Last spring I took my students to the Western Avenue Studios in Lowell, MA. It was a great experience, as they had the opportunity to speak with working artists about pursuing a career in the field. This weekend, during the holiday open studios, we took Addie to explore this amazing mill-building turned artist studios. Open artist studios are a great way to introduce little ones to art. Addie had plenty of space to move around, was exposed to a variety of artistic mediums, interacted with artists, and even had the opportunity to make her own art.
Western Avenue Studios first opened its doors in 2005, becoming home to 31 artists. Over the years, the number of studios has increased to 143, with over 200 artists honing their craft in this historic building. The inside reminds me a lot of my elementary school, with creaky, scuffed wooden floors, large windows, and exposed brick. The studios are really just varying-sized areas partitioned by walls that reach up about three quarters of the way to high, wooden cross beams under the ceiling. Each is decorated to reflect the artist residing in the space.
Our friends Tim and Mary met us there, and we spent a few hours perusing the studios. First stop was the Loading Dock Gallery, a co-op gallery run by many of the artists at Western Ave. Open 11am-4:30pm Wednesday through Sunday, the gallery has a rotating exhibit featuring one or two members, as well as a storefront that sells the work of Western Ave artists. Addie enjoyed wandering through the exhibit, Winter Lights V, pointing out what she could see, and examining the art up close.
As we exited the gallery, Addie wandered across the hall to the studio of glass worker, Peter Zimmerman. He was busy making a small glass dog figurine. Addie watched, transfixed, as he skillfully melted glass sticks into a head, nose, and ears.
We spent the next few hours wandering in and out of studios, examining pottery, paintings, photographs, fabric arts, and more! As she ran from studio to studio, Addie kept up a running narrative of what she was thinking. It’s kind of hilarious that her inner-monologue is still pretty much an outer-monologue.
Addie made a lot of new friends today, as the artists graciously welcomed her into their space. I was particularly impressed with the way they spoke to her – they took her seriously, answering her questions, and asking her questions as well. Many of them gave her candy, small pieces of artwork, and lots of positive encouragement.
Our last stop of the afternoon was the photography studio of Meghan Moore, a local photographer who collaborated with my students a few years back. It was great to catch up with her as Addie made us pizza.
If you’re in the area, check out the Western Ave Open Studios on the first Saturday of every month, from noon-5pm. It’s also a great place to pick up holiday presents – not only are you buying local, but you’re supporting the work of some fantastic artists as well! You can even take classes with many of the artists. (Lessons would also make a great gift for anyone who wants to explore their artistic side!)