Creativity Flourishes at River Roads | November 2016
By Maria Landry
When River Roads Artisans Gallery moved from North Avenue to its current location at 75 Water Street in Skowhegan, the 12 artists involved weren’t sure if they’d last six months downtown. Now, seven years later, the gallery is thriving with 27 members.
“The move down here for us was fabulous—as was the support from all the downtown store owners,” said Chris Sumberg, a former gallery member who oversees the management of River Roads.
What started as a typical one-owner store has been for the past seven years a co-op in which members pay a monthly fee to have their artwork sold in the gallery and work together to keep the business going.
“When we made the move downtown we decided to go as a co-op, and it’s been working wonderfully,” Sumberg said. “We pay the bills together, we volunteer our time to work in the store. It’s just been really easy.”
With 27 members, the gallery is replete with a variety of handmade artworks, including pottery, paintings, jewelry, woodwork, fabric arts, rock art, blown glass, stained glass, and more.
“We could probably take a couple more artists, but we’re getting tighter and tighter,” Sumberg said, gesturing to the gallery. “We may expand into the back room. That’s an option.”
While some members hail from as far as Jackman and South Portland, most are local, crafting their wares in area towns including Skowhegan, Athens, Solon, Cornville, Oakland, Fairfield, Norridgewock, Mercer, and Canaan.
“Most of the people who came over originally from North Ave. are still here,” Sumberg said. “Seven seasons. And that’s really a testament to how wonderful these people are. They just work really well together. A lot of friendships have developed. We always say one of the best things about being a part of this gallery is the friendships of the people involved.”
River Roads is open May through December, and there is usually at least one new artist every season.
“The reason we close for four months is that these artists need to create,” Sumberg said. “We need to keep it fresh, and that can be a challenge. Jim [Albert], who was originally just doing rock lamps, introduced other things like wine holders and vases and candle holders. Pam [Fortin], who was just doing napkins and towels, is now doing tote bags. The potters try to change their glazes. Candace [Hill] was just doing mittens, and now she’s doing kids’ hats. Just to keep it fresh. We really stress that.”
River Roads’ members will soon be sharing their creativity at two upcoming events during the holiday season.
Fourth Annual Great Art Giveaway
Saturday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
For Small Business Saturday, River Roads artisans donate an item (or two or three) to a prize table. Customers who make a minimum purchase on that day have the opportunity to draw a ticket for a chance to win a free piece of artwork of their choice from the prize table.
“It’s a very good chance they’ll get a prize,” Sumberg said. “It’s really fun. People are here lined up before we’re open because they know they’re going to get just beautiful pieces of art.”
Free Gift Wrapping
Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Every year River Roads member Jan Royall, a stained-glass artist, creates a package design for the annual free gift-wrapping day.
“She picks the paper, the ribbon, and then there are about five of us who get together and make a handmade ornament,” Sumberg said. “People can buy six, eight presents, and they will each get wrapped beautifully with an ornament. It’s our biggest day.”