Amy Prendergast: Born to be an artist

By Mike Mortensen

LACONIA — You could say that Amy Prendergast was born to be an artist, but it has taken decades for that innate gift to reach full flower.

Prendergast recalls how her mother remembered Amy picking up a pencil and doodling when she was still a toddler. "I've been drawing ever since I could remember," she said.

Her interest in art continued, and by the time she reached high school in Rumford, Maine, it had grown to the point that she was asked to paint three murals for the school.

But for Prendergast, who describes herself as a lifelong entrepreneur, other interests and projects occupied her time. She has run a home-cleaning business, and for a time operated a hair salon.
But now Prendergast is giving her time almost exclusively over to her art.

"Art is my biggest passion and my outlet," said Prendergast who has turned a back room in her Dolloff Street home into a studio.

A self-taught artist who readily admits that her talent is developing — "The more I paint, the more I will evolve as an artist" — finds herself drawn to subjects in which water plays a prominent role in the scene.

It was just such a painting, one featuring her bikini-clad niece admiring the water cascading over Profile Falls in Bristol, which recently won the People's Choice award at an exhibit sponsored by the Lakes Region Artist Association. The painting, titled "My Zen," remains on display at the VynnArt Gallery on Main Street in Meredith through Aug. 2.

The use of the word "zen" — sometimes defined as a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind — in the painting provides a key to understanding how Prendergast gets her artistic inspiration.

"It gives me a zen feeling when I paint water," she said.

Another one of Prendergast's recent works is "Wave," which shows a wave crashing on the shore. That painting, which won an Artist of the Month award, is now on exhibit at the Laconia Public Library through the middle of August.

Prendergast credits the Lakes Region Artists Association with supporting artists such as herself. The group gives artists a way to network with others, and Prendergast finds the organization's monthly workshops extremely helpful.

For Prendergast the best way to improve artwork is to keep painting, and especially to create pieces to capture a moment that have deep meaning for her personally.

Prendergast has gone through phases of subject and color. She started by painting landscapes. Now she has found a niche in painting the human figure and water.

Back in 2009 she happened to take a photograph of a bird swooping down to grab something to eat over the water at Bartlett Beach in Laconia. She submitted the photograph to the Concord Monitor which at the time was running a contest for wildlife photography. The photograph was selected as a winner and it was printed in the Monitor.

Now, these six years later Prendergast has taken that photograph is put is on canvass.

Prendergast says that he often paints from photographs she has taken. But, though she works from the photograph, she gives the scene her "own spin" as she puts the brush to the canvass.

Her hope is that people will see in her work what "I can see".

Canal Street businesses celebrating on Wednesday evening; Frates Center marks 40 years in business

LACONIA — Businesses along quaint Canal Street in downtown Laconia are celebrating a number of milestones on Wednesday, July 29 with music and open houses from 3 to 7 p.m.

Melissa McCarthy is celebrating her 1,000th day at The Studio. Bead Devine is marking one year in business. Daub's Cobbler Shop (Jim Daubenspeck) is celebrating the purchase of a building for its new location. And Frates Creative Arts Center is celebrating 40 years as a Lakes Region business and creative arts tradition.

The Frates Center began in a home basement art studio and then moved to the lower level of the then Sundial Shop in the middle of downtown. The next move was to Canal Street and that was followed, two years later, my a short move to the Tavern Mini-Mall, where the art studio combined with the Creative Dance Studio to become Frates Creative Arts Center.

The Frates Center moved back to Canal Street when the Mini-Mall was purchased by the Laconia Housing Authority to house the Laconia Senior Center.

Now located in the side entrance to the Colonial Theater building and in the former home of Paquette Sporting Goods, the center continues to offer art, dance, magic, puppet and acting classes, as well as Paint Along Parties, Art To You classes and caricatures.

Since the original move to the Sundial Shop building, points out Larry Frates, the center has remained dedicated to downtown Laconia as the heart of a vibrant community.

This summer and fall, Joan and Larry Frates will again be offering special events, classes and celebration-related activities. For details and times visit www.fratescreates.com or call 528-7651.

Lakes Region Art Association Marks 75th anniversary

LACONIA — The Lakes Region Art Association which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year is compiling a video to trace its history, according to Roger Gagne, a member of the group since 1960.
Gagne, whose basement studio at his home on Morrill Street in Gilford is filled with several ongoing projects, paintings by his fellow artists and dozens of first place blue ribbons and several yellow best in the show ribbons from local art association competitions, has a different approach to painting that many other local artists.
A 1950 graduate of Laconia High School who served in the U.S. Air Force and earned degrees in mechanical engineering and architecture at Oklahoma State before returning to his home state where he worked as a designer at International Packing, (now Freudenberg-NOK in Bristol), Gagne, uses his architectural background and attention to detail to great effect in his paintings.
''I decided to drop put of the art association competitions because Larry Thibeault and I were winning all of the awards,'' says Gagne, whose current projects include a historically accurate presentation of the Hathaway House as well as what could only be called ''Time Traveler'' views of Canterbury Shaker Village in its heyday in the 1890s and of Laconia Country Club from the 1920s to the present.

