Ridgefield Guild of Artists Celebrates Forty Years
by Mary Pat Devine
Photo taken in the 1970’s of members of Ridgefield Guild of Artists in the notable Norway Maple tree on the grounds of the guild. Are you in the photo or know someone who is? Please email the guild at rgoa@sbcglobal and tell them about it.
In 1974, seventeen local artists decided they wanted a place to call their own to create and exhibit their art. They formed the Ridgefield Guild of Artists. In the forty years since, this original group has grown to nearly four hundred, drawing members from all over Connecticut and New York. The Guild has evolved from a local artists’ “clubhouse” to a regional arts organization recognizing, promoting and supporting artists at all levels.
When it all began forty years ago, the small band of artists settled on an old run-down town-owned barn and struck a deal with Ridgefield to lease it for $1 a year while assuming the responsibility of maintenance and repair. The old goat barn, complete with feed troughs in the basement, was originally part of an 1880’s estate-turned-Holy Ghost Fathers’ novitiate on Halpin Lane in Ridgefield. In the early years, the member volunteers cleaned up the barn, tacked up pegboard walls and laid out brown shag carpeting and began to their show art.
The art barn sits near the center of town nestled between congregate housing, the community garden, the Ridgefield Theater Barn and the walking trail. In the early 2000’s, member Chris Curnan pulled up the old carpeting to expose the antique pine floors and put up the white walls that now make up the three gallery spaces on the main floor.
Ridgefield Guild of Artists presents a full calendar of exhibitions each year: an Annual Juried Exhibition, now in its 37th year, with jurors from major museums, galleries and academia; Festive Home, a holiday showcase and gift emporium where member artists collaborate with decorators to create vignettes highlighting their artwork in home settings; member-curated exhibitions and several member-only shows. The guild also works with individuals or groups to produce special exhibitions.
Members of the board and friends in the Notable Norway Maple tree many years later. BIgger tree and fewer people willing to climb onto the taller limbs! Standing from left: Mary Harold, Deb Crichton, Rachel Volpone, Joan Isaac, Pam Stoddart, Mary Pat Devine, Mary Louise O’Connell, Antonio Muñoz, Cindi Mullins and Ellen Matthews. Up in the tree: Kim Hanna, Nancy Moore, Adelka Polak, Jacqué Lang, Justin Perlman and Joe Sladek. Photo by Roy Weinstein
The guild is committed to creating the highest quality exhibitions and takes pride in its installations. Innovative new programming includes member-rental gallery space, an artist-in-residence program, member-curated shows and occasional performance art. The Guild recognizes the artistic spirit as it takes on many forms and levels of expression.
Community outreach is vital to the Guild of Artists. Members work within the Ridgefield community creating partnerships with a variety of like-minded organizations. They collaborate with Ridgefield Library to bring ARTalk to the public, a series that includes panel discussions, presentations and workshops in the fine, decorative and professional fields of art. The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra has had a unique partnership with the guild’s artists-in-residence, collaborating to create sculpture and performance pieces for concerts. Also, RMAC musicians are becoming regulars at guild events.
RGA also joins with Ridgefield High School to sponsor the Annual Juried Student Art Show, giving junior and senior art students the opportunity to experience the exhibition process. New this year was a partnership with the Ridgefield Arts Council bringing Art Walk 2014 to our town center in August. Artists were paired with local merchants along Main Street and beyond, creating a streetscape art gallery.
Ridgefield Guild of Artists also supports its mission of education by offering classes and workshops for its members, big and small. Classes for kids from elementary to high school age run throughout the school year. In the summer, the guild turns into a creative arts summer camp, overflowing with the energy only children can bring to the art barn. The guild believes in nurturing the creative spirit in children that will remain with them as adults.
For adult artists, the guild offers drop-in life drawing, several painting classes and informative and hands-on workshops, ranging from using social media to market yourself as an artist, to photographing artwork for online sales, to techniques to enhance painting styles.
Ridgefield Guild of Artists is now a 501c3 not-for-profit organization governed by a board of directors. Rachel Volpone who served as Guild president for eight years cites the Guild’s open, encouraging environment as the basis of its success over the decades. “Team effort and support have enabled the guild to transform itself into a vibrant and important part of the community,” she says.
RGA continues to expand and innovate to serve its members’ artistic goals. The group has installed new leadership to maintain its momentum with Pam Stoddart as the new Executive Director and Co-Presidents Mary Pat Devine and Mary Harold, leading the Ridgefield Guild of Artists into its next forty years.
On November 21st, the guild will kick off their 40th year celebration and 10th Annual Festive Home…be brilliant, with a special preview party from 6-8pm. Pam Stoddart, co-chair for Festive Home, talks of the plans for the big party: “Admission will be $40, for our 40 years. We’ll have a heated tent with festive drinks, food, a terrific art raffle, live music and more…not to mention giving guests the first look at all the wonderful merchandise this year!” It’s the guild’s biggest fundraiser of the year and brings in much needed funds to help keep their programs running strong.
Ridgefield Guild of Artists is located at 34 Halpin Lane. Special holiday shopping hours during Festive Home are Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm. Visit rgoa.org or call 203-438-8863 for more information.