Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

We have been making loads of progress on turning the second floor of our building into a wonderful apartment. The wonderful part is still a ways off but it is taking shape. The second floor was three rooms with the doorways right in the middle of the walls. So we had to rethink the space and how it could work better. We are going for loft style and wanted to open it up more. We opted for having the doorways to the right making the spaces more livable and in the process created a sleeping nook.

As luck would have it we had some incredible damp weather right after the drywall was installed. Nothing was drying. Then as I was sitting at my desk in our first floor gallery, Monkitree, I heard a stream of water behind me. It was raining but this sounded closer. Sure enough I turn around and see water running down from the ceiling. I ran to get a bucket, then ran to get Peter upstairs. He came down and helped me move things out of the way then we turned our attention to what the cause may have been. Peter had just taken a shower in our living space on the third floor. Could that be it?

Newspaper Found In Ceiling
We called our plumber. He said, "I hate to tell you this but go turn on the shower again." Sure enough we had another stream of water. He came in the morning and yet again asked me to turn on the shower so he could figure out where he was going to need to open things up. I don't know why it made me feel better but we didn't have to tear into work that was just done. Of course we had to open something and ended up opening  the ceiling on the second floor landing. Our plumber, Jered, made quick work of fixing what turned out to be the drain of a very old shower that had decided to let loose. (Oh and in the process found a piece of newspaper from the 1940's, I'm still waiting for the hidden treasure). So know in addition to the wet weather we had extra water kicking around. It was time to buy a dehumidifier.

As we speak there are people upstairs working. Things have finally dried out. I have dreams of moving into the 2nd floor space by the end of October so we can begin tearing up the 3rd and 4th floor in preparation for adding the sprinkler system up there and renovating those two spaces into two more loft style apartments. Phew! We will see how long that will take us. What has it been... 5 years to get to this point? But it will be amazing when it is done.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Diving Through Layers: A Progression

Artwork by Ruthanne Harrison
July 27th - September 15, 2012

One of the great things about having a gallery is- the work changes every couple of months. Every time I hang a new show I am amazed by how the space is transformed. The image above shows "The Last Year: A Weekly Series." Ruthanne not only created 52 oil pastel drawing over the year but then constructed a way to show them all together! And that is only one wall. You should see what is on the others. Really, come see this show if you can.

Ruthanne Harrison of Richmond, Maine explores the concept of looking down through layers, or opening up a layer to reveal something new. The body of work melds her two passions- art and architecture and includes triptychs which open to reveal a layer beneath as well as oil pastel drawings and paintings. Ruthanne explains: “The work is all a progression, having to do with time, place, materiality.” 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Am A Small Business And I Did NOT Build It On My Own

Over the last 48 hours much has been made of President Obama's comment "if you have got a business, you didn't build that." A quote taken out of context. But you know what? Even if it hadn't been taken out of context, I am fine with it. Why is it that you can win the Super Bowl and thank God and your mother but we can't manage a thank you to all the people who help make our small businesses possible.

So here it is. My shout out to all who have helped make my small business, Monkitree, possible-

The people involved in getting downtown Gardiner listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1980. Without them I'm not sure this is a place I would have wanted to open a business.

The Gardiner Main Street program which has helped to (and continues to) foster the growth and revitalization of downtown Gardiner. The organization was my point of contact which helped me make the decision that Gardiner was the town I wanted to be my community. To all of the past directors who have kept the program going, our current director Patrick Wright who is doing amazing work and the countless volunteers including the Board of Directors. Thank you all for your hard work.

All of the businesses who have committed to the community by keeping their businesses here,  funding community projects like the Waterfront, supporting worthwhile organizations like Johnson Hall and the Boys and Girls Club.

My mother and family members who have helped not only shape me to be the person I am but have helped rip out walls, build walls, paint, cheer me on, loan me money and just about every other thing a family can do. And Peter of course who makes all sorts of sacrifices so we can continue to move forward with our plans.

The supervisors I have had in previous jobs who helped form my work ethic and helped me set achievable goals. People like Marguerite Young who helped me believe that I could do just about anything (as long as I was prepared and followed through) or David and Paula Brooks who have shown me just how flexible small business owners need to be.

