A century-old farmhouse on Boothbay Road in Edgecomb has been given new life as an art gallery with future plans to add a vineyard and a creative, community-oriented space. The 1906 farmhouse and adjacent 1904 barn at 146 Boothbay Road is now home to Brad and Danielle Betts’ Down East Gallery, which celebrated its grand opening July 1.
The couple has plans to turn the barn into a space where music, art, and food will converge for a full cultural experience, they said. The barn was filled with live music from Hanah Daman and the Martelle Sisters, Ursa Minor, and Ben Betts on July 1.
The grand opening was an ambitious event scheduled shortly after the couple purchased the property in January to force themselves to renovate the house and open the gallery by July, Danielle Betts said. Work on the house was completed the afternoon of July 1, before about 200 people turned out to see the opening of the gallery.
The Bettses see the future of the barn as a space where art exhibits can be paired with food and music to add new dimensions to the exhibits on display. They also hope to use the barn as a performance space and support young, up-and-coming musicians by pairing their performances with performances by established musicians.
The gallery in the century-old farmhouse features the paintings of Brad Betts and stone, glass, and wooden sculptures by a variety of artists. It is meant to feel like a home and demonstrate what the art would look like in a home, Danielle said.
Brad Betts’ paintings of schooners, shorelines, flowers, fields, and more dot the walls of the gallery, with many of the rooms containing couches and tables that beckon attendees to sit, relax, and absorb the tranquil scenes in Brad Betts’ paintings.
Brad draws the inspiration for his paintings largely from the natural world and the interplay of light on objects, he said. Inspiration from nature led the couple to move to East Boothbay in 2007 and open Down East Gallery’s original location in 2014.
The couple saw their 35 acres in Edgecomb blossom for the first time this spring. “I haven’t really had a chance to paint here yet,” Brad said, “but I’m starting to get inspired.”
Danielle and Brad Betts were living in New Gloucester when they decided to move to East Boothbay. Brad, originally from Florida, specializes in maritime painting and was introduced to the area through a painting club.
“He said if he was going to live in Maine for the rest of his life, it would be in East Boothbay,” said Danielle, who was born and raised in Maine. The couple made an offer on property in East Boothbay the very next day.
The gallery in East Boothbay attracted a number of people traveling down Ocean Point, Brad said. “It was encouraging,” he said. “It inspired us to see if we could do the gallery on a larger scale.”
The couple also wanted to expand their personal vineyard and find land where they could grow more grapes. They traveled past 146 Boothbay Road in Edgecomb regularly and did not pay attention to the property until they saw “acreage” on the for sale sign.
“We’d drive by and see the hill,” Danielle said. “We always wondered what was on the other side.” The ridge on the property is ideal for growing grapes and extends out to fields and wooded lands below.
As the couple viewed the property, they saw an American woodcock take flight, a game bird known for performing aerial acrobatics as part of its mating dance. “It was because of that bird we decided to put an offer in,” Brad said.
The couple closed on the property in the winter and began their renovation of the farmhouse shortly thereafter. The pipes in the house had burst years earlier, and the insulation and interior walls had been stripped down to the studs.
The house had been in the Hutchins family since it was built in 1906, with only one owner outside the family before the Bettses bought it, they said.
Don Hutchins Jr. stopped at the house when he saw new cars in the driveway and renovation work going on, Brad said.
He told the Bettses the full history of the house – how his great-grandfather Charlie Hutchins harvested all the wood used to build it, and several family stories centered on the property. “It added a lot of life, knowing the history,” Danielle said.
When Down East Gallery held its grand opening July 1, several members of the Hutchins family attended.
The Bettses’ sons, Ben and Sam, are helping with the gallery’s operation. Sam Betts’ woodworking is among the sculptures on display at the gallery, and Ben Betts, a musician, performed at the opening.
The work of the late Whitefield sculptor Roger Majorowicz can be seen in museums throughout the U.S. and Europe. His “Chasing the Moon” is on the lawn at Down East Gallery.
The piece was donated by Dan Ucci, another sculptor prominently featured in the gallery. “It took a lot of teamwork” to transport the sculpture to Edgecomb, Danielle said. “It’s really special having this here.”
The gallery will be open daily and will complement the East Boothbay location, which is open by chance or by appointment.
The couple hopes the Edgecomb location will not only increase the visibility of Down East Gallery, but also serve as a space that will bring people from throughout Lincoln County together – from the Boothbay peninsula to the Twin Villages and Wiscasset, they said.
Brad and Danielle Betts are currently brainstorming about their next event.
“When you buy a farmhouse, you buy it, in part, for the history,” Brad Betts said. The house was teeming with energy at the grand opening. “It’s nice to know that we’re creating a new history (for the house), and giving it another 100 years to live on,” he said.
Down East Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. For more information, go to downeastgallery.wordpress.com or call 318-3282.