Gagne is helping with the video that the association is producing and has compiled an outline of the history of the association, which was originally known as the Laconia Art Group and was formally founded in 1940 by William Robertson, Wilfred Marsland, George and Harriet Booth and John Hoyt.
He says that there have been many noted artists who have been members of what would become the Laconia Art Association around 1973 and expanded to become the Lakes Region Art Association around 2005, including Peter Vuilleumir in 1942 and Bernard Stafford Good of Gilmanton, a noted artist who worked with Doubleday Publishers, the Saturday Evening Post and worked extensively with NC Wyeth, who joined in 1952.
Edward ''Ted'' Ray of Gilford, who had retired from his Boston studio, joined in 1953 and served as director and chaired many of the annual shows in the 1960s and 1970s as well as teaching many of the association's members.
Fritz Robbins of New Hampton, a colorful artist who was well known for his etchings as well as his oil paintings, joined in 1954, as did Loran Percy of Gilford, a photographer, artist and teacher whose Lakes Region landscapes would win him numerous awards in art association shows.
Other notable artists joining the group included Bob Montana, creator of the Archie cartoon strip; Bill Krug, well known cartoonist and watercolor and gouache artist; Peter Hall, a Meredith teacher and gallery owner and Bob Erickson of Bristol, a New Hampton School teacher who worked with charcoal and watercolor.
Long tenured presidents of the art association have been Dorothea Hilliard Freysinger (1952-65), Beth Ide 1967-70 and 1975; Rita Bolduc 1987-90,, Winnie Hackett (1991-94) and Don Frost (1994-2005).
The association's 75th anniversary show is currently on display at VynnArt Gallery in Meredith and features more than 100 works of art by 56 different artists.
Current president of the association is Jean V. Kennedy, whose work reflect her love of flowers, nature and the outdoors. She was born and raised in England and came to the U.S. as a young woman in the mid-1960's. She worked for Columbia University in New York as a research administrator for many years before moving to Louisiana with her husband. She now lives in Gilford with her husband and their two dogs and travels between Louisiana and N.H. each year.
Kennedy says she was greatly influenced by a Louisiana art teacher, Myrna Waters, who taught her to push values and how to better use color and shape in a painting. As an artist she has earned many ribbons and awards by entering competitions both in New Hampshire and Louisiana. She won Best in Show by exhibiting at the art show for the Terrebonne Orchid Society in Houma, Louisiana and last year won an award for best watercolor at the Lakes Region Art Association show.
Long-time vice president of the association is Gisela Langsten of Gilford, who, like Kennedy, was born overseas and took up painting later in life.
Gisela, nicknamed Gila, was born in Berlin,Germany in 1932 has been an artist all her life.
"I liked drawing when I was 10 years old,'' says Gila, who attended art school in Hamburg, Germany, and came to the United States in 1953 and worked as a commercial artist in Chicago before coming to New Hampshire two years later.
She and her husband, Armin, lived on Scenic Road at the Weirs and she recalls being offered a full-time job at Tyler Printing but turning it down because she had two young children. ''We only had one car and working full-time was out of the question.''
She did some free lance work and raised her children and took up painting in the late 1970s, taking lessons with Ted Ray and later with Loran Percy. She concentrated on landscapes, inspired by the natural beauty of New Hampshire. Life drawing with the Artists' Loft added enjoyment and enhanced visual skills.
She feels that by drawing and painting you learn to see, to recognize the objects surrounding you, to enjoy colors and the play of light. In her paintings she tries to convey a moment of peace and beauty, try to catch the moods of lakes and mountains. Much of her work is done "Plein Air", painted on location.
''We used to draw in the Artist's Loft, which was upstairs at the Belknap Mill. When they developed offices there they let us have the third floor but we had to rearrange the room before and after every meeting.'' she recalls.
Those sessions were later moved to the Taylor Community, where the association also now holds its monthly meetings.
Langsten says that after the Laconia Public Library addition was completed the association lost the use of the building for its annual shows and was invited to use space at the Taylor Home. The shows have since moved them to several locations, including Pitman's Freight Room, and most recently VynnArt Gallery.
She says the association has enjoyed remarkable growth in recent years, having seen its membership increase from 78 to 99, and has artists from all parts of the Lakes Region.
Part of her duties include organizing the monthly programs as well as the Artist Loft sessions with live models.
She says that she is content to remain as vice president and has made it plain to her fellow association members that she has no interest in becoming president of the organization.
Langsten say the association will hold a celebration of its 75th anniversary with a banquet at the Wolfeboro Inn on September 19.