A group of artists pinned their artwork to clotheslines on Massachusetts' Cohasset Common 52 years ago and began to grow a tradition. The South Shore Art Center focuses on the visual arts and is grounded in the busy coastal area south of Boston. Their facility features multiple galleries and teaching studios where they can offer exhibitions and gallery programs, sales of fine art and studio crafts, courses and workshops, outreach to schools, and special events.
SSAC passed the $100,000 sales mark of visual art last year, Executive Director Sarah Hannan said.
The mission of the South Shore Art Center is "to enrich the communities south of Boston by fostering an understanding and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions and education."
SSAC operates a significant Arts Festival each June. Their current exhibit, Major/Minor, places large works (over 1000 square inches) in the Bancroft Gallery and small works (under 400 square inches) in the Dillon Gallery. They begin Works on Paper in January and will host Steppin' Out, dancing and dining at the Red Lion Inn in March.
The Bancroft Gallery is the SSAC centerpiece. Designed by architect Vcevold Strekalovsky, the gallery's trapezoidal floor plan and soaring ceiling create unexpected visual planes and sight lines. Its acoustics also make it an ideal setting for chamber concerts and other musical events. The Bancroft Gallery was donated by Jessiee Bancroft Cox to honor her parents.
An outreach program sends their community programs manager to schools "with a slide show or the kids come here," Ms. Hannan said. "They have a tour of the exhibit and a hands-on activity that relates to the exhibit." The SSAC also has an Artist-in-Residence program in which students can "meet an artist and talk to the artist about their inspiration and how they got started and they do a hands on activity related to that. We have a ceramics studio and a sculpture class, and drawing is very big lately." Each year 1,500 people of all ages attend classes and workshops designed for beginning, intermediate, and advanced artists.
SSAC offers four terms of courses and workshops for adults and children of all abilities including drawing, painting, plein air workshops, ceramics, programs for children, photography and darkroom, and printmaking. They draw on professional artists for the faculty. Visiting Artist Workshops take place throughout the summer
Membership is important to the SSAC. They encourage membership not only to share in the cultural growth but also to contribute to its support. They have over 1,000 members.
One level of membership that differentiates them from other art centers is the Gallery Artist. "They have to be juried in," Ms. Hannan said. "We do that twice a year to select artists to become gallery artists. That means they can exhibit in our small gallery and also in our satellites and be part of our referral program." SSAC has 160 Gallery Artists.
"We think of them as our assets," she said. Gallery Artists also produce educational programming and other mission critical work.
Members receive invitations to opening receptions and exhibitions, reduced rate tuition for courses and workshops, darkroom privileges, exhibition opportunities in member shows, birthday parties for children, passes to the MFA, Boston, and more.
The SSAC operates satellites in the Cohasset Public Library, in the South Shore Conservatory, a conservatory of music in Hingham, and in the windows of an art deco building on Federal Street in Boston. "We have in the past done very well at selling art there, because there are thousands of people walking by every day. They can just call us up, put it on a credit card, and pick it up at the end of the show."
All the art is on consignment; exhibition by non-members is a 60/40 split.
The organization has Officers, a Board of Directors, a Board of Advisors, and staff of nine. The employees are all part-time except for Ms. Hannan, adding up to about 5-1/2 F.T.E. "We do a lot with what we have."
And the clothesline art show has become the best-attended arts festival on the South Shore. Click here for more info.
This look at existing art centers will research locations in Vermont, in New England, and in the Florida Keys.
It is worth remembering that, while these other areas have different and often larger populations than the Franklin and Grand Isle County region, the art centers we visit have similar missions. Their boards have chosen remarkably similar functions--but different implementations--to meet their users' expectations.
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Dick Harper, Chair
P.O. Box 1
Highgate Springs, VT 05460