It would be difficult to find anyone who does not like downtown Meredith. In the winter, Meredith is a charming village with white lights glittering on trees and in shop windows; in summer the town is equally quaint with a bustling Main Street and Mill Falls Marketplace shops and eateries.
If that sounds like an advertisement to lure you to Meredith, it isn’t meant to. Rather, it is simply that I have affection for the great little town full of all sorts of shops; and it appeared, on a late August Sunday afternoon when I visited, that I wasn’t alone in my affection.
Out to do some errands, I drove on Meredith’s Main Street and spied a small sandwich sign announcing “Art Exhibit” on a little side drive. I just had to stop and check it out! I was lucky to find a nearby Main Street parking space on the busy Labor Day Weekend, especially since it was a holiday weekend lunch hour.
The art gallery I wanted to visit is called VynnArt, located at 30 Main Street, on the lower level of a building also housing a restaurant on the upper level.
The art gallery was quite busy and, as I entered, people of all ages were clearly enthralled with the variety of art on the walls. I noticed a number of people were checking out an area with pottery, and others were happily wandering through the maze of rooms offering watercolors, paintings, photography, and even a room full of art supplies, from paper to paints, paintbrushes, and more.
A very friendly man who was clearly in charge of the gallery welcomed visitors and explained that, on this particular day, a featured artist exhibit was taking place in the main gallery. On display were paintings by Elaine Morrison and photographs by Dick Smith. The artists were in the gallery to chat with visitors about their work.
I found the Morrison-Smith exhibit fascinating: Morrison’s paintings were in various media, including acrylic, watercolor, and collages. The subject material was what made the exhibit so unusual, drawn from the artist’s past travel experiences in Haiti. Also included were military paintings borrowed from Morrison’s current exhibit at the National Guard headquarters in Concord.
Dick Smith offered an array of photographs highlighting the contrast in socio-economic status in today’s world. Pictures included those from Haiti, homeless people in this country, and people in poverty, as well as the wealthy. Black-and-white photography showed those in poverty contrasting with color for those living in luxury.
When the gallery owner, Vynnie Hale, had a break from greeting visitors, we chatted about the art space. “I started the shop about 3 1/2 years ago by selling art supplies here. It was a shared shop at the time with someone else running the gallery,” he explained.
Eventually Vynnie took over the operation of the entire shop, now representing 46 local artists in the gallery. “I like to stress that the artists are local and we have weekend shows featuring our artists. We offer pottery, watercolors, paintings, and more. And we have weekly workshops by our artists.”
I was quite interested in the idea of the artists represented in the gallery teaching classes for the public. A large, open space in the first gallery offers lots of room for workshops. “We also offer art parties and children’s parties,” Vynnie went on to explain. The events are a fun option for children’s parties in a unique location.
“We have used every nook and cranny of the gallery space,” Vynnie said with a laugh as we strolled through each room. He pointed out a small bonus room where further artwork is on display.
All work is for sale and Vynnie’s charming polymer clay figures are also displayed in the gallery. “I am now into graphite drawings and polymer clay figures,” he said with enthusiasm. “I was introduced to polymer clay in the year 2000. I purchased a couple blocks of the clay and began with a few basic creatures that I copied from a book that I also purchased. It was fun and instantly gratifying!”
I recognized the work of many local artists as we moved from one gallery to the next (I counted four to five well-lit, art-filled rooms). Vynnie explained that many of those who exhibit at the gallery are members of the Lakes Region Art Association. The group has been in existence since 1940 and represents a wide variety of extremely talented Lakes Region artists. The creative people have found a wonderful place to exhibit at VynnArt.
To get more information about VynnArt, visit www.vynnart.com or call 603-279-0557. The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., year-round, and is closed on Tuesdays.
Nearly next door to the art gallery, I couldn’t resist stopping at an antiques shop with many great items displayed on the lawn. The Once New Vintage Ware and Salvage, at 38 Main Street, was like a magnet for antiques lovers.
I made my way inside and was greeted by Cheryl Hook, the shop owner. “We have been here 11 years,” she said. “We are open year-round and we have something for everyone. It’s a mix of things.”
I browsed through the rooms, one leading into another and each chock-full of great items from small antiques to cookbooks to old pottery and photo postcards and, finally, the amazing, hardware room.
“This is the room where people come when they are doing projects,” Cheryl said. Indeed, the room was full — floor to ceiling — with every sort of old tool and hardware imaginable. What a great room to find antique door handles and hardware to complete a project in an old home!
The Once New shop is open year-round, seven days a week. The only time it closes is Christmas and Easter. When I asked, “What about Thanksgiving?” the answer was that they often stay open on Thanksgiving in the afternoon when people are out for a stroll after dinner. If the weather is good, Cheryl opens the doors and customers are delighted to find the special antiques shop open on a holiday. Call 279-5151.
Cheryl urged me to walk a bit further up Main Street to stop by Waukewan Antiques and Used Furniture. The shop, as always (I have been to the antiques business many times before) was brimming with shelf upon shelf of all sorts of antiques. From small items to antique paintings to dolls, textiles, and a lot more, I have a weakness for the antiques at this wonderful shop located at 55 Main Street.
Nearby, Kara’s Café and Cakery was open, and I stopped in for a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a muffin. The café is a popular place to sit, sip coffee, and visit with friends, as witnessed by the sofas and tables full of customers chatting with friends and family as they enjoyed the great coffee.
There are many more little shops in Meredith’s downtown area. From antiques to the Meredith Historical Society museum to more art galleries and clothing shops, and even candy and cupcakes, if a visitor has the time to just stroll around the town, there is a lot to see, taste, touch … and often, to buy, if you can’t resist all that is offered.
If the smiles of those strolling the Main Street were anything to go by, I would, indeed, be hard-put to find anyone who wasn’t enjoying downtown marvelous Meredith on the Labor Day Sunday afternoon.