After a winter’s worth of work, the gallery at Chases Garage reveals unexpected connections among its artists. Although each studio is very different, common themes emerge when spaces and ideas are shared.
Making connections while making art is what Chases Garage is all about. The artists don’t have to work together or learn from each other, but they have the opportunity.
There are nine artist studios, two workshops for classes, a gallery, and a store, all in an efficiently repurposed former auto garage in York, Maine. Cait Guinta and Ned Roche founded it in 2013, forming a community of artists with the potential to motivate and support, compete or collaborate.
The gallery season begins with “Side by Side,” an exhibit featuring four in-house artists whose work exemplifies the heights of creativity and productivity that the arrangement makes possible. It includes functional planters by Dina Andretta, sculptural ceramics by Meghan Samson, prints and paintings by Dylan Haigh, and drawings and paintings by Lowly Pencil. An opening reception is set for Saturday, May 21, from 4 to 8 p.m.
All of the artists in the exhibit happened to render versions of potted plants, except Andretta, who created actual pots for plants. She recently began making her own planters, with some help from lessons at Chases, when she couldn’t find the right vessels for her many houseplants. Now, some of them get to float in ceramic boats.
Samson not only made plant sculptures, but also oversized heads, some of them sprouting plants. Her whimsical work explores self-portraiture and domesticity, leaving emotional evidence and the physicality of her process with fingerprints and drips.
The artist now going by Lowly Pencil also has a playful approach to her work. With scribbly line work, misplaced shadows, and confused perspective, she recalls the magic of childhood to depict places and creatures that exist only in the spirit.
Haigh’s hand-pulled prints celebrate shape, color, and basic spatial relationships, while exploring the anxieties that keep him up at night or jolt him awake in the morning. He also recently taught himself to paint, with the encouragement of fellow artists.
Guinta said artists often isolate themselves, since working through an idea alone is part of the creative process, but other people can be valuable resources. She said they share ideas, give feedback, and help each other learn different materials and processes.
“It’s a great form of motivation and a necessary hint of friendly competition that pushes all of us, and our work, when we’re able to work side by side,” she said.
It’s worked out well for Haigh. He’s the creative director of design company Haigh and Martino in Portsmouth, but art as personal expression is relatively new to him.
“The openness they’ve cultivated in the studios has really been the driving force behind my work,” he said. “There have been so many instances where I don’t think I would’ve stepped out from my comfort zone and experimented without the advice, encouragement, and critiques I’ve received from the other studio artists.”
Haigh said he’s inspired by the quality and quantity of work coming out of each studio.
“Seems like everyone there is always producing, refining, adjusting, and experimenting,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d actively be making art without Chases, honestly.”
It’s fitting that Guinta and Roche encourage communication and collaboration, since they’ve been known to create art together as well as run daily operations at Chases Garage.
“Ned and I work best as a team, for sure,” Guinta said. “We can come together on a big idea, and pull through each other’s strengths and weaknesses to create something we both are passionate about.”
They value innovative and unconventional arts, and select tenants whose differences might lead others to experimentation. There are people working in photography, illustration, graphic design, and mixed media, as well as in ceramics and printmaking, which the classrooms are designed for.
The couple isn’t just inspiring artists to communicate with each other, but also with their neighbors. Ask Roche for a tour, and he might end up explaining a new technique he’s exploring for transferring prints onto pottery. He seems as willing to learn as to teach.
Years ago, the auto garage was a place where people got their hands dirty, working with the right tools to make things better, not unlike what happens in a studio. Guinta said people loved the old garage, which is part of why they’ve kept the name and some of the building’s charm. She hopes it will also remain connected to people around it.
“We see it as part of our duties as a group of artists to include the public in our conversation so we can all grow as a community,” she said.
For a schedule of upcoming classes or to find out about membership opportunities, see ChasesGarage.com. Chases Garage is located at 16 Main St., York, Maine, 2070361-4162.