The River Arts gallery currently on Route 1 in Damariscotta is moving into a new location downtown, in Elm Street Plaza.
According to Alice de Mauriac, president of the River Arts Inc. Board of Directors, the gallery will occupy the space recently home to LOL Jokes and Novelties. Colby & Gale Inc. owns the building.
“We are currently rehabbing the space. It is a very contemporary space to hang artwork in,” de Mauriac said.
Though work started on hanging art at the new location about a month ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the process, according to de Mauriac.
She said her husband and fellow board member, Julio Sanchez-Banos, has been a critical part of the relocation effort.
“Fortunately, we have been able to do a lot of the work on our own. The building on Elm Street is made of cinder blocks and we had to put drywall up to hang the artwork. We knocked down some walls and made a larger space,” de Mauriac said.
“When we looked at this space, we had this vision that it would work really well and that it would become a perfect space with the updates we had in mind,” de Mauriac added.
According to de Mauriac, the new gallery has ample wall space to hang 75-100 artworks. She said it will have an intimate space called the River Room for solo or small-group shows.
“The window view from this room is the river out back. It will be a very pleasant room suited for small shows,” de Mauriac said.
The lease for the gallery space on Route 1 will expire at the end of April and the gallery has focused on moving 300-plus pieces of artwork over the last couple of weeks.
“All the artists have been really accommodating,” de Mauriac said.
A final show at the Route 1 location had to be canceled due to coronavirus precautions. “We had a fabulous show we had to call off,” de Mauriac said.
According to de Mauriac, the nonprofit arts organization will continue to have a presence at the 241 U.S. Route 1 location.
“We are keeping our workshop space in the lower level of the Route 1 building. Some classes and ceramics will continue in that spot,” she said.
A big draw to downtown Damariscotta was the foot traffic.
“We wanted to be downtown. We are happy for the opportunity to be where there are so many people walking around. It is a big plus to be by the bookstore, the library, and other shops, where there is a bunch of foot traffic,” de Mauriac said.
Another draw was the lighting of the space.
“At the Route 1 building, there are so many windows that you have to be careful where you hang art, careful where the light is coming from, but at the new space, there are only windows at the front and the rear of the gallery and it is easier to control light in the space and to set up for an art show,” de Mauriac said.
Due to the coronavirus emergency and related restrictions and recommendations, de Mauriac does not know when the art gallery will open in its new location.
She said River Arts usually has 11 shows per year and this year there will be fewer, but she doesn’t know how many.
Regardless, the gallery’s next show will be a member show, according to de Mauriac, who said the member show is the only show the gallery hosts that is not juried.
“All the rest are juried and open to everyone in Maine,” de Mauriac said.
According to de Mauriac, the gallery has about 300 active members to draw on for its member shows, and a larger group of supporters and donors.
“We are hoping we will have a good show when we are able to again,” de Mauriac said.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, April 7 and 8, de Mauriac and Sanchez-Banos were priming and painting inside the new space.
Before moving to the Route 1 building about eight years ago, River Arts was on Main Street in the space now home to Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty.
River Arts evolved from the Round Top Center for the Arts when the latter organization regrouped in 2008, according to de Mauriac.