Today we’d like to introduce you to Melanie Barash Levitt.
Melanie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1990 with a BFA in Graphic Design. I worked for various design firms in Boston and was part of the 1996 design team for the Olympics in Atlanta, GA. After working long hours in the graphic design industry, I had the travel bug and received a position at a St. Joseph’s Int’l school in Yokohama, Japan teaching art. I spent a year in Japan and traveled throughout Asia. This trip had a big influence on my life and my art. After returning, I got married and moved to Jackson, NH to start my own freelance graphic design business and start a family. When my kids were very young, I juggled doing freelance design and being a mom. I wanted to expose my kids to art at a young age, so I started teaching “mommy and me” art classes. They became very popular and led to more classes.
I eventually fazed out my graphic design business and starting teaching more art classes and hiring other instructors to teach. I had an unfinished space (barn) on my property where I held the classes and ran my graphic design business. I started to be more interested in fine art, (something I had always done through my life) and began taking classes. I took printmaking classes at Maine College of Art and Plein Air (outdoor painting) classes. I would plein air painting in the warmer weather and do printmaking in the Winter. My work began to sell and I displayed it in coffee shops and galleries in NH and ME. I also began hiring more and more artists to teach in my space and used my graphic design experience to create eye-catching ads and posters. I named my business Jackson Art and offered classes in mosaics, painting, printmaking, drawing, and jewelry making. I also offered kids after school classes and art camps.
In 2010, while cleaning up the studio, an old bottle of linseed oil broke (it had been from my grandmother’s painting kit) and was cleaned up with a rag and tossed in the trash can. That night the rag self-combusted and started a fire which almost burned down the entire building. Most everything inside was ruined except my flat files of Japanese paper! (my prize possession) Most of my artwork was at an exhibit but I lost everything else. It was very stressful but I soon realized that it might be a blessing in disguise. With the insurance money, I designed the space as an art gallery and studio/school and from that point on I have been growing my business to what it is today. I display and sell work in the gallery from over 20 local artists, including my own. We have art openings monthly featuring different artist’s work and function like a co-op with artists gallery sitting on weekends creating their art.
We offer workshops in many different mediums and teach sip & paint classes for people to have a fun night out. We run kids art camps and offer after-school programs. I have instructors from all over the country coming to teach and people traveling from near and far to take classes at Jackson Art. I continue to paint and do printmaking professionally and am currently getting my work in other galleries in New England. I am also just starting a new part to my business offering art retreats combining plein air painting, yoga, and hiking. I am running an art retreat this Fall on Mohegan Island off the coast of ME where I enjoy painting every Summer. I will also be offering art retreats in the White Mountains combining painting for beginners, yoga, wine tasting, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
My goal is to continue to offer high-quality art classes in the White Mountains of NH while also developing my own work. I also am planning on creating art retreats internationally.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My main struggle has been juggling being an artist, a business owner, and having a family. I do it all myself from working on the website, paying artists, answering phone calls and emails, teaching, creating art and advertising. Although it has been a bumpy road, I love what I do so it doesn’t feel like work.
Having a fire was a big obstacle, but it turned out being a blessing because now we have a beautiful studio & gallery.
Jackson Art Studio & Gallery – what should we know?
Jackson Art is a working studio and gallery displaying the work of over 20 local artists, most from Mt Washington Valley. We feature an eclectic mix of contemporary, cutting age work. This is not your typical gallery. Many of the paintings include a different take on our local landscape with thought-provoking color and innovative compositions.
The gallery also includes mosaics, mixed media, photography, sculpture, jewelry, glass, and ceramics. This is an affordable gallery with some original work under $100. Stop by on weekends to see our “Artists at Work!” We also offer art classes for all ages and abilities led by professional artists.
Classes include painting (plein air & studio classes), drawing, mosaics, jewelry, printmaking, and our ever-popular sip & paint classes. We also offer kids art camps, after-school classes, and programs for teens.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
We get many reviews and compliments about our teaching style with people saying they had the best experience at Jackson Art and that we renewed their confidence in themselves and their art! This is what makes me feel the proudest!
I am also proud when visitors tell us that the artwork displayed in the gallery is the best they have seen in the area!
Best of Mt Washington Valley Award- 2016 2017, 2018- Runner-up for Best Art Gallery
- Sip & Paint classes $35 (kids) $45 adults (most classes)
- Art Retreats under $500
- Weekend Art workshops (Sat & Sun) average $225, One day workshop averages $125
- Website: www.jacksonartnh.com
- Phone: 603-387-3463
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: melanie_levitt
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jackson-Art-Studio-Gallery-265572640143103/