Dublin Arts Center and Muse Gallery is open for business

  • Visitors explore the Muse Gallery during the opening reception for the DublinArts & Muse Gallery on Friday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • ”The Natural Order of Things,” an acrylic on canvas by Frankie Brackley Tolman on display at the Muse Gallery at DublinArts. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • Mary “Molly” McDowell, center, surrounded by her renovation team, cuts the ribbon at DublinArts & Muse Gallery on Friday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

  • “Alice’s Tea Party,” a found object sculpure by Nicole Williams, on display at DublinArts & Muse Gallery. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/15/2022 12:45:34 PM
Modified: 8/15/2022 12:42:32 PM

The DublinArts & Muse Gallery opened its doors for the first time on Friday, welcoming residents to explore the new gallery and classroom spaces, as well as viewing the first show on display, featuring more than 100 pieces on the theme of “Wit & Whimsy.”

Owner Mary “Molly” McDowell spoke to visitors only moments before cutting the ribbon on the newly renovated space, a former industrial building on Main Street in Dublin. She said she spotted the building, formerly the home of Window Master, run down and in need of some serious work a few months into the pandemic.

“I said, ‘I’ll stop and take a look. What could it hurt?’” she recalled.

Though the building was in need of extensive work, McDowell said she could see the vision of what it could be, although she joked it was less a vision and more of a meteor striking her. That vision was a transformed space, with an open gallery floor suitable for live music or theater performances, and classroom spaces for workshops or intensives on art, acting or writing.

She and her son, Chris Keck, have spent the last two years bringing that vision to life. They have replaced the former steal-beam supports with rustic logs from Maine trees, and used twisted bittersweet pulled up from the property to craft banisters for the stairway to the second floor.

McDowell said she wasn’t looking to start an arts center when she first stepped into the building -- in fact, she wasn’t really looking for commercial investments at all -- but she also couldn’t let the opportunity get away.

“This project represents everything I love and have been interested in my whole life,” McDowell said. “The classes held here are going to be serious – we’re going to be doing really great self-discovery. I want people to walk out of here saying, ‘That song changed my life,’ or ‘I can’t believe how many plays we get to see this winter.”

McDowell said the opening was the realization of that vision.

“This is just what I wanted it to be – people seeing old friends and listening to great music and looking at art,” McDowell said.

The first taste of what the center has to offer was on display immediately after the ribbon-cutting on Friday, with the opening of the Muse Gallery’s first show. Angela Amato, an oils artist with a studio in Keene, has two pieces in the show. Since moving to New Hampshire from upstate New York seven years ago, she said she initially struggled to make connections in the local artist community.

She said DublinArts was a “visible mark on the community.”

“I think it’s exciting to see the opening happen, and how many people were there, thirsty for music, performance, visual arts and writing,” Amato said. “The resource is invaluable for people who are looking for entertainment and some real, deeper ways of connecting with people through the arts.”

Amato has two oil pieces in the show, one a canvas piece entitled “Spiral’s Nest,” an abstract piece using only yellow shades of paint and textures. As the name suggests, it features a spiral shape hovering above a nest.

“I use the spiral or a swirl often. It’s a powerful image, and it’s also playful – kids love drawing spirals,” Amato said. That, she said, made her decide to submit it for the Muse Gallery’s first show. Her other piece, “Untitled,” was left unnamed to allow people to make their own narrative around the abstract image.

“They are the most playful of my work,” Amato said. “This whole show is playful, and so much fun. I feel that the artists that are exhibiting are of real high caliber, and some of the best artists I’ve seen here.”

Joan Hanley, another artist featured in the show, agreed, saying DublinArts was perfectly placed to support an already-existing artistic community.

“I think having a gallery in Dublin makes so much sense. There are so many artists around here, and there has been for hundreds of years,” Hanley said.

Hanley, who has a studio in Harrisville, said she has shipped her artwork as far away as Chicago for exhibition. While she also shows locally, including at the Jaffrey Civic Center and formerly at the Sharon Arts Center, she said she’s eager for another local venue.

“It’s great to have a home place, and to support someone locally,” Hanley said.

Hanley became connected with the arts center and gallery through Monadnock Art, which promoted the opening show. Hanley met with McDowell at her studio, and McDowell herself chose four pieces for the inaugural show.

Two of her works have a similar content, showing a male silhouette from the back – they were created as part of a series for a potential album cover. Another piece also includes a man painted from the back, as he’s about to dive in the water.

“I like to paint people from the back. You can read the whole figure, and get more of who that person is, and what that figure is saying,” Hanley said. “When a portrait is facing the front, people tend to read the face and not the body. Turning the figure around is a way to get people to engage with the whole painting.”

Hanley said she likes to create the starting of a narrative with her pieces, and leave room for the viewer to build on that story – the kind of imagination-stirring the theme of “Wit & Whimsy” was meant to create.

The show is on display at the Muse Gallery, located in the DublinArts building, through Sept. 28, and available for viewing Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., or by appointment. For information, to make an appointment, or information about future shows, visit the DublinArts & Muse Gallery Facebook page.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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