I recruited Daniel Sipe to join the UMVA Board of Directors and want to focus on him here because he and Lights Out Gallery are doing exciting things that parallel our goals and because they need more widespread promotion and support to continue their success. Read about six other exciting new board members in “Reimagining UMVA.”
Sipe called me out of the blue in March of 2021 to ask if I would consent to be interviewed on video as part of a fledgling project to connect and promote Maine artists. He sounded passionate and sincere, so I agreed. Shortly thereafter, he showed up in my studio with co-founders Reed McLean and Karle Woods to record an informal chat with me about my work, which McLean then condensed into a perfect eleven minutes of who I am and what I am trying to do.
I was so taken with them and their video that I shared it with my friends and family nationwide and was overwhelmed by the positive reaction. A longtime New York art consultant called it the best such interview she had ever seen. Lights Out was also thrilled with its success, telling me: “You were the first established artist we interviewed outside our sphere and the success of your interview was a major turning point that encouraged us to go all in.” This young, dynamic trio has now done well over seventy amazingly insightful videos of established and cutting-edge Maine artists and posted them on YouTube. They also have transformed unusual spaces into white-wall galleries and held impressive pop-up exhibits in Brunswick and Portland.
Their latest project is almost absurdly ambitious: the purchase and renovation of Norway’s snowshoe factory, a quintessential relic of a bygone era. Under this roof they have planned a cornucopia of projects, including a gallery, coworking space, maker’s space, community tool library, dance studio, and artist studios. A pop-up exhibit is planned there for the end of August. The trio has a long road ahead of them, with $300,000 needed by the end of the year to replace the roof and complete the dance studio and coworking space, and $1.5 million by 2026 to pull it all together. They will have help from an extraordinary board of directors and advisors that includes art curator Suzette McAvoy, painter Katherine Bradford, sculptor Warren Seelig, and other notables. Once completed, it is slated to be a major center of the arts scene and the local creative economy, one of the few not concentrated on the coast. That’s something else which sets them apart: all three grew up in rural Maine and have kept their focus on the often ignored parts of the state.
“It’s isolating,” says Sipe. “There was always a sense that life was elsewhere, but it becomes clear eventually that life happens where you build it.”
“Growing up, there was a lack of opportunity to realize our creative goals in the place we call home. This project is in some way creating a place that we have craved our whole lives,” remarked Woods.
“Rural Maine has potential that has yet to be realized, and this project is part of a journey to imagine what is possible,” says McLean.
As Lights Out Gallery, these three friends quickly have become an up-and-coming force in Maine art circles. You can learn more, see the videos, join up, or make a contribution at www.lightsoutgallery.org.
Image at top: Lights Out Gallery’s home at 10 Tannery St in Norway, Maine (photo: Lights Out Gallery).