Area artists, artisans and art lovers have a new home at which to indulge their passion.

Gallery 25 and Creative Arts Studio has opened at 25 Church St in New Milford.

Its grand opening will be Nov. 15 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Under the auspices of the town's Commission on the Arts, the 2,372-square-foot, town-owned building serves as a cooperative gallery showcase for area artists, with studio space for classes and demonstrations.

"It's remarkable," said Joel Spector, nationally recognized illustrator and artist. "It was the mayor's vision to do this. It's a wonderful idea."

Mayor Pat Murphy's goals are both altruistic and pragmatic.

"Although we have a lot of great artists in town, we've had to go out of town to see their work," Murphy noted.

"When Greg Mullen moved his gallery off the green, we no long had a downtown gallery," she added. "I want to bring our artists and their exhibits back to our town, bring more people downtown. I thought we should have a place."

"The idea had been percolating for some time," said Diane Dubreuil, the arts commission chairwoman, "for about a year. In May and June, with the outside arts festival and the studio tours we beta tested the space, with five illustrators exhibiting their work."

Dubreuil said that experience identified the challenges to the project's success.

"We want this to be a space where artists and artisans feel they can be working," Dubreuil said, "and showing their work -- professional and emerging area artists of all media: paint, fiber, clay, jewelry."

Another goal is to foster an awareness art can be affordable and buying a local artist's work, following his or her career as the techniques develop, can be richly rewarding.

"Every prominent arts area --Soho, Greenpoint -- all started with artists coming down to them," Spector noted. "That brought art lovers, art galleries, restaurants and economic prosperity to those areas."

"I think Gallery 25 and Ameico next door are what's going to bring Church Street back to life." said Spector, a member of the Commission on the Arts.

Gaylordsville artist Richard Stalter had attempted in the late 1990s to purchase the long vacant building at 29 Church St. from the town and open a Museum of Contemporary Impressionism there.

Fundraising failed to reach the needed $1.5 million.

He and fellow artist Susan Grisell have thrown their support behind the fledgling Gallery 25.

"It's a very lovely exhibit space," Stalter said. "We always want to try new venues. We're quite happy to be part of it. I've seen work by the other artists that are in there and it's very good. It's a promising venue."

Upcoming workshops are in painting techniques with Joel Spector and creative collaging with Anne Adams.

Gallery 25 and Creative Arts Studio is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For information, email or visit the Facebook page for Gallery 25 and Creative Arts Studio.

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