Creative Space to close its storefront after a decade

VERGENNES — Vergennes resident Eloise Beil said she and the other artists who have operated the Creative Space Gallery on Main Street in her hometown for the past decade are doing their best to look on the bright side as their venture prepares to close up shop on July 7.
To start with, it’s not every start-up that lasts almost 10 years, not to mention in the meantime operates or helps run programs that introduce local children to art, all the while providing a cost-effective way to present local artists’ work to the public. 
“I really think it’s been a successful 10 years, with what we’ve been able to do for the artists and for community. We’ve had some amazing projects,” said Beil, who has been the president of the Creative Space Gallery since it opened in October of 2009. 
Beil, whose co-founders included Karin Hardy, Marsha Chase and Eileen Corcoran, also works as the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Director of Collections and Exhibits. And Beil said many of the other artists who are members of the Creative Space Gallery also have careers as well as create art. 
And ultimately that is one of the factors that led to the decision to shut down, Beil said, along with lagging sales due to online competition. 
As people moved, switched jobs, or saw changes in family or health circumstances, Beil said it became increasingly harder for the roughly three-dozen member artists to cover shifts and handle the other tasks of running the business. 
“Probably the bigger contributing factor is that lives change, and our business model has been all-volunteer,” she said. “It was run by artists for artists, and increasingly the limitation of that is you have constant turnover of who has the available time. Because most artists have day jobs or other commitments in their lives.”
Over the years the gallery and its artist members have done more than hang their art at 214 Main St., after moving there from 235 Main St. five years ago. 
For example, two years ago Creative Space co-sponsored with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes a well-attended printmaking workshop in which finished prints were created by steamrolling them outside in the Kennedy Brothers parking lot. 
For several years Creative Space helped the Vergennes Partnership operate a thriving summertime downtown Arts Walk, and for a while took the project on itself until the burden became too great a couple years back. 
“It was once a month coordinating with the artists and businesses and doing installations in anything from 10 to 12 to 14 places, plus at the gallery,” Beil said, adding the effort introduced many new visitors to Vergennes. “By the end we were getting crowds of 45, 50 people at the end of the evening.”
But now Beil and the other artists must adjust; as Beil said, they hope as Creative Space’s doors close, others will open.
“That’s kind of the mantra for all of us. What we’ve been thinking as an organization is that we’ll close the gallery, and the organization will be dormant, except for commitments we already have, such as the (Lake Champlain) Chamber Music Festival benefit show, during the summer,” she said. “And then in the fall and winter we’ll start to investigate other opportunities for gatherings.”
Beil will co-curate that benefit show and then focus more on her own long-neglected oil paintings, which she hopes to sell to benefit some of her favorite causes.
“My emphasis shifted to running the gallery rather than painting, so I’m thinking now my emphasis can shift back to making artwork. Wouldn’t that be interesting?” Beil said. “And there are a lot of really worthwhile causes to which artists can contribute artwork to benefit.”
 Certainly, artists will have to scramble. Dye, who has his own studio in his home and won’t be inconvenienced by the loss of the storefront workspace, said he has hung artwork in The Antidote and Strong House Inn in the past and will look to again. Beil has also displayed her oil paintings at those city businesses.
Beil said Panton silversmith and painter Kathy Smith will put more of her inventory in Art on Main in Bristol, for example, and also sells online, while jeweler Suzanne Stone will focus on shows this summer and fall and then evaluate her options after this winter’s holiday season.
“Most of the artists exhibit in more than one place, so we’re not the only string in their bow. So it’s mostly a question of where they’ll shift their inventory,” she said.
Beil said options for the Creative Space Gallery group if it continues to work together could include cooperating on more workshops with the Boys and Girls Club, or pop-up exhibits without the “ongoing administrative time and energy” of running a shop 20 hours a week.
“We really like to think it’s a transition, not an end,” Beil said. 
In the short term, Creative Space Gallery will be running a 20-percent-off sale on most of its offerings starting next week and running through July 7. The current exhibit is titled, “Nature In Flight.” The business hours are Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

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