The Hippo


Jun 4, 2020








“Blue Sky Over Boston” by Doug Johnson, on view at the Lamont Gallery. Courtesy image.

 Manchester Artists Association upcoming events

• Art in the Park
Watson Park, 447 DW Highway, Merrimack, Saturday, Sept. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Trolley night
Artists from The Manchester Artists Association also exhibit their work during Manchester Open Doors on Thursday, Sept. 22, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Carol Rines Gallery, 1528 Elm St., Manchester; featured artist is 2016 MAA Artist of the Year Ginny Demers
“Rock, Paper, Scissors: 50 Years of Exeter Fine Crafts”
Where: Lamont Gallery, Phillips Exeter Academy, 11 Tan Lane, Exeter
When: On view now through Oct. 15; reception Friday, Sept. 16, from 5 to 7 p.m.; gallery talk on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 10 a.m.
Contact: 777-3461,,, open Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

50-year celebrations
Exeter, Manchester art groups host anniversary events

By Kelly Sennott

 This weekend, two New Hampshire art organizations celebrate 50 years — one with an exhibition, one with an annual art festival.

Exeter Fine Crafts
Exeter Fine Crafts celebrates its 50th anniversary at Phillips Exeter Academy’s Lamont Gallery with “Rock Paper Scissors: 50 Years of Exeter Fine Crafts,” on view now through Oct. 15 with a reception Friday, Sept. 16, from 5 to 7 p.m., and a gallery talk Saturday, Saturday, Sept. 17, at 10 a.m.
The show features more than 150 pieces by 60 member artists in a traditional gallery setting, a five-minute walk from EFC’s shop and classroom space on Water Street. Lamont Gallery Director and Curator Lauren K. O’Neal, also a new EFC board member, arranged the pieces by aesthetic themes — color palettes, shapes, gestures — with the help of volunteers.
It’s caused her to see the art in a new way.
“I knew I loved the work, because I had seen it at the shop, but you look at it differently when you start to arrange it in a show. You look at it closely, or you see it in a new light,” O’Neal said during an interview at the gallery, a day before it was set to open. “[At the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair], there are a lot of artists, a lot of tents, but down here, people can really look at the objects individually.”
Lit by gallery lights, along the walls, in cases and on shelves, are every kind of fine craft imaginable: scarves, jewelry, ceramics, woven baskets, prints, multimedia collages, framed pressed botanicals, sculptures, pillows and stoneware arches. 
Many of the featured craftspeople, O’Neal said, pay close attention to materials; for instance, Sharon Dugan’s baskets contain wood from New Hampshire forests. Joan Szoke’s pressed botanical designs are made from florals she grew herself, and Terri Talas created pictural animal carvings from shedded caribou antlers. Others capture local scenes — like William Mitchell’s white mountain and birch tree prints and Doug Johnson’s framed beaded depiction of Phillips Exeter Academy.
Plenty are utilitarian, but a large portion are purely decorative.
“I don’t think people are as worried about what is fine craft and what is fine art. I think those things are merging together,” O’Neal said. “Having the show in a gallery like this, they can branch out and show some of their other pieces.”
EFC is actually older than 50 years; when it first began, it was Exeter Home Industries Group and encouraged one-person businesses, promoting self-sufficiency during the Great Depression. A volunteer staff ran the cooperative organization, EFC store Manager Janice Earley said during an interview at the shop, and community members learned new skills and sold their work, from baked goods to crafts.
In 1966, EFC became a satellite gallery for the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (though at the time it was called the Exeter Craft Center, the sign for which still hangs in EFC’s downstairs classroom studio space). It had 280 members and opened with a $750 grant from a charitable trust and $400 from the League in the Masonic building on Water Street. The shop featured work by League members and local craftspeople who were accepted into the shop via an in-house jury. It began offering classes in jewelry making, pottery, weaving, basket making, stained glass art and chip carving.
But some of the most defining changes happened the past 20 years. In 2001, it began running as an independent arts and crafts gallery separate from the League, which at the time was beginning to standardize its practices and statewide shops. The goal was to sell more local crafts, not just statewide juried products.
“Our board was going in one direction, their board was going in another,” Earley said. “We wanted to get bigger, and we wanted some control over what we could have in here.”
EFC members created their own jurying system, one that’s a little less stringent than the League’s, and the store expanded to twice its size the year following. The result, Earley said, is that the gallery and shop are more accessible to beginning artists. In 2012, it became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It recently received a $5,000 grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to run youth art classes at the YMCA. 
Today it boasts about 200 juried members, some who’ve been around almost as long as EFC itself; Earley pointed to Dave and Cathy Robinson, Weare ceramicists who’ve been EFC members 49 years. Their royal blue pottery sits in the shop and in the gallery show.
O’Neal said the Lamont Gallery’s mission is educational, as it sees members of the public and students from all over the state, in addition to those at Phillips Exeter. The space is often curated to contain artwork and pieces that students and gallery patrons wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise. 
“I think it’s also important for our students, and the adults who come to the gallery, to know there are these amazing artists and craftspeople living and working today in our midst,” O’Neal said.
Earley said she feels lucky EFC has lasted so long.
“Fifty years in any business these days is amazing. But to have the community support for an arts business, especially over the last 10 years, when arts businesses have been folding left and right … we were lucky to survive, so we’re very happy. It’s a big celebration for us,” Earley said.
Manchester Artists Association
The Manchester Artists Association has been celebrating its 50th anniversary via commemorative events the past year, but the season finale is this weekend’s Art in the Park, on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Watson Park in Merrimack.
The show typically features fine art — photography, paintings, sculpture — by 25 to 30 member artists, some just selling, some performing demonstrations throughout the day.
Current MAA President Laurie LaFleur said the event moved from Manchester’s Veterans Park last year due to finances; Queen City prices went up, and members decided to find a new place since a portion of sales typically go to the MAA scholarship (whose winner this year was Exeter High School senior Shelby Bernard).
The past 50 years, the organization has awarded thousands of dollars to high school seniors and held art exhibitions all around the area, from the New Hampshire Audubon to the Carol M. Rines Center in downtown Manchester. Its 50 members meet monthly at the New Hampshire Institute of Art to catch up, trade tips and hold artist presentations and demonstrations.
LaFleur, who was also president during the organization’s 25th anniversary, attended one of these meetings for the first time in 1988. She wasn’t a super experienced artist, but she’d taken classes at the NHIA — then called the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences — and wanted to learn more.
“When you’re an artist learning in school or in an art class, you have to do things the way the instructor tells you. When you’re on your own, you develop your own way of doing things. But when you see someone else working, you can study their technique,” LaFleur said. “Everyone works differently, so you pick up tips from one another.”
Much of the in-depth history has been lost over the years throughout its roller coaster life, but LaFleur said most of MAA remains the same. She’s more concerned about the future than the past.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, of course, and some lean years — a few years ago, when the market crashed, artists were hurt first, so a lot of people dropped out at that time — but I think they’re coming back now,” LaFleur said. “Right now, we need to recruit more young people.”  

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