Through my travels, I’ve found that many cities and towns have their exciting art worlds. This summer while on my annual road trip from Florida to Maine, I will be featuring off-the-beaten-path art destinations, vibrant art scenes, artists, and other highlights.
I am excited about my blog “SIDE-SHOW” Art Trippin with TeddsArtWorks, and I hope that you will come along for the ride.
While checking out the local arts scene in Portland Maine, I was intrigued by an exciting exhibit titled “Debut” curated by three visionary arts pioneers and their love of ART and Community.
Lights Out, a Maine-based non-traditional gallery focusing on visual artist promotion and public engagement, held its first-ever pop-up show, “Debut” this past weekend. After six months of virtually featuring the work of close to 30 artists from across Maine and beyond on its digital media platforms, the Lights Out team brought together artists from around the state of Maine to the Midcoast area and their artworks work to an in-person venue. The three-day exhibit featured 24 artists and designers from Maine, presenting 100+ works of art in all mediums.
Creative Director and Co-Founder Karle Woods said, “Since its conception, Lights Out has been focused on breaking down the walls of the traditional gallery context to rebuild a more approachable environment – one that is centered around the core of why we create. For this show, we’re quite literally building new walls and transforming a non-gallery space into a pop-up gallery – large enough to show the work of artists from all over Maine. It’s an ambitious and challenging process, which was accomplished in 3 days.
What inspired us/ We wanted to create the space for artists in Maine that we see missing. During the pandemic, we were feeling disconnected from the art world and community as a whole. We wanted to meet people and figure out how to start conversations about art.
The backbone and direction of Lights Out are inspired by each of the three co-founders’ roots in rural Maine. At first glance, rural Maine might seem an odd place to base a contemporary art project, but our rural environments and communities are at the forefront of our attention. This is where we were born and raised, it’s where we call home. We believe that rural communities are vastly underrepresented when it comes to the arts, and while we have no quarrel with the metropolitan art market, it is here in the woods of Maine where we do our best work. Throughout our lives, and the last 6 months traveling around the state collecting artist’s stories, we’ve seen that rural areas of Maine are rich with unique histories and hidden potential. That being said, being from a rural landscape has its limitations, like isolation, economic struggles, and limited access to resources or information. It has taught us to be “ingenuitive”, and not judge something by face value. It is firmly within our mindset that if we can envision it, it can be created with our own hands. This has given us a strong backbone that flows well between our digital and in-person work and has empowered us to create what we want to see in the world. This responsibility to create the opportunity we need has given us the drive to succeed, and connect with the many people we meet from a place of honesty and passion.
When we began this project in August 2019, our way of building a non-traditional environment was through pop-up shows in homes and other unique spaces. In response to the development of COVID 19 in early 2020, with in-person shows no longer an option and the loss of traditional networking and marketing from public interaction, we had to create a new way to share and view art. An online gallery seemed like the next step, but as co-founder and story director, Reed McLean described, “oftentimes viewing art on an online platform can flatten the work and we can miss out on the depth of the artist’s intention. With Lights Out, we aim to close the gap between the artist and the viewer, using the artist’s own words to create space for conversation…” To be true to our mission and vision of Lights Out we would need to take things a step further than other online galleries have. We have found that personalizing the virtual experience through recorded artist interviews, where people can connect with the thought and intention of the work, is key.
Mission/ Our mission is to connect artists and their circles to a broader community. We work to present art in an unassuming way, breaking down the walls of the traditional gallery context to rebuild a more approachable environment – one that is centered around the core of why we create. We show obscure, emerging, and established artists alongside each other to encourage conversation, collaboration, and an egalitarian experience.
Vision/ Lights Outs expands creative communities by building ongoing conversations around art that connect and support both the artist and viewer. This space aims to show art without hierarchy. We are building a community of artists from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to illuminate art in conversation.
Daniel Sipe – Executive Director / Daniel grew up in Presque Isle, Maine, and currently lives in Norway, Maine. He graduated from the University Of Maine Business School in 2014 with a Degree in Marketing, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. Daniel started his career in politics for the Maine People’s Alliance, then worked for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party in 2018, after which he spent 3 years working as a political and social media consultant. He has always been interested in viewing art and hearing people’s stories. Currently, Daniel works in volunteer recruitment and event planning for the Maine Center For Disease Control, Maine Responds, and in the last 2 years has co-founded Lights Out Gallery and Art Consulting. His greatest skills are creative problem solving, relationship building, fundraising, event planning, and promotion.
Karl’s Woods – Creative Director / Karle Woods is a mixed-media artist and freelance graphic designer. Raised in the Western foothills of Maine, and with a degree in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic, she is passionate about working within small grassroots communities and centers her work on relationship building. She has worked for multiple non-profits in the past 6 years, including the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy and Maine Climate Action Now as the Communications Coordinator, and is a part of statewide initiatives like the Maine Food Convergence Project and the Pine Tree Amendment Coalition, leading communications, campaign management, and creative direction. Karle’s work and art are both largely inspired by a lifestyle close to Nature.
Reed Mclean – Story Director / Born and raised in rural Western Maine, Reed McLean has always been tied to his landscape and its many influences. A cross-media artist, he delights in learning new skills and honing his craft. He graduated top of his class from Alfred University, receiving his bachelor of fine art degree in 2018. He co-founded Lights Out Gallery in 2019, seeking to broaden the vocabulary of Maine art at home and abroad. Over the past 6 months, he has been the principal interviewer and video editor for 27 interviews with Lights Out Gallery.
We have a nonprofit and a for-profit side, our interviews and artists’ features are not built to sell work but promote artists and allow them to tell their stories. When we throw a pop-up show we do take an art commission that is sold.
Past/ We are a very young organization and recently threw our first pop-up show in downtown Portland, with over 500 people in attendance. We have featured 28 artists over the last 6 months, 24 of which were in the pop-up show. Moving forward we expect to grow the number of artists we feature, as well as move into promoting art in underserved communities. We have several exciting projects on the horizon, many of them grant-funded. Stay tuned!
For more information and artists’ profiles, visit www.lightsoutgallery.org
FB: Lights Out Gallery