The Hippo


May 28, 2020








3S Artspace. Courtesy photo.

3S Artspace grand opening

Visit: 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth, 766-3330,
Friday, March 20: Free grand opening gallery reception with New Hampshire-based artist Carly Glovinski from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by concert with contemporary folk artists Sam Amidon and Laura Gibson ($24, concert starts at 8 p.m.)
Saturday, March 21: Community open house; tours start at 9 a.m. Family-friendly afternoon of reading, hip-hop music and dancing with children’s book author/illustrator Jef Czekaj from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Second public open house begins at 2 p.m.; 3 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony; Holly Herndon, Animal Hospital and special guest DJ host grand-opening dance party ($18, doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m.)
Sunday, March 22: Public open house at 9 a.m.; discussion, “The Past, Present, and Future of Art-making in the Seacoast” featuring Gordon Carlisle, Carly Glovinski, Kristen Reynolds, Jennifer Moses, moderated by Ginnie Lupi (free, starts  at 1:30 p.m.); Alcoa Album “Parlour Tricks” release party (doors open 6:30 p.m., show begins at 7:30 p.m., $10)

Filling the gap
See, hear, taste at 3S Artspace

By Kelly Sennott

After years of planning and deliberation, the three spaces at Portsmouth’s 3S Artspace — hence the name — are ready for opening weekend.

Located right off Route 1 yet still in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, 3S Artspace keeps the shape of what the structure was when built in 1951 — a warehouse — but sports a simple, flexible style. Alongside 3S is a public parking lot and waterfront view, but the rent is reasonable thanks to an “angel donor” who owns the property.
Executive Director Chris Grenier is still flummoxed at how lucky he’s been.
“The right people have coalesced around this project every step along the way. Board members, committee members, volunteers, all our donors. It’s been incredible,” Grenier said.
The three spaces
On the morning of March 9, less than three weeks before showtime, 3S staff were placing the finishing touches. Block Six, the restaurant at 3S — which seats 75 and will feature homestyle, locally sourced American dishes — housed an assortment of employees tasting samples during a training session. Full-time staff members sat at the bar, Macbooks in hand, while they waited for their permanent office spaces to be finished upstairs.
“One of the things we wanted to create here is this idea of 3S being a gathering space, a hub for the creative community, and the community at large,” Grenier said during a tour of the premises.
The performance space has a capacity of 400 standing, 200 seated, and will contain a mini-bar and fully modular stage that can conform to whatever the act needs. The chairs had just arrived and can be put out or stowed away very easily. On the seacoast, Grenier said, there isn’t really a space of this size or flexibility.
“We can do everything from film screenings to rock concerts,” he said, before showing off the performance “swanky” green room, which will be “pimped out with a mid-century modern theme” with record players and wall posters. 
The last space is the art gallery, which will boast free admission and house up-and-coming artists. This room had been the warehouse loading dock, and it still sports 25-foot-high ceilings and gigantic glass garage doors. A couple of Carly Glovinski’s textiles hung on the walls for the gallery’s first exhibition, “LAND-LINE.” 
They don’t see it as a profit center for the organization, and as such, “It’s really a place for experimentation, a place to kind of nurture artists who are climbing up the ladder in their careers,” Grenier said.
It’s been about five years since the 3S board came together and Grenier began working on the 3S Artspace in earnest, but he’s been thinking about it even longer. Some of his training came from working at the Music Hall box office nine years, where he gained contacts and nonprofit experience.
“The box office winds up being kind of the nexus of all the departments in an arts nonprofit. You have the marketing department, which is asking how shows are doing and what people are talking about. They want ticket counts. You have the finance department … and so you’re involved in revenue discussions. You have the executive director, who’s always interested in everything going on, everywhere. And then you’re also on the front lines of development and fundraising,” Grenier said.
For 10 years, he also actively played in bands on the seacoast and around New England and was on the board of Art-Speak, Portsmouth’s cultural commission. He worked, lived and breathed the Portsmouth art scene. But he could see there was room for some more.
Filling the gap
“For a city that calls itself the cultural capital of the state, visual arts, I think, is under-represented in this town,” Grenier said. Besides the Portsmouth Museum of Art (which, after two years, is still under construction), few galleries exist around Portsmouth that show anything besides historical or traditional art. “I like the idea of creating a place that could give people an experience they’d have to go to a larger city to find, but then, to present it in an informal environment so people could still feel comfortable.”
The only truly unfinished spaces at 3S are the upstairs artist studios — another void in downtown Portsmouth.
“We’re not even close to opening [the artist studios] and we already have a waiting list 30 to 45 deep for what will be 12 spaces,” Grenier said. “Ten of those will be permanent; two we’ll run residency programs out of.”
Right now, 3S is run by six core staff members, but come opening, the nonprofit will have created between 40 and 50 jobs. There was still a lot to do before opening weekend, which is packed with the type of programming 3S plans to provide.
“I see 3S as a destination-type venue. There are a lot of amazing arts organizations in Portsmouth, and we’ve worked to distinguish [3S] among the other groups,” Grenier said. “We don’t want to be stepping on the toes of other organizations. We want to help create a stronger ecosystem by filling in the gap.” 
As seen in the March 19, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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