The Art World at Your Doorstep

  • Visit North Central

Around the world or around the corner — artists from near and far are showcased in museums and galleries throughout North Central Massachusetts. African masks, Russian icons, landscape scenes from local towns. Stout, or delicate, iron sculptures forged in Fitchburg. Infrared photographs, pastels and collages. There’s so much to see in Johnny Appleseed Country!

A Fitchburg Fixture

An obvious place to start is the Fitchburg Art Museum, located just a block off Main Street near the Upper Common. The museum spotlights contemporary New England artists, but its 14 galleries offer something of interest for just about everyone, from portraits to Greek pottery and sculptures from early peoples of North, Central and South America.

Exhibitions slated for fall are designed to strengthen, or build, ties with Fitchburg’s Latino community. The outreach also goes beyond the walls of the Museum complex; it’s among a group of collaborators on the Main Street Art Project, which has just brought an expansive outdoor mural by internationally-known artist Caleb Neelon to the city’s downtown district.

And talk about going beyond bricks and mortar — the Fitchburg Art Museum is working on a digital catalog of its collection, making it accessible to visitors at any time, in any place. That project is underway, but won’t be complete for a while.

In the meantime, the doors of the Museum are wide open, Wednesday – Friday from noon to 4 pm, and on weekends, from 11 am to 5 pm, welcoming visitors to explore a world of art.

Experience Russia

You might not expect to find a museum devoted to Russian icons in a small town tucked away in North Central Massachusetts — but then, Johnny’s backyard is just full of surprises! The Museum of Russian Icons, created by local industrialist Gordon Lankton, attracts visitors from around the world. Housed in a 150-year-old mill building, the museum has a mission: to enhance relations between Russia and the United States through the medium of art, especially Russian icons.

Including more than 700 Russian icons and artifacts, the collection is the largest of its kind in North America, and one of the largest private collections outside Russia. In addition to the ongoing exhibit of these intriguing works, the museum offers changing exhibitions, lectures, even an occasional concert.

Put the Museum of Russian Icons on your “must see” list — it’s easy to find, and hard to forget. The museum, at 203 Union St., Clinton, is open Tuesday – Friday from 11am to 3 pm (until 7 pm on Thursdays) and on Saturdays from 9 am to 3 pm.

Africa, Too

Continue your world tour with a visit to the Gallery of African Art, right in Clinton’s downtown district.

Also launched with the private collection of Gordon Lankton, the Gallery is both a traditional exhibit of art and an interactive educational center celebrating the music and art of Africa. Home to an artistically powerful private collection of more than 400 works of art, artifacts and musical instruments. “We offer interactive exhibits and gallery tours to help you experience and feel African culture not just view it.”

Experience Africa — right at 62 High St., Clinton. The Gallery is open weekdays from 10 am to 5:30 pm (open until 8 pm on Thursdays), and Saturdays from 9 am to 5:30 pm.

More Than Classrooms

Fitchburg State University,160 Pearl St., Fitchburg, is another great stop on your art tour, often spotlighting works by students, educators and other artists.

On tap this season, for example, are paintings and mixed media works by Nancy Sparks; and POSTGIG , a traveling exhibition of original music posters curated by design/music aficionado Clifford Stoltze, author of 1000 Music Graphics. Both shows are in the Gallery at the Sanders Administration Building.

The Conlon Industrial Technology Building on Highland Avenue, meanwhile, is home to the Conlon Hall Media Wall — a digital HD video display measuring 6 feet by 10 feet that showcases creative work from students, faculty, alumni and regional artists. In September, you’ll find “Inventions, Contraptions & Flights of Fancy . . .” there, followed in October by Final Exposure: Portraits from Death Row, featuring the work of Lou Jones. And the Hammond Art Gallery will exhibit Kinetic Sculptures by David Lang from September 22 to October 17, and Quilts by Clara Wainwright from November 12 to December 17.

From Global to Local

Closer to home, there are boundless opportunities to see the work of local artists — at studios, galleries and shows throughout the year. Groups like the Gardner Area League of Artists (GALA), the Leominster Art Association and the Greater Gardner Artists Association offer exhibitions, demonstrations and classes. You can see artists at work at the School Street Studios, 205 School St., Gardner, or the Studio 4 Potters at 4 W. Lynde St., Gardner.

The Boulder Art Gallery, 960 Main St., Fitchburg, features original art, vintage art, photography, prints and sculpture, and Rollstone Studio, 633 Main St., Fitchburg, it a retail outlet and gallery with a dozen resident artists and 30 consignor artists.

Enjoy local art and entertainment, too, at the Leominster Art Center, 45 Main St., Leominster. Introduce the kids to art, too! When you visit the Drawbridge Puppet Theater, 1335 Massachusetts Ave., Lunenburg, be sure to stop by the art gallery showcasing local talent.

Take an artful tour of Johnny Appleseed Country this season!

photo courtesy of David Lang