SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Local artists and community activists Wendy Germain and Mona Frye have mixed their two passions to create one ever-changing work of art named the Springfield Art Gym, which is the pair’s biggest masterpiece to date.
Born out of a tiny room on 3 Main St. in July of 2017, the Springfield Art Gym has doubled its membership and tripled its available art space over the last couple of years.
After outgrowing their original space in Jan. 2017, Frye and Germain moved to a larger space on Clinton Street.
“We went from an average of seven to ten people a week now to an average of 15 to 20. We have definitely increased our numbers,” Frye said. “I think the word of mouth has been the major way people get involved and Facebook is a word of mouth.”
Membership is optional and walk-ins are welcome.
Frye and Germain both agreed that Springfield could benefit from a casual walk-in art studio for another fun activity option, for therapy and as another way build community and strengthen families.
“Wendy and I have both worked in the nonprofit field for over 25 years each now, so we know the community we knew economic pulse if you will, and it needed to be affordable,” Frye said.
It was in 2016 at a series of Springfield On The Move meetings that both of them were able to see the idea fit into the framework of the community and SAG was born.
“Wendy and I were attending meetings with Carol Lighthall (previous chair of Springfield On The Move) and some other folks too, because you know, the trend was fresh in having a community makerspace, but our vision was a little different than say the Twin State Makerspace in Claremont, you know, they’ve really got a corner on that market,” she said.
Frye and Germain wanted to focus on art creations for anyone who needed an outlet, for family outings and make the space friendly to a wider spectrum of people. They wanted to go beyond an exc;usive club for artists only to a community space for anybody to use without feeling intimidated by the word artist.
“People say ‘I’m not an artist. I’m not artistic.’ And my response to that is, ‘You can create,’” Frye said. “Anybody can create and that’s a less scary word than the word artistic.”
Frye said the Springfield Art Gym is for everybody who wants to feed their curiosity and create.
“We wanted a community art room. We call it an art gym, so that people could exercise their creativity. We wanted it to be therapeutic and open to anybody,” Frye said.
Frye and Germain see the Springfield Art Gym as a way for families to get together, create and unplug from technology and have direct interaction while exploring their creative sides.
“The Springfield Art Gym is an affordable place to just drop in and be creative because we also know and knew that and still know that art is therapy and about the healing art does inside people,” said Frye, who sees areas in Springfield with economic stress that make it hard to do fun things, to grow inexpensively and low- cost ways to have therapeutic, safe, non-judgmental outlets with the freedom of expression. “The Springfield Art Gym can and is bringing families together just like Dark Mountain. You know in their motto of getting unplugged and bringing people face to face. That’s what we wanted to do. Our goal was also just to keep that community environment alive.”
The Springfield Art Gym is a non-profit and beyond grant writing survives on donations.
“Some classes have a charge but are sliding scale. Everything is sliding scale. We don’t want a lack of money to keep someone from coming to create,” she said.
The Springfield Art Gym receives donations repurposing and recycling art supplies into projects for participants to use in their handicapped accessible maker space studio on located Clinton Street two doors up from the Edgar May Health Center.
“We get a lot of donations from the public. It’s so great,” Frye said. “Usually it’s just in time, you get something new, your old art supplies that you are almost bored with are donations that we can use. It’s a great way to give life to the the supplies that you have when you have moved on to a different art medium or you want something different to create.”
Fry said for example last week someone anonymously donated felted wool to the Springfield Art Gym.
“Someone dropped it off, left it hanging on the door, a grocery bag full of wool to be felted, you know along with a couple other things, an old book on how to needle. That’s just priceless,” said Frye about the donations being a wonderful piece of community involvement, spontaneous craft experiments and recycling as well. “Supplies are not cheap. It’s just fun that you know, we’re getting more interest and participation, the word is out that we will take your stuff and then we’ll teach people how to use it.”
Frye said the Springfield Art Gym does group rentals.
“We have adults that are developmentally disabled and it’s part of their program to get into the community and some of them volunteer and do simple tasks like organizing the supplies and it’s a great help. People do what they can and it is great to watch,” Fry said. “Another thing I love is watching people’s faces when they create, how free they feel, how happy they look. That’s what makes it worth it for me.”
For more information go to http://www.artgymvt.com/ and for regular updates and questions go to their Facebook page.