September 1, 2021

New Artists’ Cooperative To Open in Shopping Center

“RED BALL”: A work in watercolor and pencil by Heloisa dos Devanelos, one of the 25 local artists who are part of Princeton Makes, a new cooperative debuting September 18 in Princeton Shopping Center.

By Anne Levin

As the former interim executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, Jim Levine has long been aware of a lack of sufficient studio space for artists in the area. Since stepping down when permanent director Adam Welch was hired last year, Levine has been intent on remedying the situation.

His persistence has paid off. Starting September 18, 12 local artists in different media will be creating in studio space at what was formerly Blue Ridge Mountain Sports in Princeton Shopping Center. A retail store in the front will sell work by members of the cooperative, which includes another 13 artists who work outside the studio.

Painted white by some of the members over two Saturdays, the large, airy space is being divided into individual areas. Each member works eight hours every two weeks, either in their studio or in the retail store. “So there will always be an opportunity for people to talk to an artist and maybe watch them work,” said Levine. “Whenever we are open, there will always be someone working here.”

The grand opening is Saturday, September 18 from 2 to 6 p.m., and will include plein air painting in the courtyard, artist demonstrations, open studios, and live music. Admission is free.

Levine, a stained glass artist and a member of the cooperative, was able to negotiate a month-to-month lease. “The shopping center has been great. I had a lot of interactions with them when I was with the Arts Council,” he said. “So there is a level of respect and trust. They understand the cooperative concept. They understand the arts.”

All of the artists are from within a two-town radius of Princeton. Ages range from 17 to about 77. “They come from all different backgrounds,” Levine said. “They work in painting, drawing, ceramics, jewelry, sculpture, stained glass, and a variety of offshoots of those.  There is room for more.”

It took a while for the idea to get out among the artistic community. “At an open house in April, one person showed up,” Levine said. “I had a few more, and after a few weeks we were up to 25.”

Members pay a percentage of sales. “The rates are very accessible for artists,” said Levine. “There are no employees, so that keeps costs down. Part of the thinking here is that this is not a gallery with maybe eight pieces of high-end art. We have a variety ranging from $10 to $1,000, or in that area.”

Levine has enjoyed observing the members interact. “What I’m finding is that artists like to be around one another. They like to talk,” he said. “When I see them in a room together, they’re connecting. It’s fun to watch.”

Princeton Makes will initially operate Thursdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eventually, Levine hopes to have a full program of events that include music, poetry, art talks, and more.

“I enjoy making things happen for and with and by other people,” he said. “This is a way to support local artists and make use of some available space, and it will hopefully engage the public.”

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