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Shelburne Arts Cooperative celebrates anniversary with group show

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELBURNE ARTS COOPERATIVE<br/>Sally Chaffee's "Bridge of Flowers" necklace
  • Sandy Denis' "Bridge of Flowers"
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELBURNE ARTS COOPERATIVE<br/>The Shelburne Arts Cooperative gallery features works by the cooperative's 50 members. Artists are welcome to apply for membership.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELBURNE ARTS COOPERATIVE<br/>Mark Majeski's "Star Trails"
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELBURNE ARTS COOPERATIVE<br/>The Shelburne Falls Art Cooperative in Shelburne Falls.

For 15 years, artists in the Shelburne Arts Cooperative have done everything together — from creating and displaying their artwork to paying the electric bills. The cooperative, which is operated by about half of its 50 members, has been using the same facility in Shelburne Falls since it began in 1998.

“It’s just a wonderful group of people all working together,” said the current treasurer, Sally Chaffee, 67, in a recent interview at her home in Amherst. The artists live in an area that stretches from Berkshire County to just over the edge of Worcester County.

An exhibit, “Our Town — Shelburne Falls,” celebrating the cooperative’s 15th anniversary, opened in July and will remain on view through Aug. 26. The group showing features the diverse mediums its artists use, including wall art, fiber, pottery, glass, jewelry and wood. A closing reception, with musical performances, will take place Aug. 25. Over time, Chaffee says, the shop has come quite a long way: In the beginning, work was displayed on orange crates, not the shelves the shop owns now.

Supportive community

More than a few artists have been added to the cooperative over the years. Current co-president Flo Rosenstock, 71, of Amherst, joined five years ago after the Fiber Arts Center in Amherst closed. Rosenstock had been part of the center for five years before it shut its doors in 2008.

After the closing, Rosenstock says, she was looking for a new group of artists to connect with. Shelburne Falls is a bit of a drive from Amherst at 44 minutes away, but she says it’s worth it. The Shelburne Arts cooperative, she says, has become a supportive community of friends as well as a working community.

“That’s been an important part for me, just meeting other artists, and having the chance to be with them as artists and friends,” Rosenstock said.

Rosenstock was a potter in her first artistic undertakings. She made pottery for more than 40 years, gradually moving on to fiber work. The shift began when a stranger entered her shop in New Hampshire.

“Somebody came in with some painted silks, and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s really something. I’d love to try that,’ ” Rosenstock said. She began experimenting with silk-painting, and soon expanded to silk-dying and felt-making.

Chaffee is the group’s current treasurer, a role she filled only a few months after joining, seven years ago. She joined after retiring as a computer systems analyst in 2001 and moving in 2005 from upstate New York to Amherst. For years, Chaffee had been making bead-woven jewelry. Retiring helped her expand her hobby into an artistic venture. After retiring, and before joining the cooperative, she taught bead weaving at the Art School at Old Church, in New Jersey.

New members welcome

Rosenstock says the cooperative is open to artists within a 50 mile radius, and that the cooperative is always looking for new talent. A committee of members forms a jury to judge new artwork that will be placed in the shop, she says. The decisions are based on whether or not members think their artwork will sell, and if it’s different enough from things already in the shop.

“If we see someone’s work at a craft fair we like, we always invite them to jury for the cooperative,” Chaffee said. Organizations like hers, she says, can offer opportunities for artists who haven’t been featured in galleries. Not everyone has displayed work before, Rosenstock says. There are several people who have never had their work shown in a shop. But, she adds, current members are always there to encourage and train new people.

The cooperative has a strong local following, she says, which is most noticeable during the Christmas-shopping season. During other months, especially in the summer, it has benefitted from local tourism.

“It’s exciting for us that Shelburne Falls is becoming such an arts destination,” Rosenstock said. “It has a wonderful quality of all the artistic stuff, and then all the natural beauty like the bridge of flowers.

The Aug. 25 reception will feature two half-hour performances, at 3 and 4 p.m., by Sue Kranz, flute, and Ben Tousley, guitar. Kranz and Tousley have been musical partners for 25 years. The singer-songwriters released the folk-rock album “Take Heart” in 2012. Kranz is also a fiber artist with the cooperative. Tickets to the free concerts will be available at the door, on a first-come-first-served basis. Space is limited.

The gallery is located at 26 Bridge St., in Shelburne Falls. Regular hours are Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For information, call 625-9324, or visit www.shelburneartscoop.com.

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