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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 20, 2014
Handworks Gallery to open this spring with new owner

by Anne Berleant

One of the longest-running businesses in Blue Hill, Handworks Gallery on Main Street, was sold on January 31. Marcia Stremlau transferred the business and its assets to Diane Allen, a North Blue Hill jeweler whose work has been shown by the gallery in previous exhibits.

“I’m ready for a new chapter,” said Stremlau in a recent telephone call.

Handworks Gallery first opened in 1975 under the direction of John and Beth Hikade, a few buildings down the street from its present location. In 1990, Lee Lehto bought the gallery and moved it to its current home; 10 years later, Stremlau took over.

“I’m also an artist, and I wanted to have more time to make art,” she said of her decision to sell.

Handworks Gallery has a tradition of showing all types of art; recent shows have included pottery, hand woven rugs and shawls, jewelry, functional and sculptural work in wood, clay and paper.

Stremlau looked for a buyer within the local artist community. “It was very important to me for it to continue as Handworks,” she said.

Allen, who moved to Blue Hill in 1985, first had her work displayed at Handworks Gallery about five years ago. “I always just loved it,” she said by telephone. “I loved the space, I loved that it was the old Blue Hill department store. It has such a great history.”

While not “looking to take on a business,” Allen decided to buy the business when she heard Stremlau wanted to sell.

“That really got my attention,” she said. “I recognized that it’s not an opportunity that becomes available very often. I just decided to take the plunge.”

Allen has two changes in mind for the long-time gallery: first, to take on new artists and second, to keep it open year-round. Traditionally the gallery opened in May and closed at the end of December. Allen plans to keep weekend hours during the winter months.

“I think Main Street can certainly use a little more activity, and I think that it’s also an opportunity for new works to come in throughout the year to keep things fresh and interesting.”

Allen said she is “certainly interested in continuing” with the artists who are currently associated with the gallery. “I think the vision for it is just going to evolve,” she said. “I’m not looking to make any dramatic changes. Part of why I bought it was because it [is] Handworks Gallery.”