ELLSWORTH — “Every artist dreams of some sort of community arts space,” says Ken Perrin, who with his wife, Linda, co-owns Atlantic Art Glass.
The Perrins have been a fixture of the Ellsworth arts scene since 2004, when the glass blowers moved their studio from the Bar Harbor village of Hulls Cove to a former brick warehouse on Pine Street.
Ten years later, the Perrins finally have realized that vision. In 2014, they officially opened Artsworth Studios, a nonprofit organization offering classes ranging from blacksmithing and felting to website design and the ancient Japanese hand-dyeing technique of shibori.
The studio space is off to the side of the glass shop, with exposed brick walls and tall windows and an abundance of warm light. Colorful skeins of yarn are stacked floor-to-ceiling on one of the walls, and looms are set up around a table in the preparation for an upcoming weaving class.
Artsworth also has served as a venue for a play put on by students from the College of the Atlantic, as well as live concerts and annual marketplaces featuring the work of local artisans. And, of course, they’ve held glass blowing classes.
“We always wanted to teach and with this space we were able to do that,” says Ken.
Most of the events are held in the winter and spring when the weather is cool and the indoor temp is comfortable for glass-blowing. The Perrins also note summer is a busy time for local residents and they want people to be able to take advantage of the classes when they have time.
In addition, the couple seek to support artists during the months when work is harder to come by.
“We wanted it to be accessible for local people. We wanted to tap into Maine artists to teach and we wanted to do it when people had the time,” says Linda. “And we want the artists to be paid a professional wage.”
Both Ken and Linda have worked with nonprofits before, holding positions with the Maine Crafts Guild (he was President in 2000) and the Maine Community Foundation. All of these experiences — running a board, fundraising and understanding the ins and outs of nonprofit financing — have helped them with Artsworth, where they’ve been working to raise money and get the programming off the ground.
“We’ve had a bit of a low-profile but we’re continuing to grow,” says Ken. “I feel like we’ve been singing this song for a long time now but it’s really taking off. It’s like the whole town is embracing what we’re doing.”
Linda agrees. “The organic unfolding has been great. It’s really bottom-up. We’re a venue and place where people can come and propose something.”
They say the idea for Artsworth Studios was sparked at their annual fire gathering, an event where glass blowing and blacksmithing demonstrations are held each year around the winter solstice in mid-December.
“We realized that the studio and space had become a magnet,” says Ken, who estimates that the event has drawn hundreds of people in recent years. Linda adds that Ken’s father, Steve Perrin, was also an inspiration. Perrin is a well known local naturalist and author. “He really gave us an idea of how you can impact your community through activism.”
“Art is valuable to people, to community. It’s part of our culture,” says Ken. “We want to put it in people’s minds that Ellsworth is an artistic, cultural destination. We’re in it for the long haul.”
The Perrins plan to continue expanding programming, and they are open to suggestions for classes. The next workshop will be vitreous enameling on March 17, and a figure-painting workshop is scheduled for late April.
“I think it’s a win-win-win,” says Linda. “There are so many artists here and we rarely get the opportunity to exchange creativity energy.”