Local artists might be pleased to know that they now have a small gallery right on Main Street that is looking to showcase their art.

Newly opened Westbrook Picture Frame will cater to local artists, showing the work of three or four at a time, according to owners Kenneth and Janet Atkinson. The Atkinsons are hoping to fill a niche with a small gallery and also another niche with the frame shop, which sits beside Portland Pie Co. in the newly remodeled Edwards Block.

“There’s nothing here in this area with artwork and a frame shop,” said Kenneth Atkinson.

For the artists, it’s something that Westbrook hasn’t had, but appears to be ready for as more and more artists come to the area. Just in the last year, the city has seen an influx of artists leaving Portland in search of cheaper rents and a budding arts scene.

“Having Westbrook Picture Frame as a new business downtown is further evidence of the growing arts scene in Westbrook,” said local artist Caren Michel. “We’re happy about it.”

As part of the gallery’s first exhibit following its Dec. 4 opening, several of Michel’s work hang on the freshly painted walls. The pieces on show include several scenes of Westbrook sites, including the Presumpscot River, the Sappi Fine Paper mill and Hawkes Plaza on Route 302.

For the city, the new business “adds a service for the artists in the community,” said Erik Carson, the city’s director of economic and community development. “I think it just shows the continued growth of the downtown.”

The Atkinsons believe that their new business does, indeed, provide a service for a city in transition.

“The need is greater now because you have a more diverse population,” said Janet Atkinson, who also works in the city’s finance department. “It used to be mostly people who worked for the mill, but it’s not like that anymore.”

Kenneth Atkinson himself is an example of the transition from manufacture to emerging industries.

A welder for much of his career, Atkinson has seen such work become more competitive and harder to find in recent years. He said he’s looking forward to working with art and frames instead. He runs the business while his wife helps in the evenings. She said she isn’t planning on leaving her current job any time soon.

Both Atkinsons are hoping the shop and gallery will attract residents and also commuters passing through on their way to Gorham and Windham and elsewhere. They’re also hoping it helps bring even more art to Westbrook.

“If they get one new place in, maybe they’ll get another and another, and it’ll keep going,” said Kenneth Atkinson.

Besides the artwork, which is for sale along with posters and prints, the shop provides custom framing and matting, as well as engraving and photo retouching.

New frame shop showcases local art

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