Artists put on public faces at new South Portland studio

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city’s newest art studio will open its doors to the public on Saturday, offering an evening of music, local food and beer, and original art work.

The celebration of the opening of SoPo Art Studios is somewhat of a coming-out party for two local artists, who were tired of plying their trades in their kitchens and basements.

The event from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. will coincide will the Sandpiper Jewelry Gallery’s opening for Allen Ponziani, a Portland artist working with sculpture, stained glass and photography.

Cape Elizabeth resident Maggie Bokor, a jeweler and painter, and South Portland resident Laurie Spugnardi, a ceramic artist, said the time is right – regardless of current economic conditions – to join forces and move their work from the privacy of their homes to the public sphere.

“We don’t believe in recessions,” Bokor said. “When you’re in Maine, you have to be industrious. You learn how to use your skills to create your life. Abundance can happen at anytime.”

The artists, who met four years ago through a business group of artists and friends, have been hard at work over the last month converting an old computer repair store at 855 Sawyer St. into a 900 square-foot studio.

Besides being their primary creative space, the studio will also have a retail area, which will keep irregular hours and be open by appointment.

During a tour Wednesday afternoon, the work of both artists was laid out on new cases built by Bokor’s husband, Greg. On display were Spugnardi’s hand-made ceramic designs. Items ranged from light-switch covers to tide clocks to tables and mirrors.

In addition to jewelry, Bokor’s work includes original paintings, which she described as contemporary illustrative representations of stories and meanings.

The artists plan on offering a vacant room in the back of the studio to other artists, whether to create their own art or offer lessons to aspiring artists.

Bokor, 37, said the studio not only gives her an opportunity to concentrate more on her art, but also the business of being an artist. Rather than traveling to craft fairs and festivals to show her work, she now has her own retail center and can focus more on online sales. She also hopes to break into the wedding and special-occasion markets, by offering custom made gifts for brides maids or groomsmen.

Spugnardi, 42, said she hopes the studio will allow her to do more customized work for contractors, furniture-makers and interior designers. She said she is excited to be able to interact more with the public and draw inspiration from Bokor and other local artists.

“We don’t want this to be like our home studios, where there is no energy,” she said. “I want to see what the community is creating for art.”

The walls of the community art room will be lined with blank pieces of paper, so children or  adults can spontaneously create art. There will also be blank Tibetan Prayer Flags that guests can color and inscribe with messages.

At Saturday’s studio-warming, musician John McCain will play acoustic guitar. Food will be provided by Verbena Catering of 103 Ocean St. and by Ocean House Market, which opened two weeks ago in the former Lighthouse Deli space at 512 Ocean St.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or

Sidebar Elements

Maggie Bokor, left, with her dog, Toby, and Laurie Spugnardi and her dog, Sarah, in the retail space of SoPo Art Studios, which opens Saturday, April 10.