Brunswick studio hopes to attract artists of all ages

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BRUNSWICK — With summer vacation on the horizon, Leslie Beattie hopes to give artists young and old a place to create in the coming months.

Beattie, who has owned The Mix art supplies at 53 Maine St. for the past year and a half, recently converted an apartment above the store into a studio space.

The renovated rooms, formally known as The Grand Orange Arts Center, will offer open studio opportunities for local artists for the first time this summer during July and August. 

Beattie said inspiration to create the studio stemmed from customers inquiring about classes while shopping at The Mix.

Before opening The Grand Orange, she typically directed them to classes at Merrymeeting Adult Education, which she said “serves a certain niche.”

But Beattie wanted to do more.

“There’s another instruction studio in town, but there’s clearly a need,” she said. “The apartments upstairs were vacant, and I thought, ‘Well, an apartment has running water, it has a bathroom, and it has great natural light up there – so I’m going to make it into art studio space.”

The name for the new studio is derived from the building’s history, after a store that existed in the 1970s where The Mix is today.

Beattie said customers who remember the original business often come in and talk about the old store, which she referred to as selling “hippy, trippy stuff” and being “really colorful” and “a little controversial.”

In her version of The Grand Orange, however, Beattie hopes to bring people together.

For teenage artists especially, Beattie said she thinks a group setting to create art is needed, particularly in the technology-driven society of today, which can be isolating.

“Some of the teenagers that come in here and show me their artwork, it blows me away,” she said. “And they don’t have any space, they go home and they work in their bedroom, and they’re working by themselves a lot. And so I thought, teens need community, they need to be with other people; we’re such a closed society.”

She hopes the open studio time attracts older artists too, and to have a blend of ages present to work in the space.

“What I would love is to have an 18-year-old sitting next to a 55-year-old, just to have that intergenerational conversation,” she said.

Another goal with hosting the open studio, she added, is for artists who create pieces in the upstairs space to be able to sell it downstairs at The Mix.

Bridging the gap between artists and their ability to sell their work, she said, is important to her.

“I want artists to understand that you can make all the art you want, but you’re not gonna sell it unless you know how to sell and price your work and market yourself,” she said. “So that’s like the next phase.”

Open studio space will be $12 for a three-hour block of time from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. from July 9-Aug. 10.  The Grand Orange will be open to artists ages 16 and older, but they must call ahead of time to schedule a spot.

Beattie will also be running a Fine Arts Camp out of the new center in August and has enlisted local artist Vance Bessey to teach art classes out of the new space every Saturday.

The fine arts camp will be focused on paper sculpture and silk screening, but she said she also hopes to provide instruction on watercolors too.

Ultimately, she said, she wants to create a place where local artists come together, because she doesn’t need to “own it all.”

“I’m happy to give my knowledge away and give my knowledge to other people,” she said. “I just think that that’s what life is all about.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

Leslie Beattie has owned The Mix at 53 Maine St. in downtown Brunswick for the past year and a half and is opening studio space above the store this summer. 

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