Karen Adrienne spins ink on Wednesdays at Circling the Square Fine Art Press in Gardiner. The owner and director were preparing the venue on Water Street for the first community ArtWalk since 2019 which will begin at 5pm on Friday. Dozens of businesses will host artists while several studios will be open to the public during the tour along the waterway. Adrienne, who helped start the city’s ArtWalk more than 15 years ago, said the enthusiasm from merchants and artists is palpable. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER – Local artists and businesses will once again be highlighted for the first time since 2019 as ArtWalk Gardiner returns Friday from 5 to 8:30 p.m.

More than 30 artists and 15 businesses will participate. Founder and lead organizer of the event, Karen Adrienne, said that over time, the art walk evolved to include local businesses.

“It’s still essentially inviting the public into artists’ studios,” she said, “and what’s unique is that we invite artists who don’t have studios downtown and open them up with a business. It’s a collaborative way to t ‘connected our artists and shops in town for a community event.’

Adrienne is a local artist who works as the owner and director of Artdogs Studios and Circling the Square Fine Art Press. She was also a professor of art at the University of Maine at Augusta for 30 years.

She has owned a building in downtown Gardiner since 2004, and since 2005 she and other local artists began organizing annual art walks.

With the exception of an interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been going strong for nearly two decades.

Adrienne said it feels “amazing” to be back for the first time since 2019.

“It’s such a great community event,” she said. “It also speaks to the need for artists in the community and what they offer to a community, and connects artists in the community. All kinds of important things, especially for a small town like Gardiner.

She said the art walk plays an important role in helping local artists network and gain exposure.

Altogether, Adrienne said the art walk takes about three to four months to plan, a process that includes the help of event coordinator Danae Lagoy and a six-member advisory committee.

“We’ve done it in the past with pure volunteers and it always breaks down, so hiring an event coordinator has been a great idea,” she said.

Lagoy, who is also a local artist, said this is her first time working as an event coordinator and it has been an exciting opportunity. Much of her work involves talking to local businesses and pairing them with artists.

“The artists will work within the businesses, and I’m trying to curate a good flow of that,” Lagoy said, “and then I’m doing the advertising and the PR, so a lot of different things. And I’ll be a participating artist, so I’m excited to show the world my studio.”

Both Adrienne and Lagoy said there has been a lot of positive community feedback leading up to the event.

“People are really excited,” Lagoy said. “I think there is a lot of energy around the event. There’s also a lot of new businesses and new people in Gardiner since the pandemic happened, so I think it’s going to be a really great way to encourage this creative environment, introduce people to each other, and get artists and businesses in cooperation with each other. “

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