A gallery co-op that offers fine art at a reasonable cost

Present members, from left, Marianne Swittlinger, Carmella Yager, DiTa, Rick Bernard, Gayle Bedigian, Gillian Sloat, Lydia Kaeyer, Gena Neilson, Bill Swittlinger, Angela Anderson.

The Port Clyde Art Gallery (PCAG) is an artists’ collaborative located on the second floor of “The Barn” next to the Seaside Inn. Remarkably, this thriving co-op of 12 artist members has endured for 16 years, beginning in 2001 when seven local women, known as “The Girl Ain’t Right,” (see below) jointly exhibited their fine art and crafts at the Sea Studio in Tenants Harbor. By 2003 their membership had expanded and they relocated to a more permanent home in their present location. There, they had to make the best of a tough situation. The downstairs area was used for commercial storage of items that often emitted unpleasant odors. Additionally, they occupied just half of the second story while the other half, separated only by curtains, was used for commercial storage as well. The walls were unfinished, the floor unpainted and there was no lighting. The entrance and stairs were unsightly. Undaunted by these challenges, the group worked diligently to sell fine arts and crafts, proving the old adage that “perseverance generates success.” As Marianne Swittlinger, the general manager, remarks, “It’s been a good run.”

Today, the gallery is known for its mission to bring fine art to the general public at a reasonable cost. Making improvements to their space every year, the gallery now has installed finished gallery walls, good lighting and a painted floor. The Barn Café downstairs adds to the enjoyment of their patrons and enhances the entrance to the building and gallery.

The enduring success of this jointly-owned and democratically-controlled gallery may be attributed to its careful selection of members who share its philosophy and bring expertise. According to member Gayle Bedigian, “All of us come with assorted talents besides art. We are blessed with bankers, marketing experts, web designers, graphic designers, college art teachers, K-12 art teachers, a guidance instructor, a math teacher, business owners and a corporate leader.”

Artist members include a wide variety of painters, sculptors, potters, jewelry makers, collage and assemblage artists. Present artist members are Gillian Sloat, Gena Neilson, Carmella Yager, Marianne Swittlinger, Bill Swittlinger, DiTa, Lydia Kaeyer, Gayle Bedigian, Jan Dearborn, Rick Bernard, Doug Anderson and Angela Anderson. Neilson reflects that “One of the biggest challenges of being in a co-op gallery where where each member shares responsibility for its day-to-day operation, is learning to moderate ego. Instead of always thinking, ‘What’s good for me?’ each one of us has to consider what’s good for the gallery.”  To accomplish this, the gallery enforces only three simple rules: “Be polite.” “The customer comes first.” “Don’t make a mess!” As member DiTa reflects, “Artists come and go, but the core founders are dedicated artists who are the glue to maintaining a quality gallery with professional art.”

Attracting patrons from around the world, the PCAG also features guest artists each year. This year’s lineup included noted artists such as Carol Wiley in June and will feature Geoff Bladon in August. Of significant importance, this summer the gallery is honored to feature the works of noted influential modernist painter, Robert Hamilton, who resided in Port Clyde with his wife, Nancy, until his death in 2004.

Additionally, a 10”x10” exhibition, now in its third year, is scheduled for August 25 into September. Artists of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to participate. All entrees are accepted.

Port Clyde Art Gallery is open 80 days a year, beginning the third week in June and closing after Labor Day. The calendar for exhibitions, receptions, and artist members is located on their website at: portclydeartgallery.com.

—Katharine A. Cartwright

Founders, from left, Cindi McIntyre, Anne Cox, Marianne Swittlinger, Kim Libby, (front) Gail Kingsbury, Carol Cox

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