Local artist going large

Last modified: Tuesday, December 01, 2015
*Archive Article*
GREENFIELD — Over the years, local artist Karen Gaudette has donated her work to various auctions, charities and organizations. Now, with the opportunity to showcase her scratchboard drawings at two upcoming exhibits — including a solo exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center — Gaudette needs the community’s help to make it happen.

The Greenfield-based artist, who also teaches art at Greenfield Middle School and the Math and Science Academy, has started a Kickstarter campaign to help finance her shows. She has eight days left to reach her $3,500 goal, with more than 75 percent pledged as of Tuesday.

“The only way a community can thrive is if people take care of each other,” Gaudette said. “Now this is a chance for me to say, ‘I’m in a situation where I need to turn to family and friends and community and say, look I’ve got this great opportunity but I need your help to make it happen.’”

Gaudette was trained as a printmaker but said she always loved to draw and found that scratchboard simulates that look. For the last 20 years, it’s been her medium of choice.

“The first images I ever did for (an exhibit at the People’s Pint) were large, but as time went on I realized drawing big was cost-prohibitive,” she said. “It was expensive to produce and harder to sell, and then you have the issue of storage.”

Gaudette began drawing smaller, and completed her first series of scratchboard drawings in seven years last summer. The collection of 17 4x4-inch bird drawings, titled “Lil’ Birds,” will be on display at Hope and Olive restaurant this winter.

“A lot of my art is kind of whimsical but it’s often figurative, although in the past few years I’ve been having fun drawing animals. That’s kind of where the little bird pictures came from,” she said.

As she was finishing up the pieces, Gaudette said she received a phone call from the Brattleboro Museum offering her the opportunity to do a solo exhibit during spring 2016.

“I was so excited,” Gaudette said, adding there were three expectations she had to meet for the show.

First, she said, the exhibit had to include at least 12 drawings. The narrative of her work also had to be ambiguous because the show is associated with the museum’s Visual Thinking Strategies programming, a method initiated by teacher-facilitated discussions of art aimed at deepening students’ learning across different disciplines. Finally, Gaudette said the drawings had to be as big as she could make them in order to fill the large gallery space.

“Here I had been avoiding working large for years, but there was no way I could turn it down,” she said. “It felt like an honor.”

Gaudette ended up creating 14 16x24-inch pieces for the exhibit, titled, “Wishing for the Moon,” drawing the preliminary sketches over winter break and rendering on the boards over the summer. She said the show has a theme, but it’s something only she knows.

“It just starts with an idea and you develop it over time. It’s kind of a labor of love because it’s so labor-intensive,” she said. “It felt great and I’m very happy with (the pieces). I’ve gotten good feedback from galleries and other artists about the new body of work that’s going in the museum.”

Gaudette said the idea for the Kickstarter campaign came about when she was trying to figure out how to afford framing all the pieces. Her friend and framer suggested she look into crowdfunding as a way to raise the money.

“There’s such a huge expense producing art for a professional exhibit,” she said.

Gaudette said another friend, Turners Falls-based sculptor Tim de Christopher, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in the past and showed her the ropes.

“Tim very graciously showed me what he had done, almost tutored me in it,” she said. “It’s a terrific way for artists to be able to fund their projects.”

She also decided to send thank-you gifts to each backer who pledges money. The gifts range from postcards to original scratchboard drawings.

The campaign, however, is “all or nothing,” meaning she has to raise the full amount or she won’t get any money.

But with 43 backers pledging a total of $2,675 as of Tuesday, Gaudette said she’s hopeful she’ll be able to meet her goal.

“It’s an incredible amount of work doing the Kickstarter, but people have just been so generous and there are people I’ve never even met who like my art, and that feels so great,” she said. “It’s been interesting for me, I’m fairly shy. I know how to make art, I know how to teach art, and suddenly I have to know how to market myself and be more assertive, which is a whole other realm that’s new.”

You can find the Kickstarter page at:


You can reach Aviva Luttrell at: aluttrell@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268. On Twitter follow: @AvivaLuttrell