Lights Out Gallery renovates in Norway, innovates art scene

NORWAY — Lights Out Gallery and Lights Out Consulting will soon unveil a major renovation in its multi-step plan to transform 10 Tannery Street from a dilapidated manufacturing warehouse to a centerpiece of Norway’s arts scene. The crew and their army of volunteers have toiled to reinforce and rebuild the building’s ancient foundation are putting the finishing touches on the second-floor dance and performance studio.

Wintry drafts remain, for now, but the granite foundation of the old Tubbs snowshoe manufacturing plant has been repaired with concrete reinforcement. Partners Daniel Sipe, left, and Reed McLean have utilized an army of volunteers to rejuvenate the old warehouse, which now serves as headquarters for Lights Out Gallery. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

“We completely redid the [building] foundation,” said partner Daniel Sipe about the progress he and partner Reed McLean have made since last summer when they purchased the 13,000-square-foot building where snowshoes were once manufactured. “It has been entirely volunteer, with hundreds and hundreds of volunteer work being done.  We are also using local materials, lumber that we’ve sawn mostly ourselves on our sawmill, and also by other small outfits from the area.

“The studio upstairs will be open in, I’d say, two months. Creative Norway and Nevaeh Dance Studio will move into that space. They will use it for their classes, but it will also be a community space where others can rent it as well, for things like ballroom dance instruction or yoga classes.

“We hope to have our first gallery showing in July. It will be a taste of what’s to come, like a prequel to what’s to come [in the gallery space]. It will coincide with the Norway Arts & Music Festival.”

Once the second floor studio is completed, work will move downstairs to renovate the section that will eventually become shared workspace, including a conference room, cubicle workstations for business people and public computer access.

Don McLean of Norway is one of many volunteers working to bring the old snowshoe warehouse on Tannery Street back to life. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Work is being done with financial support from Norway Savings Bank and other entities that invest in community projects. The Tannery Street workspace is slated to open for business by October.

As Lights Out works to bring the old Tubbs snowshoe factory back to life, it has continued to expand on its original mission of providing innovative ways for artists to showcase their work. Since 2021, close to 70 artists have been interviewed and profiled through virtual gallery showings using Instagram, Facebook and YouTube and lightsoutgallery.org/.

“We have chronicled the state of the arts in Maine,” McLean said. “Local artists as well as from all over the state, from York to Belfast and into Aroostook county. Maine artists who are hidden gems, but also those who are internationally famous.”

“Maine’s arts scene, as a whole, is very excited about our project,” Sipe said. “We have been able to move the arts away from the coast and inland. People are excited about an organization that is putting roots somewhere other than on the coast.”

More recently, Lights Out has started sponsoring pop-up shows in Maine communities. The first two were held in Portland and Bridgton. Currently, four artists’ work is being featured at the Frank Brockman Gallery in Maine and Lights Out is planning two more for later this year. The Brunswick showing was reviewed in the Maine Sunday Telegram arts section.

“The artists work in sculpture, assemblage and painting,” McLean said. “They are from Cornish, South Portland/Deer Isle, Bethel/Mason Township and Brunswick.”

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