Discover a Center of Creativity

  • Visit North Central

Driving along Route 32 through Petersham, it’s easy to assume that the neat, white clapboard house nestled in the intersection with North Street is just another New England family home.

But in doing so, visitors miss out on one of the real treasures of the region — because displayed within those walls is a wealth of local talent. In the past century, its location, focus and even its name have changed — but the underlying idea has not. The Petersham Art Center provides home for local creativity in a friendly, small-town setting.

Launched in 1912 as the “Women’s Exchange and Tea Room,” the community center offered a place for women to gather and consign their handcrafts. Decades later, it merged with a group of artisans known as Petersham Handicrafts — who for years had held a large exhibit in town in addition to selling works at the Exchange. With that mid-1950s merger, the Exchange’s name changed to the Petersham Craft Center. Eventually, the tea room, where artists and craftspeople had once gathered was transformed into new gallery space, and in this new millennium, the venerable organization has taken on a new name: The Petersham Art Center.

The original Women’s Exchange and Tea Room, which formally opened its doors on June 13, 1913, was designed to help the “Petersham consigners” sell their goods.

Through a century of change, the Center, now also open to artists from beyond the town borders, has remained a bee-hive of creative activity. Artists and craftspeople display, and sell, their works there. And area residents learn new — or traditional — crafts there.

Sharing Their Skills

Over the years, untold numbers of area residents, led by experienced artisans, have tried their hands at woodworking, pottery, painting, basket-making and more. And over the years, as interests changed, so did the classes; the 1970s, for example, brought courses in herbology, wreath-making, and gravestone rubbing to the list of more traditional skills highlighted at the Center.

Today, the sunny gallery in this small (population: 1,200) community is home to an ever-changing exhibit of local works, each launched with an artist’s reception. Exhibitions planned for 2013 include “Raining Cats & Dogs, Welcoming Spring: Paintings by Jen Niles” (April 7 – May 16); Drawing, Painting & Sculpture by Michael O’Connor (May 19 – July 5); Ceramics by Joan Sinatra Hathaway (July 7 – August 15); Recycled/Upcycled/Found Art Group Exhibition (August 18 – September 26); and the Annual Members Exhibition (December 8 through January 2014).

Diverse Expressions

Other cozy rooms in the Center are filled with displays: jewelry made from recycled materials; large pottery jugs; delicate fused glass items and polished wooden tables. There are knitted accessories, quilted pieces, photographs, paintings and drawings, items that are practical, and others that are purely whimsical.

Upcoming classes range from fly-tying to furniture refinishing to “Fashion from Trash: Concept to Creation.” Some of the classes are one-time events, while others may meet several times over a period of weeks. To see the full schedule of classes and workshops this season, visit

The Petersham Art Center is open from noon to 4 pm on weekends through March, and then from noon to 4 pm Wednesdays through Sundays throughout the summer.

Want to discover some New England treasure? Take a scenic drive to Petersham — in fact, pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the tree-lined town common — and turn off Route 32 onto North Street, where a world of talent awaits your visit.