th anniversary celebration is our way of thanking the community for it's support over the last 25 years," says Donna.

Local Colors was started by a small group of local artists in the fall of 1989 in the space which is now Passports Restaurant. After a few years they moved further up Main St and came to their present location at 121 Main Street after a fire in the building on, ironically, Friday, July 13, 2001 forced the last move . "I was very lucky to secure our current location by Monday and we were up and running again in a little over a week. We are so fortunate to have our present space and landlord," remarks Donna.

As the only remaining founding member Donna still regards the ability to be part of such a business venture not only a great opportunity to display her work and be part of the community by meeting the public on her work days but also a chance to continue to grow artistically. Over the years, her membership was a catalyst in building up her stained glass business and commission work.

Local Colors is Cape Ann's oldest artists' cooperative where the artists share in the duties necessary to manage an ongoing business. The artists are able to offer "studio" prices as they receive 100% of their sales without paying a commission on pieces sold. Over the years the number of members have varied from a high of 33 to a low of 13. "I remember that low point," says Kathy Bucholska, a jewelry and mixed media artist and 24 year member. "There was real concern about our ability to continue with only 13 members, but we managed to recover fairly quickly." Kathy, who submitted a silver chain and gemstone necklace for the special anniversary display, appreciates her membership at Local Colors for the lasting friendships she has developed.

Many members stay for years while others sometimes don't go beyond the initial 6 month commitment. Some former members see Local Colors as having given them a start in the arts and others move on to open their own businesses. When Larry Martin-Bittman, a former member, joined Local Colors he felt he had a great interest in visual art but no formal artistic education thinking the label "primitive artist" reflected his artistic professionalism at the time. "It was the warm, friendly atmosphere and professional advice of the cooperative members that helped me to find my own artistic and visual language and opened the door to large Cape Ann audiences and customers. I feel very lucky that I was able to spend 10 years with this gallery. It was the most creative period of my life," says Larry.

There are currently 17 members whose reasons for being part of Local Colors varies as much as the artwork in the gallery. "I not only enjoy the artists with whom I work, I also enjoy getting to talk with people from all over the world who come into Local Colors," says Pat Doherty oil painter and member for 5 years who recently received a thank you note from a customer from Florida thanking her for her assistance when she was working. Pat is well known for her paintings of the Gloucester sunset.

A long time member, Kate Webster, a jewelry, fiber and mixed media artist who designed colorful necklaces for the exhibit, has a practical approach: "being a member of Local Colors keeps me in touch with other local artists and allows me to sell my work, which in turn enables me to buy more supplies to continue making new artwork."

The newest member, Teri Ludwig, who makes unique "upcycled" clothing feels "honored to be a part of such a fantastic group of artists" and gets her inspiration from the work in the gallery and appreciates the opportunity to explain her art to customers and answer questions that folks may have."

Members were asked to "go all out" in creating work for the anniversary display. For group displays, members are encouraged to create outside their medium. Ann Schlecht, a jeweler, did just that: "For our 25th anniversary, I have created a vest made with ribbon yarn with a newly designed sterling silver shawl pin sold separately." Jim Sousa, a photographer, submitted two photographs but not printed in the usual manner. One, a photograph of the Nubble Lighthouse in Maine, is printed on textured metal while the other of Fire Island Light in Long Island is printed with a triple diamond printed mat.

Bonnie Gray, a painter, submitted a piece called "Summer Bouquet" and believes the Cooperative provided her the opportunity to reinvent herself as an artist after her retirement from the Rockport School system. Sally Seamans, a tin artist and jeweler, appreciates the support of the community and it brings her immense joy when a customer says "You're Tin Can Sally? I LOVE your stuff!". She submitted a beautifully fabricated "tin" bird for the occasion. Virginia Townsend designed a profile of Thatcher Island for her platters representing the history and strength of Cape Ann.

These are just a few of the many pieces on special display from October 18 through November 7. The artists' celebration on October 25th from 6 to 8 pm is open to the public and current members invite all former members to come and help them celebrate!