So inspired by their instructor were the members of the 1958 class at the St. Paul Gallery and School of Art, that they decided to join together outside of school to paint on Friday nights. The instructor was painter Paul Kramer and the first gathering spot of this fledgling group of student artists was the unassuming accommodations to be found in classmate Betty Sievert’s basement.
Chiefly of a representational and impressionistic bent, the early group‘s shared philosophy was best evidenced in their easy-going nature, a friendly apolitical attitude, unaffiliated with any particular school of thought. Asked to put into words the founding principals of the group, early member Del Chamblee answered, “It’s the people”. After an evening of working together and sharing each other’s methods and techniques, members would enjoy some cheap wine and cookies while discussing art and other topics of interest.
Joined by later students of Paul Kramer and other like-minded artists, the group eventually out-grew Betty’s basement and decided to rent a warehouse studio space at 401 Wacouta Street, in what was then called “Old Town”. It was at this time the name “Old Town Artists” was adopted and first used for the Old Town Artists Spring Show in 1973, a show the group has put on yearly since. Six studio spaces later, the group now makes its home at 106 Water Street.
As Old Town Artists evolved, the group began to hire figure models, portrait models and even ventured out of town together on “paint-outs” to the North Shore and other scenic locations to enjoy a little landscape rendering outside of the confines of the city. Weekly figure and portrait drawing sessions continue and are open to the public Wednesday and Friday evenings year round.
The group’s focus hasn’t changed from its youthful basement days; members are still primarily painters of oil, watercolor, pastel and other painting and drawing media. Perhaps the group’s longevity can be attributed to its lack of formality; it took the group 52 years to develop a mission statement. What is important to this group is the camaraderie of the artists and the desire and dedication to create art.
For the record, the group enjoys popcorn instead of cookies but still drinks cheap wine.
Jane Glickman. Hy Glickman, Rick Helbig, Pat Kennedy Crump, Bruce Palmer, and Betty Sievert