Visitors to the 43rd annual Lewiston Christmas Walk this weekend will be able to check out a brand-new attraction that's sure to be a natural fit for this artsy village -- an art gallery.
The Opera Hall Gallery, the latest endeavor of the Lewiston Council on the Arts, opens its doors with a ribbon-cutting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 4. It will be open to Christmas Walk visitors from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
Housed in a suite of three rooms on the first floor of the Lewiston Opera Hall, 732 Center St., the facility both assists the building's owners as well as benefits the Arts Council, says LCA Artistic Director Eva Nicklas. The historic building is owned by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Sacarrissa Bell-Rose Lodge No. 307, to which the Arts Council belongs. "Because we're members of the Odd Fellows, we really care about this building. The Arts Council and the Odd Fellows have a close relationship, and we decided to help them out with the rent by opening these three rooms," Nicklas says.
Modeled after the highly successful Arts Scen Gallery in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Nicklas says the new Lewiston gallery addresses a growing need -- that of space to exhibit for the region's ever-developing artist community, and at a reasonable price. "Their focus (Arts Scen) is to be a service for local artists. We've made it very inexpensive to show in this gallery for the artists.
"We sold wall space -- 3 feet wide by 10 feet tall. Not very much space, but we've filled up practically every inch of wall space already," says Nicklas.
She notes that more than 30 artists -- from the Buffalo area, Lockport, Ransomville and the Tonawandas -- have already signed on to use the facility. "And we have a waiting list."
Artists rent space for $25 per month and are requested to work the gallery four hours each month. "It's kind of like an artists' co-op," she says.
Artwork on display thus far includes jewelry to ceramics, photography, watercolors and oil paintings - even skulls. Skulls? "It's a very eclectic mix," says Nicklas, pointing to a striking row of black and white photos, she calls "edgy" taken by Buffalo photographer Cheryl Gorski.
Its users include some of the best known in the area as well as the not-so-well known. "It's a great place for artists to interact with each other, inspire each other, support each other," she adds.
Those signed on to exhibit include: Jim Andrews, Thomas Paul Asklar, Tina Bonifacio, Sharon Fisher, Katie Foley, Cheryl Gorski, Tom Hanna, Kathleen Hunt, Ed Kennedy, John Martin Lent, Judy Liberante, Artisan's Edge, Shelley McGuire, Michael McMahon, Penny Mt. Pleasant, Mikael Nicklas, Paul Norwich, Catherine O'Connor, Billie Pascoe, Mark Placek, Sherrill Primo, Len Russin, Rachel Schiff, Diana Storm, Paul Thomas, Delores Tittle, Suzanne Todaro and Dave Young.
Artist Sherill Primo of Lewiston, a clinical psychologist by profession, says she's had an interest in sketching and painting for about 20 years. Now exhibiting her works, she's upbeat about her newest venture. "It's the first time I've given it a serious effort," says Primo. "It's a perfect opportunity to really launch into it."
Primo's works -- as are those of others found throughout the gallery -- are available for purchase throughout the holiday buying season. "They'll make nice gifts," says Nicklas who reports the gallery expects to be "very active" and open in the days after Christmas Walk and up to Christmas.
She invites Christmas Walk visitors to stop by, meet the artists and check things out.
Expected to visit this weekend will be author and Lewiston native Catherine Gildiner, author of "Too Close to the Falls," who will autograph and sell copies of her newest work, "After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties," both Saturday and Sunday. "She's kind of a celebrity," says Nicklas. "It will be a perfect opportunity to meet her."
For Christmas Walk visitors, it's also a chance to catch a glimpse of some of the best of the local arts community. Drop by and check it out.
For more information on the new Opera Hall Gallery, call 754-0166.