Everyone who has and will work on our building as we renovate. Skilled people doing hard and dirty work. I appreciate your hard work- Jered Ladd Plumbing, McFarland Electric, Scott Elliot, Roger Gervais...

Everyone at City Hall and on City Council who serve our city. I'm sure we don't tell you all "thank you" enough. Thank you!

The artists and craftspeople who have given me the opportunity to represent their work. And to the local art community who support each other whenever possible.

To all my Monkitree customers who know that having a few beautiful things around can bring great joy!

The people of Gardiner and the surrounding towns who shop locally and support our downtown businesses as well as my fellow business owners in downtown Gardiner. Like I said in the Bangor Daily News article, "I want us all to succeed- and a few more."

I'm sure there are countless others to thank. My success isn't mine and mine alone. And when I am wildly successful I will continue to be thankful for everyone who helped make it possible. Sure I work hard and take risks but without community and customers I wouldn't have a business.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What is a Community?

Having recently returned from a year away, I have been thinking a great deal about what I have returned to. My friends in other places, who have not yet been up to visit me, probably imagine that I have given up a lot to move to a "city" of 5,800 people that is Gardiner, Maine. But in reality I have given up little and have gained so much. And what I have gained is a community. Having lived in a large city (actually many of them) I have had some sense of community but in a smaller city or town even the word community is different to me. Here I have many communities- the community of artists, the business community, the community of dog lovers, friends, etc... And here being an active part of the community means you can really make a difference. I am proud to volunteer as a Board Member for Gardiner Main Street.

But as a small community, we feel the loss of a business more acutely. When we lose Sweet Love, Mad Dog, Blue Sky, we feel it deeply. Each of those businesses contributed to our community, volunteered in our community. Of course there will be new businesses to take their places and hopefully win our hearts. And of course we have plenty of businesses making us great food, providing us entertainment, offering great gifts, providing excellent service. I value all that this community has to offer. Of course we don't have endless amounts of money to spend but when we spend it we should spend it locally. I challenge you all to try to shop local whenever possible. And it may be time to explore what is possible. If you haven't walked into every store downtown it may be time to do so. I have a few I haven't visited since I have been back and I intend to get in to visit soon.

In the past few weeks or so I have:
  • Had a tasty meatball calzone with minced garlic and oregano from Gerard's
  • Got another 4 pack of Innis and Gunn rum cask beer from Water Street Cafe. Had an awesome ham,egg and cheese on a bagel, picked up wine for an opening, etc...
  • Replaced and ironing board cover and got a Charleston Chew at Reny's
  • Grabbed some coffee to keep me going and hot chocolate to keep me warm at Sweet Love
  • Had my favorite Greek Calamari Salad at A1 Diner (among other meals)...and I am very tempted by the whoopie pies!
  • Went out to dinner with a friend to Pasta'z. Always delicious and the service is always fantastic.
  • Ordered a burrito from Lisa's Legit Burrito's and then got busy. They put it in the warmer and when I finally picked it up an hour later it was still delicious!
  • Picked up fantastic local foods at the Kennebec Local Food Initiative...my new love!
  • Yummy lobster roll and beer at The Depot.
  • Been sitting in my gallery/shop Monkitree. Helping customers pick out gifts, watching them enjoy art and of course I have been telling everyone about how wonderful Gardiner is!
(I'm sure there are more. OK so upon returning I ate out more than normal)  

Great things will continue to happen in Gardiner. This years River Festival (June20-23) is going to be bigger and better than ever. Two nights of fireworks, a carnival, a craft fair and live music! All made possible by local business sponsors and loads of volunteers. So come and enjoy Gardiner and remember to visit our local businesses. We would love to see you!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tar Sands Oil in Maine? Draw-A-Thon, Anyone?

Blue Jay by Kenny Cole
The current show at Monkitree has an environmental theme and benefits the Natural Resources Council of Maine. In talking with people at NRCM about what issues I may be able to help engage people in, the last thing I expected to hear was Tar Sands. Of course I had been paying attention to the Keystone XL pipeline issue that has been getting so much attention. And I knew about the spill in Michigan that has caused so much damage in 2010. But Tar Sands...in Maine? Apparently it could happen and we need to be vigilant.

