Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 1, 2018

On-the-Road: Eclipse Mill Gallery

Eclipse Mill Gallery, Preparing for its 14th Annual Open House
North Adams, MA
by Shera Cohen

1881 Drawing, Eclipse Mill
Each year I include one venue that is new, at least to me, to write about in my summer Berkshire articles. Surprisingly, I had never heard of Eclipse Mill Gallery which has been in its present stage for over 15 years, and in its initial stage as a cotton mill started in 1896. Until now, my visits to North Adams were only to visit Mass MoCA while en route to other art offerings in nearby Williamstown.

Gail Sellers, part-owner with her husband Phil, of Riverhill Pottery was the guide for five woman, each dabblers or professionals in various performing arts genres. None of us came with a great deal of knowledge about the creation of visual art and crafts. Of course, we each had our own personal tastes.

A huge thank you to Gail who gave us a three-hour private tour of many of the studios/lofts, along with walks through the hallways that once housed cotton-making machines. Her discussion encompassed an historic look at this long stretching building of brick and pipes and its role in the growth of North Adams. The three-floor factory had been carefully restored, now housing 35 artists, each site with 14-foot ceilings and 10- foot windows. Every unit is unique in size and shape. Eclipse Mill is its own neighborhood.

More and more, some communities, especially those throughout New England, are restructuring factories and other such large buildings for modern-day purposes. What a wonderful alternative this repurposing philosophy is to the “tear it down” years. It is obvious that Gail and Phil, her husband are effusive in their pride of what the Mill has become.

We had the rare opportunity to be invited to meet six artists, their studios/homes, and their works. Most are “locals,” meaning that the artist had lived in the Berkshires proper before moving to Eclipse. Like Gail, there is a commonality in their appreciation of the landscape and leisure of this aesthetic piece of New England.

Art genres not only included the expected visual arts (painting, sculpture, guilting, photography, metal-work) but performing art as well. One dance choreographer/teacher taught us a few moves prior to her students’ class. An instrument builder gave us a chance to show off our terrible skills on his finely carved design.

Gail & Phil Sellers pottery
I had anticipated that Gail arranged some “peaks” into the art and homes of her selected group. But, even better -- each artist was extremely welcoming, inviting us in, answering questions about their creative process, and showed us such mundane things as the bathroom – unique and artsy, of course. Whenever questioned, each took the opportunity to explain the conception, the process, and the meaning of the piece of art.

Every few months a trio of artists produce their own gallery design in a large, empty space. This is the formal setting for visitors to attend Eclipse events and to appreciate the finished products of the artists’ labors. The displays feature disparate genres, which makes the setting eclectic and enjoyable.

Gail and Phil generously opened their studio.  If there had been a contest for “best studio,” this unit would have received a score of 10 in many categories. Their genre – rope woven pottery; their home – seemingly as long as two city blocks; their design – a circular-fashioned connection of living space and studio. This was a gem.

Julia Dixon, painter
Before readers think, isn’t this lovely that North Adams’ folk make arts and crafts for fun, think again. Each is a professional in his/her field, having exhibited and sold commissions throughout the world. However, the walls boast the works of most of the tenants – Eclipse is a museum in its own right.

The fact that these professional artists permitted five strangers into their homes, cheerfully welcoming us, was lovely to experience.

Eclipse Mill will host the 14th annual North Adams Open Studios,  Saturday, October 13 and Sunday, October 14, from 11 am to 5 pm both days. The event is free and fully handicap accessible. The Eclipse Mill is at 243 Union Street , North Adams.