EPPING — Creative Community Space for artists opened this past weekend in an antique Victorian at the corner of Prospect and Main streets in Epping.
The cooperative space will give local artists a chance to share their skills and will be a place for area residents to benefit from their talents.
Vandy Leigh, founder and director of Creative Community Space, sketched the history of the project between greeting supporters and her first core group of artists during an open house on May 4.
Leigh is a certified art teacher for grades K-12, with a master’s plus 30. Though she worked some in public schools, she found that New Hampshire districts didn’t want to pay what the teachers’ union demanded she receives.
“I spent 10 years banging my head against the door of public education,” she said. She taught in a Lowell, Mass. charter school and did long-and short-term subbing, but found herself “on and off” unemployment. When she turned 50 she qualified for the “Pathways to Work” program, working with the Small Business Development Center, and revived an idea she’d used for her master’s thesis: the concept of creative community space.
The program works like this. Adults can sign up for a membership at $20 per month or $240 per year.
“It’s for adults because adults need to ‘play’ more,” Leigh said with a smile. They can attend four open-art events per month and four members-only events a year. Artist members commit to two hours a month of performances, classes, workshops or whatever they can do at the facility.
Leigh took a year off to battle breast cancer, and when she had the all-clear, she began looking at facilities. The Epping Victorian, dubbed “The Castle,” stopped her cold, and she knew she had found her space. She bought it in March 2018, and with a friend, retired art teacher Wendy L. Harris, she began to clean out debris, paint, stain, “and sub out anything we didn’t know how to do.”
The duo first renovated an upstairs apartment and rented it so they would have some cash flow, Leigh said. They created art studios in the “turret rooms” and one in an extra bedroom, and rented those out.