Metro, Arts, Newton

New Art Shop Builds Sense of Community Between Local Artists and Residents

Newton’s New Art Center is offering an eclectic collection of artwork made by 56 local artists as part of its second annual New Art Shop, a local holiday pop-up shop at 245 Walnut St.

“Our lives are very busy, and most of us are shopping on the internet,” New Art Shop volunteer and participating artist Ellen Weinberg said. “To be able to touch a handcrafted item that’s not necessarily available anyplace else, I think, is personally priceless.”

The shop, which will run until Dec. 23, offers a range of gifts, including jewelry, paintings, ceramics, and soaps, and includes some of the participating artists as staff, according to the organization’s website. Each artist was selected through an application process that began in the fall, Weinberg said. 

“I really like working and volunteering at the art shop,” she said. “I love to talk to people about my pieces, and show them what the other artists are making too.”

Thirty percent of the proceeds from the shops’ sales go to the New Art Center, while the remainder go to the featured artists, participating artist Emma Peacock said. 

Despite the art pieces’ high commission rates, the center’s mission to make art classes and local art more accessible—as well as the opportunity to reach a wider market—compelled Peacock to participate this year, she said.

“The holiday season is my super busy season … so staffing a storefront during this time would be really hard for me,” Peacock said. “But [the New Art Shop] allowed me to test a totally new market without personally having to be there, and it’s already gotten me a lot of connections within the local area and shown me that Newton is a place that I’m interested in doing more markets in.”

Weinberg said that the shop is a good place for local artists to build a sense of community, especially because of the absence of a permanent co-op in Newton, where local artists would be able to jointly manage the organization and exhibit their work. 

“I know there are communities that have a gallery or two that are devoted to people in the area, and we really don’t have one in Newton,” Weinberg said. “So this is a trial … we had a meeting last year about [creating an art co-op], and there was some general interest.”

Despite the absence of a permanent co-op, both Weinberg and Peacock described the local art scene as rich, with a strong sense of community. 

“I have several friends who are also vending in the New Art Shop as well, and a lot of us found out about it through each other,” said Peacock. “It’s a really diverse, really thriving community.”

This sense of community also manifests itself in the visitors of the shop, according to Weinberg.

“Those people who [visit the shop] live in the Newton area, so it’s fun to meet people who might live around the corner from you and you don’t even know,” she said.

The local aspect of the New Art Shop, and the New Art Center more generally, is ultimately what makes the space special, according to Peacock.

“If we want local art in our communities, we do have to support local art in our communities,” she said. “And I think that the amount of turnout that we’ve seen for a space like this has been really reassuring.”

December 10, 2022