Waterway Arts in Turners Falls aims to make art accessible

Waterway Arts at 102 Avenue A in Turners Falls.

Waterway Arts at 102 Avenue A in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Anna Slezak, Kiah Tinkham and Elende Connor in their workspace at Waterway Arts in Turners Falls.

Anna Slezak, Kiah Tinkham and Elende Connor in their workspace at Waterway Arts in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Anna Slezak, Elende Connor and Kiah Tinkham are opening Waterway Arts at 102 Avenue A in Turners Falls.

Anna Slezak, Elende Connor and Kiah Tinkham are opening Waterway Arts at 102 Avenue A in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By ERIN-LEIGH HOFFMAN

Staff Writer

Published: 06-13-2024 12:34 PM

Modified: 06-13-2024 9:04 PM


TURNERS FALLS — The trio behind Waterway Arts has transformed the former Buckingham Rabbits thrift store on Avenue A into a space where artists of all ages and abilities can showcase their work.

To start, the art studio and store is showcasing the work of 20 local artists specializing in a variety of mediums after reviewing more than 40 applications.

“Our oldest artist is 80 years old and our youngest is 8,” said Kiah Tinkham, an artist and owner of Waterway Arts.

The idea for the display space and art studio arose through mutual interest from Tinkham, who was looking for studio space, along with fellow artists Elende Connor and Anna Slezak.

“I was looking for studio space to teach workshops out of and to do my own work out of because I’ve been working out of a bedroom in my home,” Tinkham explained.

She was connected with the owners of the building, who were interested in the location becoming a space for art. The artists moved in on March 1 and have been using the space as an art studio.

“We decided that using the front for retail would be a good way to hopefully generate some income and give artists opportunities to show their work in Turners Falls … then had the idea of renting out studio space as another way to support the space, bring in artists and have it feel like a working space,” Tinkham said.

Tinkham, Connor and Slezak felt that expanding accessibility to art was a key component to their greater vision for Waterway Arts. Tinkham explained this accessibility comes in the form of reasonable prices for customers looking to buy the art for sale, and allowing artists with any level of experience to display and sell their work, including Tinkham’s 80-year-old father who struggles with dementia but uses art to communicate.

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“We want it to be accessible for people who are on lots of different paths and different points within their past,” Tinkham explained.

As a person living with a chronic illness who still wishes to work in a creative space, Connor said that increasing accessibility to creating art is important to her.

“I’m disabled and have a chronic illness, so it’s always at the forefront of my mind whenever I’m creating space or embarking on a project,” Connor explained.

For Connor, this means meeting artists where they are at while being flexible with deadlines and expectations.

“I think another piece is not holding that boundary between craft and art, and letting people decide whether or not they’re an artist for themselves. That’s not our job to decide,” Tinkham added.

Expanding access to art also means simply creating a physical space for local artists to showcase their work.

“[The artists] are either local or they have a connection, like a strong connection, with this place,” Tinkham said.

“Excited” is the word that Tinkham, Connor and Slezak used to express how they are each feeling ahead of Waterway Arts’ formal opening on Saturday, June 15, at 10 a.m. The space has been open to the public twice now ahead of the formal opening, and public reception has been positive so far, Tinkham said.

Ceramics, prints, paintings, sculptures and other works will be available for purchase. Artists whose work is on sale will be present at Saturday’s opening, and plans for future events like artist meet-and-greets and workshops in the studio are being considered.

“It’s really exciting to remember that I now have a place that I can sell my work,” Connor said. “It’s just not a small thing.”

Waterway Arts will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. However, on the first Friday of each month, the space will also be open from 5 to 8 p.m., and extra hours may be available for events and classes.

Erin-Leigh Hoffman can be reached at ehoffman@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.