About a dozen pieces of artwork rest against a wall, waiting to be mounted for the show — the opening show. It’s a small step in a broader vision of the Deerfield Valley Art Association.
The association has moved into the former Green Trees Gallery in Northfield and will soon showcase local artists and historic art from its Museum of New England Art (MoNEA).
“It has everything we could ever want — it’s awesome,” said watercolor artist and Deerfield Valley Art Association President Beverly Phelps, standing in sunlight pouring through the front windows at 105 Main St., reflecting off an accordion of moveable white panel walls designed for hanging the art.
The gallery’s grand opening show will be held April 28 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and will feature work by the association’s roughly 140 members.
According to the association’s website, it was founded in 1931 to “encourage, create and foster appreciation of and support for the fine arts and crafts in our region through ongoing exhibitions, education, demonstrations by prominent artists and crafters, scholarships for art students, and other activities.”
The Museum of New England Art — an offshoot of the association — was launched last November to preserve and promote the art and artists of New England.
“There isn’t a museum specifically dedicated to New England art,” said Phelps. In part, because of that, she continued, “there are a lot of artists who have been overlooked in the past, for various reasons.”
Following the gallery’s launch, the museum will hold its premier show on June 23 by featuring historic New England art on loan from local collectors.
“We’re going to call this the DVAA Center for the Arts, home of the Museum of New England Art. Our mission statement is to support art and artists in the region. We’re basically all of western Massachusetts — and we’re getting membership from outside of the state now, as well. We don’t have any borders that restrict us,” Phelps said.
Renting gallery space is the second of three phases in the association’s long-term plan toward bringing a permanent art gallery and museum to the region. Also part of the second phase, Phelps said, is “documenting public art through local council grants” from towns including Turners Falls, Greenfield and Northfield.
By 2020, Phelps hopes DVAA has a perminant home — bolstering Franklin County’s art tourism industry by showcasing historic art and promoting local art by providing space for shows and sales.
In total, the art association rents about 3,000 square feet next to Cameron Winery. Half is reserved for an art gallery and gift shop, while the other is workshop and performance space.
“We’re envisioning it as a space for slideshows and speakers, maybe a presenter’s space for educational purposes,” Phelps said. “As we grow, we can probably expand our list of activities.”
“Starting MoNEA here is to establish that we exist and that we can do business and be viable — establish the name and credibility,” she continued, noting intentions to apply for grants and solicit donations from art collectors.
Looking ahead, she said, “We hope to collaborate with Thomas Aquinus College and the new Moody Center. The possibilities are limitless at this point — we’re a nonprofit organization with a real strong emphasis on education.”
Deerfield Valley Art Association shows, which will be up for a few months, “will focus on local artists and/or member artists, and works will be for sale. The museum’s shows will include art from many time periods, and artists who were born or significantly working in the six New England states. They will be exhibits, not works for sale,” Phelps said.
In addition to shows, the gallery hosts community workshops and presentations, including a painting workshop scheduled for June 3 with oil painter John MacDonald from Williamstown.
Phelps said orator Barry Deitz will present a talk on “American Vastness” on opening day.
Membership is open to “anyone interested in the arts — they don’t have to be artists,” Phelps noted. Among the benefits of joining is an opportunity to display and sell artwork at association shows, she said. The gallery makes a commission on all sales.
Currently, gallery hours are Friday and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
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