By Sarah Richardson
The Lee Street Studios Centre for the Arts and Artist’s Collective is celebrating their five year anniversary this month as it continues to evolve into a regional art staple in Lewisburg. The complex, which is located in the old Lewisburg Elementary School buildings on Lee Street, is an expansive collection of artists’ studios and a newly-reinvented gallery, but also apartments, High Rock’s Hub and Tech Express, and more.
Thomas Ruggiero, an artist himself, spearheads and organizes the Schoolhouse Gallery, a permanent installation in the main studio building. The gallery is a unique collection of a sample of works from each studio at the complex, which makes it easy for visitors to peruse a small selection of each artist’s work without having to tour each individual studio. Thomas also spends time transporting the gallery to regional art shows and fairs, which both promotes the art center and provides a way for artisans to sell their wares outside of the complex.
“I feel that since I’ve changed the gallery space that it provides a safer environment for the artist’s experience,” said Thomas. “This really enhances their creative side and confidence, and by adding an opportunity for them to sell their items it adds a whole new angle for them. By providing that chance to sell their arts, they have a farther reach than just their family and friends.”
There is an impressive variety of art produced from the studios located within the old “E” building, including oil paintings, watercolors, handmade jewelry, clayworks, fiber art, woodturning, music, photography, and much more. Yoga classes are also offered in the facility, and a new bridal boutique has joined within the last year.
“It’s been an interesting evolution,” said Jeanne Christie, property manager. “The most interesting part of this place is the diversity. It’s just so diverse, and that’s what makes it interesting. Before, when we first opened, we were trying to be more traditional by holding weekly events and other activities, but we came to a morphing realization that this wasn’t the venue for that. The way that we coordinate with artists now flows much better.”
Lee Street Studios is open every Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., usually with several studios open for browsing. The Studio 2 Fiber Artists host a unique “Knit Around the Table” gathering that is open to the public each Saturday at 10 a.m. “That class is getting popular,” said Thomas. “Last week there were five people in attendance. Just stop by with whatever you’re knitting!”
Other classes include the West Virginia Woodturners Association on Saturdays, with regular meetings on Tuesdays, and Jeanne Brenneman teaches watercolor painting in Studio 6. The centre also partners with Carnegie Hall for an assortment of classes and workshops.
Email email@example.com for more information about the Schoolhouse Gallery, or to inquire about a studio.
The full list of operating artists at Lee Street includes:
Studio 1: Thomas Ruggiero- Fashion design and illustrating
Studio 2: Fiber Artists- Handwoven, felted, and knit wearables/decorative items
Studio 3: Merry Hill & Co.- Bridal boutique
Studio 5: Lory Van Buren- Mixed media
Studio 6: Margy Green- fine art; and Jeanne and Bruce Brenneman, watercolorists and woodturning
Studio 7: Upcoming music venue
Studio 18: WV Woodturners Association, Gary DeGraff
Studio 9: Robin Skillern- Jewelry and mixed media; Sara McDonald- Oil paintings; and Shea Newton- Jewelry design
Studio 10: Sean O’Connell- Jumping Branch Clayworks
Studio 11: Collective Studio: Erica Agee- Photography; and Marlyn McClendon- Photography
Studio 12: Ginko Studio- Yoga and wellness
Studio 13: Phillipa Radon- Interior design and lifestyle coach; and Elyse Gerard- Fine art
Studio 14: Jorn Mork- Fine art
Studio 15: Fine art
Studio 16: Fine art