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Scenic Back Roads & Art Galleries

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - September 4, 2012





The Lakes Region attracts artists like moths to a flame. That old analogy is the best way to describe the draw this area has for artists. It has been true for decades. Famous and lesser known artists have come to the area for the scenic opportunities to express the lakes, the mountains and fields in paint, watercolor, pastel and prints.

While I do not have much, if any, free time to pursue the visual arts (one-upon-a-time a hot summer’s day saw me setting up beside a green field to capture the scene in oils on canvas), I do love visiting art galleries. It’s a chance to see what others are doing in the visual arts and the galleries I find appealing in the Lakes Region are not always in downtown urban areas.

In late August with my kids back at college, I decided to spend the afternoon at some as of Sandwich galleries I have always wanted to explore. When I told my husband my plan, he piped up, “Can I come too?” Any chance to have someone else do the driving is a luxury for me and besides, in our youth we liked to explore art galleries together.

Off we went, heading through a very busy Meredith, bustling on a late summer Sunday afternoon. Beyond Meredith, we took Route 25 toward Center Harbor, making a stop at Moulton’s Farm on Quarry Road. (Travelers can’t miss the farm with the rows of corn, as well as the sign pointing the way to the business.)

I love Moulton’s Farm; it has just about everything a lover of fresh vegetables and baked goods could dream of. The veggies are grown at the farm, and the bakery at Moulton’s makes the best muffins, cakes, pies, breads and other treats, not to mention a small side shop where homemade donuts are offered. There is always fresh coffee, samples of fruits and vegetables, and this time of year, lots of corn on the cob for sale.

After choosing some baked goods and vegetables, we were back on Rt. 25 to Center Harbor. In the village area we took a left onto Bean Road. We often take this route when going to Sandwich Fair each October, and it’s so pretty during foliage season. This time of year, with the green of summer combining with the gorgeous views of Squam Lake, it is day-tripper’s paradise. Old rustic cottages dot the shoreline and it isn’t difficult to see why artists have always been drawn to the area.

In Sandwich village, we took Route 113 just a short distance to the Patricia Ladd Carega Gallery. There is a sign outside the gallery and one cannot miss the huge, yellow barn that houses the unique art space.

On the heat wave August day we visited, the entrance to the gallery was wide open and welcoming. We were greeted by Patricia’s perky little dog that pranced around us, charming my husband and myself. Soon Patricia appeared from her next-door home to greet us and answer our questions.

“The barn was built in 1825,” she explained. “I found the architecture of the barn extraordinary when I first saw it. It’s a soaring space. I’ve been running the gallery here for 10 years and before this, I had an art gallery in Washington, DC, for a number of years.”

Patricia said she loves art and has studied all sorts of creative endeavors; she grew up surrounded by art. As the owner of the gallery, she is able to feature the work of many talented artists. “I represent about 70 artists,” she said.

The gallery is open seasonally and when cold weather arrives, Patricia oversees the gallery online.

The soaring space, as Patricia refers to the two-story barn gallery, is charming and rustic. However, there is a distinct polished aura in the space where the work of numerous artists graces the wooden barn walls.

We started our tour by viewing the first floor stall like spaces that feature jewelry, sculpture and watercolors and paintings. I loved the watercolors of Sallie Wolf. Her landscapes depict Squam Lake in all its summer beauty. Sallie’s is but one story of how alluring the Lakes Region is to artists. She is from Oak Park, Illinois and has spent summers in Center Sandwich since she was a child. She calls her watercolors “Big Brush Watercolors” using multiple sheets of paper to interpret landscape scenes.

I have been a fan of Frances Hamilton for quite some time. I love her paintings, which show the interiors and exteriors of Squam area cottages. The Squam Lake Series is based on a lifetime of visits to a friend’s summer home near Center Harbor, NH. In the series “All Around the House,” the artist traveled from kitchen to bedrooms to porches, patterned in sunlight and always suggesting the nearness of water, the sound of the waves. A group of paintings by Hamilton from the series hang near the stairs leading to the second floor of the Carega gallery.

The second floor is full of surprises. When I reached the top of the stairs, I was treated to an incredible sight: most of the back wall of the barn served as a huge window, screened in with moving doors. The view to the field in back of the property was wonderful and let in a lot of light, always a bonus in an art gallery.

The walls of the second floor tastefully displayed a number of paintings, from abstract to scenes of Lakes Region landscapes. Stand-up bins were placed strategically so visitors could browse watercolors and prints for sale.

After spending quite some time at the Carega Gallery, we headed back into Sandwich village to stop at Surroundings Gallery, located next to the Corner House Restaurant.

The gallery is located in a huge white barn, very different in architecture from the Carega Gallery. Gallery owner Donald Sutton, who said his gallery features about 25 artists with local connections, met us; the work in the space is primarily representational art. I was impressed that he mentioned the Carega Gallery, urging us to stop there before leaving Sandwich. He said the two galleries work well together and between them offer any genre of art that could be desired by a collector.

The completely renovated barn was built about 1850, and is a bright and airy space with two floors featuring of all sorts of art from watercolors to paintings and prints. It was immediately clear the gallery’s artwork is top notch, done by talented, professional artists.

I was drawn to just about every painting on the first floor, from the tiny oils of Lakes Region scenes to a huge painting of the lake. Once again, the lure and love artists from all over have for the area was right there in each and every piece of art.

Donald explained that he features the work of two local children’s book illustrators, David McPhail and Karel Hayes. The books, as well as the original art by McPhail are on display. It is indeed unique to see for sale the original artwork that served as illustrations for the books, as well as the actual books.

On the second floor of the gallery, a comfy sofa and nook area is a great place to sit and read McPhail’s books and browse his art, which covers the walls.

I admired a wonderful print hanging on a second floor wall by Marguerite Tanner depicting Church Island on Squam Lake. It glows with light and the serenity of the outdoor island cathedral.

Donald said that the gallery has been doing something fun and unique this summer, offering Wednesday Night Recitals. “It’s a fusion of visual and performing arts. We set up about 30 chairs in the gallery for the public to come and listen, and each week we invite various musicians to perform. It’s been very popular.”

I was impressed at the very reasonable prices for the art in both galleries. I realized that instead of spending money on trivial things, I could save a bit and be able to start a collection of wonderful paintings and other artwork from either of the Sandwich galleries.

As a former art student, I know how enduring and satisfying it is to gaze, each and every day, at artwork on the walls of one’s home. If that art were the work of the numerous, talented artists from Patricia Ladd Carega Gallery or Surroundings Art Gallery, the collector of such work would be lucky indeed.

The Carega Gallery is open 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturday and 12noon to 5pm on Sunday through Columbus Day. Call 284-7728 for information or visit www.patricialaddcarega.com.

Surroundings Art Gallery is open 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturday and 12noon to 5pm on Sunday. Call 284-6888 or visit www.surroundingsart.com. 

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