The Grand Orange Arts Center might be just the place for students looking for a way to explore their artistic sides off campus. Leslie Beattie opened the new studio space in the vacant apartment above her art supply store, The Mix, on Maine Street this summer.
“I consider myself a fun artist, not a fine artist,” said Beattie. “I teach things like needle-felting, sewing, mixed media painting, art journaling; I teach knitting; I do just about everything.”
In past years, she has taught classes downstairs in The Mix, but she felt there was a need for more space. When the apartment upstairs became vacant, she jumped on the opportunity to open the art center.
“The community is so artsy, and there’s a lot of desire in the community for a space,” she said.
Classes offered this fall include “Introduction to Oil Painting,” “Keeping a Sketchbook and Creative Journalism,” “Drawing 101” and “Portraiture for Beginnings,” all of which meet once a week for four weeks. It cost $125 total for all four sessions.
Beattie admits that sometimes people have difficulty spending money on themselves, and that has posed a difficulty in getting sign-ups and boosting participation.
“Just think about how much it costs to go out to lunch, and people see that an art class costs $20, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t spend that,’” she said.
Beattie plans to hire other teachers to help with most of the classes.
She hopes that community members of all ages, including Bowdoin students, feel welcome to use the space. She also sent brochures to local middle and high schools to spread the word to younger audiences.
“In middle and high school, and even into your twenties, there are not a lot of opportunities to explore and learn about art unless you’re in college. But even if you’re in college, [if] you’re not an art major, it’s really hard to take art classes,” said Beattie. “I want to offer something to those students.”
Her next plan is to facilitate business sponsorships to provide financial aid to students with demonstrated need to take classes at the Center.
“Not every student that wants to do art has the money to do it, and I hate that that keeps kids back from doing art; I hate that it keeps anyone back,” she said.
The Center is also available for private rental for individuals seeking a space to work on their own art.
While Beattie says she still has more work to do in fixing up the space and spreading the word, she is hopeful for the future of the Grand Orange Art Center.
“The excitement around the space has been really amazing,” she said.