Yarmouth Creatives project highlighting local talents

Arts Society membership enjoying spike in interest, says president

RANDY EDISON respringdale@yahoo.ca



SaltWire Network


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Acollective effort by the Yarmouth Arts Society to grow the local arts identity as well as the potential for the sale of creative products is paying off. The town has taken a strategic effort to make the downtown area more pedestrian friendly, noted Arts Society president Judy Jenkins in regard to the focus being placed on the arts of late. “I absolutely love Yarmouth,” she said. “I've been to different places to work and I always come home. There's just something special about our little town.” Jenkins noted that while the Arts Society has been around for decades, at least to the early '70s, there's currently been a spike in membership from 40 members when she started to almost 160 now. She believes that growth spurt is directly linked to efforts to bring a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere to the downtown and one specific initiative. “The Yarmouth Mall has sponsored us in a project called Yarmouth Creatives,” she explained. “That's a space in the mall where we allow artists of all backgrounds, no matter how long you've been an artist or what your training is or even what you're medium is, you can join the Arts Society for a $20 fee,” she noted. “Then you can show and sell your work in this space.” “We have two featured walls which highlight two local artists per month and we're in the process of making a third wall which will be for students,” she explained. “There are so many talented people in this area looking for a place to sell their art we're just so thankful we have had all these people come forward, and we're still getting new members weekly,” Jenkins continued. “I want to see the arts in our area grow,” she said, “and I think we're headed in the right direction.” She also noted that the Arts Society offers workshops in areas like painting, water colour, rug hooking, mother and child storybook art day, and fibre art. “We want to keep some of the old traditions alive,” she said, adding that in the past they've done papier mâché and sewing classes and those will happen again over the next couple of months. As to her own interest in the arts, Jenkins is a papier mâché artist and also makes beach glass jewelry . “My main projects are mermaids and sea life,” she continued. “I currently have a five-foot carousel sea horse I'm working on in my home, a giant tuna and two mermaids. My kitchen is my studio at this point,” she said. WAKING THE WALK Jenkins also demonstrates her dedication to arts promotion via her shop — Sea Hags and Scallywags Art Upscaled Treasures and Collectibles. She's operated that shop from the same location for 14 years, although she did expand into a larger space at one point. Her inventory is comprised entirely of exclusive local artists works. “I have 43 local artists and craftspeople represented at my shop, and they all do something different,” she noted. “There are products ranging from scrimshaw swordfish bills, painting on glass, beach glass jewelry, natural stone jewelry, folk art, water colours, acrylic paintings, folk art carvings and stained glass.” “I have a rule in my shop that you can't have your works in any other shops downtown so I can keep products unique,” Jenkins explained. “It's wonderful when tourists come in and they say, ‘We've never seen this kind of work before'”. Tourism traffic through Yarmouth had taken a hit in recent years with the suspension of the CAT ferry service to Maine. That ferry brought thousands of visitors to the town each year. “Truthfully, the shop did really well when we started and we had the CAT ferry at the time,” said Jenkins. “We had really great sales then we lost the ferry, and needless to say there was quite a difference in the sales. “We have the ferry back now and I can honestly tell you that with the ferry our sales have more than doubled the highest we ever had,” she stated. The atmosphere created around the mall and specifically the Creative walls section is intentionally quite customer friendly,” she noted. “For example, my shop has partnered with the shop next door, Wharehouse 87, and we've opened a passageway so customers can walk from one shop to the other and the corridor is decorated for selfies. “I can hear them in there laughing,” Jenkins said of the customer reaction to the added feature. “We're there for the customers,” she added. “We don't want them to just come in and shop, we want them to have an experience.”