History of Hull Artists
The following is a brief historical perspective of Hull Artists’ inception, evolution, and future aspirations.
The history of Hull has long been intertwined with the arts: from poets and painters to opera singers. Many were lured here like most of us, generations ago or more recently, by the natural beauty of the town and the livelihood or escape it affords. More recently, Hull has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as an informal artist community.
In 1996, artist Judith Van Hamm invited fellow artists, through the Hull Times, to meet in her home. Among these “first responders” were Bill Smyth, Lenore Schneider, Janet Titemore, Jacquie Berard, J. Marshall Dyke, and Dianna Chouinard.
At this inaugural meeting, the small group agreed that the community needed to see their work. Without a gallery or other central location, opening their homes to the public was the logical solution. This basic mission inspired the group’s name: “The Hull Artists Studio Connection” (now more commonly known as “Hull Artists”, or simply HA). During the early years, the artists enjoyed touring each other’s studios the night before the weekend-long event, to see what their colleagues had created. However, the rapid growth of the membership soon made the lively ramble logistically impossible. Since these humble beginnings, HA has grown into a regional arts association with more than 90 members.
For three years the artists continued to work in their homes, met regularly to support each other, and focused group energies on the Open Studio events. In 1998, Hull Artists was incorporated by the State of Massachusetts as a corporate nonprofit. Then in the spring of 1999, the Metropolitan District Commission, the forerunner of the DCR, offered the artists use of the MDC garage from May 15 – September 15. Located across from the Mary Jeanette Murray Bathhouse, the large 4-bay facility was dubbed “Studio at the Beach” and provided 35 artists a place to show and sell their work.
But by the end of 2008, the artists had to leave so the DCR could use the facilities and a Relocation Committee was formed. Despite great efforts of the Relocation Committee during the winter of 2009, the search for an alternative space was unsuccessful.
Fortunately, the hard work was not in vain and new space was located in the retail shops at 121 Nantasket Ave (ground floor of the Ocean Place Condominiums four doors down from Toast) at an affordable rate. “Studio at the Beach” was given a new life and name: “Gallery Nantasket”. Today the Gallery can accommodate and display the works of 25 fine artists and artisan crafters. The Gallery functions as the de facto headquarters of HA and provides space for exhibitions, meetings, and classes. The Gallery’s tag line is “Take home a treasure or a gift for someone special.”
In 2016, Hull Artists was granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax-exempt status. In May 2020, HA was awarded a matching grant from the MA Cultural council to fund a feasibility study to convert the long-vacant DCR Police Station on Nantasket Avenue into the Nantasket Center for the Arts.
Once fulfilled, this dream of a community arts center will provide permanent exhibition space, a year-round retail gallery, artist studios, and space for community programs providing art, cultural and educational programming for youth and adults.
For an update on the development of the Nantasket Center for the Arts, please visit our page: Nantasket Center for the Arts
A previous version of this appeared in The Hull Times in 2016 by Theresa Brown, former Patron Member of Hull Artists
Updated 2020 by Bart Blumberg, President.
(Many thanks to Bill Smyth for his invaluable firsthand history of the group.)