There is an existing pipeline that runs from Montreal to Portland, Maine and Enbridge is looking to reverse the flow to carry tar sands oil. This pipeline number 9 runs next to Sebago Lake which is the drinking water source for 15% of Maine. It is an old pipeline and made of the same material as the failed pipeline that caused the destruction in Michigan.

The Tar Sands Oil is dirty, getting it out of the ground is incredibly destructive. We are coming to the end of the oil and should be focusing on what the solutions are instead of coming up with continually filthier ways to keep using oil.

So what can we do about it-

1. Educate ourselves. There are plenty of resources out their for learning about tar sands oil and the plans to bring it to markets.
2. Whatever we can, to protect our environment and our health. Write your legislators and be sure they know your position, go to public meetings, draw a picture. Yes. you heard me! Draw a picture!

On June 23rd, during the Greater Gardiner Riverfest, Monkitree will host a Draw-A-Thon to raise awareness of the tar sands issue. All work created during the Draw-A-Thon will be photographed or scanned for possible inclusion in a zine commemorating this event and possible reproduction as posters to used by NRCM at public meetings about the topic. 

If you are an artist that want to participate, please contact me at info@monkitree.com.
Everyone is welcome to come and watch!

For more information on Draw-A-Thons-
For more information on Tar Sands in Maine-

Friday, May 18, 2012

My Natural Inclination

On May 18th, 1987, I arrived at Clean Water Action in Washington, D.C. for my observation day. An observation day is basically a second interview where you spend the day with a trainer watching them do their job and trying it out for yourself. It is an opportunity for the trainer to decide if you have what it takes to go door-to-door talking to people about the environment, asking people to get involved and contribute to the organization. It is not a job everyone is cut out for. But I had discovered I had a talent for asking people for money on a brief stint raising money for George H.W. Bush. I'm sure they thought I was a spy. My roommate and I would rescue stamps from the stamp machine that the campaign decided couldn't be used because they got tattered. So I went out on my observation day confident I could do the job. Besides it was for a good cause, something I really believed in.

Blue Jay by Kenny Cole
When I arrived they had forgotten that my appointment was scheduled for that day. After a bit of shuffling, I went out in the crew with my trainer, Pete Northup. The area we were canvassing was a combination of middle-class townhouse development and subsidized housing. I will never forget one house we went to had a prosthetic leg hanging from the tree outside "airing out" we later learned. I can't remember exactly what the issue was we were working on at the time but I do remember people were supportive, of course that wasn't the case across the board. If it were, I doubt we would need so many non-profit citizen based organizations keeping politicians and big business in line.

I went on to become a trainer, manager then Canvass Director. I was able to help start up Clean Water's first office in Texas, to work for the California League of Conservation Voter, and even helped start a canvass for the Alaska Center for the Environment. My years actively involved in environmental issues were transformative. I met some of my very best friends, learned how to manage people and best of all learned that a group of determined individuals can gather enough public support to accomplish almost anything. So here we are 25 years later and I am celebrating both my 25 year anniversary and my two year anniversary of opening Monkitree with a show to benefit the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I'm no longer knocking on doors but I can still do what I can to help!

Natural Inclination
May18-July 20, 2012

263 Water Street
Gardiner, Maine 04345

Monday, April 30, 2012

Stepping Stones

When we figured out that Peter was going to need to get back to the DC area for work, I made the decision to come down with him and work.It was a step we needed to make. An easy one and difficult one to take. Difficult because it meant leaving Gardiner- our friends, our new business and building. Easy because it meant Peter and I would be in the same place and we could earn the money we would need to do the renovations needed on our building and to grow our business.

We were able to keep Monkitree open while away. I would get back every few months to hang shows and attend the openings. But there is no substitute for being there and running your own business. So for me it is time to hit the reset button and I have big plans for this year. Great art, great new products. Big movement on renovations on the building. Sure that will mean living in a construction zone but it will be progress. And that is why we made the sacrifices we made this year- living in Burke, not spending money, spending too much time commuting.

As I write this I am sitting in Virginia, looking forward to stepping back into my life in Gardiner one week from today. Unfortunately, Peter will be returning to Virginia. His contract was extended for three more months.

Artwork credit: Stepping Stone by Ellen Spencer. Her work will be included in the next show- Natural Inclination. Opening May 18th.