Lee Briccetti looks at art hung salon-style as part of the Harlow Gallery’s member show Aug. 19 at 100 Water St. in Hallowell. The exhibit is the final one to be featured in the gallery before it closes in November. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

HALLOWELL — For Helene Farrar, moving from New York City to Hallowell in 1979 with her mother at 5 years old was rough. Maine had harsher winters and no public transportation. But Farrar’s mother, Janice Scott, was an artist and quickly joined the Harlow Gallery’s board of directors, which led to Farrar spending her younger years sitting in the gallery and enjoying local art.

The space provided comfort after a big move, and helped make Farrar’s transition to Maine just a little easier.

Now, the beloved gallery is undergoing its own transition. By Nov. 30, the gallery will close its brick-and-mortar spot at 100 Water St. and transition into a traveling arts studio.

The Harlow Gallery has seen its share of ups and downs, but the closure of the 100 Water St. location will mark the first time in nearly 60 years the organization has not had a brick-and-mortar location. Prior to opening the current gallery in 2018, the Harlow Gallery had been at 160 Water St. since 1963.

The Kennebec Valley Art Association’s Harlow Gallery, far left, will close in November, marking the first time in nearly 60 years that the organization has not had a brick-and-mortar location. The 100 Water St. establishment has been a fixture of downtown Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

According to Kennebec Valley Art Association President Karen Allen, the decision was not made lightly and comes after years of unrelenting financial hardship. The arts association, a nonprofit, owns and operates the gallery.

“The total demands of the budget outstripped what we were able to bring in as revenue,” Allen said, “and that had been true even before the pandemic. The pandemic obviously made things worse, but (the closure) wasn’t caused by the pandemic.”


And while the association explored other options, Allen said its board determined the only way to preserve the money it still had was to close the gallery and bring the show on the road.

She said the facility’s biggest expenses are rent, utilities and staff, in addition to the other, smaller expenses that add up such as insurance.

Its revenues — which include membership fees, business sponsors, gallery sales and grant money from various organizations for the arts — could not keep up with growing expenses.

This summer, Allen said there were just two people remaining on staff: a gallery assistant who has since left the job, and another worker who is returning to college.

“We have no staff members continuing at the gallery at present,” she said, “and so we won’t be hiring anyone else.”

Linwood Partridge, left, shares plans for a civic cultural center in Hallowell with former Gov. John Reed in 1962. Partridge led the fundraising efforts for the center, which became the Harlow Gallery. Photo courtesy of Kennebec Valley Art Association

Allen, Farrar and Hallowell Mayor George Lapointe said many in the community are saddened about the upcoming closure.


“I think sadness is the expression I’ve heard most often,” said Allen, “but I think people also understand that things have been really tough lately, especially for arts organizations.”

The Harlow Gallery, which will close in November, has occupied this space at 100 Water St. in Hallowell since 2018. It has been a downtown fixture since 1963, previously residing at 160 Water St. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I think people are expressing the same kind of concern about what this means for the future,” said Lapointe. “Everybody hopes they could continue under the old model, but they also understand the financial and operational pressures they’ve been under for quite some time.”

The association plans to do traveling art exhibits in the future, or pop-up shops throughout the region that showcase the work of local artists.

Farrar said the time spent without a physical space will allow the association to regroup and maybe, at some point in the future, another brick-and-mortar space could be realistic.

Just one month before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Farrar was named president of the Kennebec Valley Art Association.

During this time she managed to steer the gallery in a direction that led to ending 2020 with a positive net income, something that had not happened for the previous five years.


Allen was installed as president in July.

The gallery’s current member show, which is open Thursday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be the last exhibit at 100 Water St.

Lee Briccetti, left, and Corinne Coleman look at art hung as part of the Harlow Gallery’s member show Aug. 19 at 100 Water St. in Hallowell. The exhibit is the final one to be featured in the gallery before it closes in November. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Members were asked to bring in five pieces each, and the gallery is now completely full.

“It’s a really interesting way to get an idea for the variety of art that our members are doing,” Allen said.

There will be a moving sale and celebration of the gallery in the near future, however as of Wednesday Allen said a date has not yet been set for this event.

The association aims to keep public up-to-date with future events and plans via Facebook.

“I wish (the gallery) was going to be in the same spot it’s been in,” said Lapointe, “but the model the board is talking about is going to continue to bring art into the central Maine area, and we hope some of that will be in Hallowell. I don’t like it, like everybody else, but I’m looking forward to their continued presence in central Maine.”

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