Imagine a new art gallery in downtown Laconia

LACONIA — After passing like ships in the night for some years, two local artists —  Maureen Bieniarz-Pond and Dennis Morton — who first met in 2007 only to part ways once again, have reunited as partners in the Imagine Gallery, which opened last month on Vintage Row downtown.

Bieniarz-Pond said that while their children went to the Laconia schools together the two first met in 2007 when she opened her gallery on Canal Street and invited Morton to be a featured artists. "He brought a van full of paintings," she recalled. By the time the gallery closed a few years a few years later, Morton, who has shuttled back and forth between the mainland and Hawaii for some time, had returned to the islands, where he enjoyed a career as a painter of portraits and landscapes.

As Bieniarz-Pond pondered reopening the gallery, Morton returned, along with the proceeds from the sale of one of his major works. "It helped get this gallery started," he remarked. The two rented a high-ceiling space in the McIntyre Block, consisting of a gallery flanked by a smaller workroom, a small shed Morton intends for a portrait studio and a basement, where they will hold classes and parties. Morton has configured the outdoor space between the gallery and shed as a patio, where he likes to hang his work in natural light, weather permitting.

Already the works of a baker's dozen artists, including the oils and photographs of Bieniarz-Pond and bold landscapes and sensitive portraits of Morton, are on display. Jasmyn Gray, familiar to those who walk the WOW Trail and ,Larry Frates, whose "Festival of Pumpkins" will grace the upcoming festival, are represented along with painters in different mediums Penny Burke, Gerri Harvey, Cam Sinclair, Michael Cowart and Mary Villaume. There is also photography by Joni Shea, pottery by Mandy Bassett and raku, hand shaped Japanese pottery used in the tea ceremony, by Steve Hayden, one of the sculptors featured on the Sculpture Walk in Meredith.

Bieniarz-Pond said that she aimed to keep it simple by showing the work of a handful of artists, but as word spread she and Morton found themselves moving their own work to make room for that of other artists. Each month the gallery will feature an "artist of the month" selected by the Lakes Region Arts Association.

Bieniarz-Pond is eager to offer Sip 'n Dip parties, open to all who are provided with the supplies they require but must bring the drink they prefer, where everyone leaves with a finished painting.

Morton anticipates teaching landscape and portrait painting. His grandmother assured him he began drawing as a four year old but he said he only made his career in art after realizing he was "a mule in a horse race" as a psychology major at Keene State College. He studied and worked with Richard Whitney of Stoddard, New Hampshire, counted among the finest portrait painters in the country, whose images of governors John Sununu Judd Gregg hang in the New Hampshire Statehouse.

Bieniarz-Pond and Morton agreed the gallery has gotten off to a good start and said they were looking forward to the turning of the leaves, which they expected would bring lots of visitors with an eye for fine art to the the Lakes Region. The Imagine Gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but closed on Mondays

Storm damaged Union Cemetery, north & south

LACONIA — Wednesday's storm wreaked havoc at Union Cemetery, where the raging waters of Durkee Brook eroded a stretch of its bank within feet of a mausoleum and monument on the north side of the graveyard while a culvert carrying Meadow Brook failed, opening a large sinkhole on its south side.

Durkee Brook rises east of Rte. 106 below Briarcrest Estates and flows northwest, passing under Garfield Street and running along the north side of Union Cemetery, parallel to Grant and Lincoln Streets, to Academy Street. At Meadow Street, just beyond Academy Street it is joined by what some call "Little Durkee Brook," then skirts Memorial Field and passes under Court Street, between Premum Mart and Lakes Region Party and Paper, and the railway line before emptying into Lake Winnisquam at the western end of Bartlett Beach.

High water has undercut the banks of the brook running alongside the north edge of the cemetery, loosening the roots of trees close to the stream. A large tree on a lot on Grant Street fell into the brook just below a sharp bend near the maintenance building. As the brook rose during the storm, water backed up behind the obstruction causing a section of the opposite bank, where a tree stump remained, to collapse into the stream bed, leaving the mausoleum and monument perilously close to the edge of the brook.

Cemetery official Suzanne Perley said that spot where the bank collapsed has been a source of concern for some time. "We seem to have been losing a foot a year to erosion," she said.

