The facility, tucked away unobtrusively on a side road in downtown Gloucester, is home to The Hive, a local arts center that aims to make the joys of creation available to everyone in the community. Whether you’re an aspiring painter or an amateur potter, The Hive wants to be your artistic home away from home.
“If you do art,” says executive director Caleb Friday, “you can come here.”
Though The Hive opened in 2012, its story stretches back to 2008, when Gloucester native David Brooks, 19 at the time, decided the city needed after-school arts options for kids. He had dropped out of Gordon College and was trying to decide what to do next; he knew only that he wanted to do something to make an impact on his community. At the same time, budget cuts had limited arts education in the schools. Brooks decided to fill the gap. His answer was to launch Art Haven, a program that offers children’s classes in everything from printmaking and painting to crafts and clay works.
In 2009, Art Haven added a few adult classes to its lineup. A few years later, some Art Haven students had entered high school; they were too old for the group’s classes but wanted to continue participating. Brooks and the rest of the board decided to combine the need for teen programming with an expansion of the adult classes, and The Hive was born.
“We realized adults actually like working with teens and teens have a lot to learn from adults,” Brooks says.
The organization found a home for The Hive just off Main Street. The catch? The space had gone 10 years without a tenant, so getting the facility open was a massive effort that took dozens of volunteers and thousands of dollars in donations of money, materials, and services.
Community backing for the center is apt, given the city’s artistic heritage. Though perhaps better known for its role as a fishing port, Gloucester also has a rich history of supporting and inspiring artists. Marine painter Fitz Henry Lane was a native of the city, and famous artists and writers from Winslow Homer to T.S. Eliot visited regularly to draw inspiration from Cape Ann’s scenic shores.
Today, The Hive’s 4,000-square-foot space is home to a rotating slate of classes, including watercolor and oil painting, ceramics, multimedia collage, and sewing. A new class launching this spring welcomes adults with developmental disabilities to mix with traditional Hive artists to explore different artistic media.
In addition to its bright and airy studio space, the facility includes a silkscreen studio, three kilns, computers loaded with graphic design software, and a “fashion department” equipped with sewing machines and dress forms. Community members are also welcome to drop in to work independently on art projects for just $10; materials can be provided for a small additional fee. At the back of the space sits the Falcon’s Nest, a small brick-walled gallery that can be rented out for events and that hosts shows of work produced by Hive artists.
The Hive also runs the Teen Artist Guild (TAG) a program that hires teenagers to provide design and art services to the community. Working with mentors, teenagers from 14 to 19 learn how to combine business skills with creativity to become successful working artists.
TAG has designed and produced T-shirts and signs for local businesses, created tap handles for a local brewery, and painted maritime-themed murals on the walls of downtown buildings. Guild staff recently designed a logo featuring a bespectacled seagull for Cape Ann Reads, a multi-library community reading initiative. And this spring and summer, the group will be selling screen-printed T-shirts and tote bags (sewn in-house) at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market.
Perhaps The Hive and Art Haven’s most notable (or at least noticeable) project is the towering lobster trap holiday tree they erect in front of the police station every year, a project Brooks says has really helped residents think of Art Haven and The Hive as integral to the city. “It’s helped people realize this is not just an art center. This is a community asset.”
Composed of more than 300 lobster traps, the “tree” reaches over 40 feet high. It is strung with Christmas lights and decked with hundreds of buoys that are brightly painted by local kids (and some adults as well). At the end of the season, the buoys are auctioned off to raise money for the art groups.
And it’s a mission that Friday says is crucial to the people The Hive and Art Haven serve.
“The arts are important,” he says. “To have the chance to create and make something is empowering.”