PEI

'It hurts': Montague's Artisans on Main at risk of closing

Artisans on Main, a non-profit art gallery run by volunteers in eastern P.E.I. is at risk of closing its doors.

The non-profit gallery for eastern P.E.I. artists needs more volunteers to stay afloat

Artisans on Main boasts 41 members, most of whom hail from across eastern P.E.I. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Inside a small storefront on Montague's Water Street, a uniquely P.E.I. gallery opens its doors each morning to visitors from all over the Island — and sometimes the world.

But Artisans on Main, a beloved gem that looks out over the Montague River, may have to close for good in the fall, unless it can find either a fresh source of funding or people to work for free. 

"It hurts," said Lynn Nimtz, artist and business manager for the gallery.

"To think that this might be lost."

Lynn Nimtz, business manager for Artisans on Main, is a weaver and painter as well. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC )

The gallery is a cooperative. It relies almost completely on volunteers, with the exception of a grant-funded summer student. 

The artists who've created the quilts, pottery and paintings that line the walls and fill the shelves are also the very ones who stand behind the cash register. 

Artisans on Main is no longer located on Main Street, but Water Street in Montague. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Artisans on Main began as a unique fix to a problem facing many small towns.

"It had kind of gotten to where businesses were closing and there were a lot of empty storefronts," said Nimtz.

"That's how it started. This group of concerned citizens in Montague … got together and really worked to establish the groundwork for this new gallery."

The top floor of the gallery is filled with original paintings and some wood art. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

'This year we'll be operating at a loss' 

The gallery has grown every year since it opened in 2009. It now has 41 members who come from across eastern P.E.I. Applications must be accepted by a jury. 

Artists themselves take home 75 per cent of the income from the gallery. What's left pays the expenses for the building, including electricity and rent. 

With the amalgamation of the Town of Montague into Three Rivers, the group's subsidy went from $2,500 to $1,000. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Aging membership

Many of the members are between 70-80 years old. Becoming a gallery member was like a second, late-in-life job for many of them.

And after eight years, Nimtz said, it's time for them — and herself — to go into "second retirement." 

"I have to step back, I just can't keep doing what I'm doing," Nimtz said.

This year the gallery's funding sources have taken a hit. 

With the amalgamation of the Town of Montague into Three Rivers, the group's subsidy went from $2,500 to $1,000. 

And with several members retiring, the gallery needs to hire a new business manager to replace Nimtz, who worked for free. 

Nimtz estimated that would cost about $10,000.

"Unless something changes, I don't see where that $10,000 is going to be available to us," she said.

The gallery is operated seasonally and members are accepted by jury. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Member Brenda Creighton said the Island's creative community will feel the loss if the gallery shuts down. 

She sells her quilts at the gallery and said it's not only a source of income, but of community. 

"Some people wouldn't have the opportunity to sell some of their art," said Creighton.

"And it's best for Montague, it brings the people in because people come back to our shop from all over."

The gallery members will meet at the end of July to try to address the problem. 

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About the Author

Stephanie vanKampen

Videojournalist

Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen @cbc.ca

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