Meanwhile, on the south side of the cemetery Meadow Brook flows underground through a culvert, five-feet in diameter, beneath an unpaved roadway for approximately 150 yards, before flowing to and under Academy Street. Jon Neal, general foreman at the Department of Public Works (DPW), said that the water from the swollen stream reached the corroded section of the culvert it undermined the roadway, which collapsed to leave a oval sinkhole about 10 yards across, nearly 15 yards long and eight feet deep.

On Friday, a crew from DPW removed the obstructions from Durkee Brook and John Lyman of John Lyman & Sons of Gilford evaluated the sinkhole in anticipation of preparing an estimate to address the damage. John Perley, the president of the Union Cemetery Association, said that Lyman suggested lining the existing culvert with a smaller one, perhaps made of something other than steel, which would ensure against it failing elsewhere along its length. culvert

Suzanne Perley said that the association which is a charitable trust, has limited financial resources, most which can only be used for designated purposes, leaving only the income from invested funds for maintenance. She said that the income amounts to between $50,000 and $60,000 a year, which is less than the cost of maintaining the cemetery.

Following severe storms in 2007 the condition of Durkee Brook became a source of concern to the Planning Department, Conservation Commission and Belknap County Conservation District. At the time, Greg Jones, who is no longer with the Planning Department, said that the erosion has been caused by cutting and clearing vegetation from the banks of the brook and compounded by homeowners lining the banks with granite slabs and aluminum siding, which hastens and diverts the flow of water.

No effort will be made to remove the material lining the banks, but property owners were told not to put any more. Residents on Lincoln and Grant streets whose property backs on to the brook were reminded that a municipal ordinance requires that a 30-foot buffer either side of the brook must be maintained in its natural condition and, where it has been disturbed, must be replanted to the greatest extent possible. In particular,residents were urged not to dump grass cuttings, yard waste and other trash along the bank or into the brook. At the same time, abutters were discouraged from grooming their lawns to edge of the brook and encouraged to replant the denuded and eroded banks.


CAPTION: Squeezed between a mausoleum and the stream bank, a backhoe operator from the Department of Public Works removes a tree stump swept  into Durkee Brook alongside Union Cemetery when high water from Wednesday's storm undercut the bank of the brook. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).


CAPTION: A culvert carrying Meadow Brook along the south edge of Union Cemetery in Laconia failed during Wednesday's storm, undermining the roadway and opening this sinkhole. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).

Sanbornton bans dump 'picking'; protest in works

SANBORNTON — The decision of the Board of Selectmen last month to curtail "dump picking" at the transfer station has roiled a number of residents, some of whom intend to petition the board to lift the ban.

Charles Smith, the town administrator, said yesterday that Primex, the New Hampshire Public Risk Management Exchange, which underwrites the town's property and liability insurance, undertook a risk assessment last month. He said that Primex recommended against allowing residents to sift through the materials, especially the metals, brought to the transfer station for recycling. "It was an issue of safety and liability," Smith said. "The board was looking out for the safety of the public. If someone was injured, the town could be held liable."

"This decision was not taken lightly," said Brian Bordeau, director of Public Works. "The board knew they would be ruffling people's feathers."

Among those troubled by the Selectboard's decision is Peggy Graham, who believes that the ritual by which one person's trash becomes another person's treasure is an essential thread in the social fabric of the town. "We call it our store," she said. "Its an exchanges of clothes, toys, kitchenware and hardware. We had a wonderful library," she continued, referring to discarded books, "especially for the summer people." Furthermore, Graham emphasized that "people get and talk to each other as they look through things and I think that is good thing. Sometimes I see people I haven't seen for months."

Graham said that Rachel Paige is mounting a petition in an effort to persuade the selectmen to reconsider and reverse their decision. Paige could not be reached for comment.

The growing controversy echoes a similar confrontation that arose from a proposal to forbid dump picking in Meredith five years ago. There the ban was eased by allowing residents to pick from the metal pile, but not to clamber over or rummage through it. Nor would residents be permitted to take metal for sale as scrap. Finally, those wishing to pick through the metal pile would be required to sign a disclaimer releasing the town of all liability in the event of injury.