(Dec. 21, 2017) For a town of about 2,100, an unusually high number of artists live and work in Snow Hill.
A rough estimate is that about two-dozen people are creating art or running studios and galleries, while the works artists create and galleries shows range from blown glass to oil paintings to experimental art.
On Tuesday, five prominent artists convened in the old firehouse on West Green Street to talk about what makes the Snow Hill art scene unique and why people unfamiliar with it should take notice.
Jim Adcock operates Adcock Studio and Gallery on 106 East Green Street, both a working gallery and a place to display his paintings. He is also a regular contributor to the Bayside Gazette.
Decoy carver and woodcarver Doug Fisher has a residency each Tuesday and Wednesday, offering carving demonstrations inside Bishop’s Stock Fine Art, Craft & Wine on 202 West Green Street.
Painter Paul Volker operates Green Pearl Contemporary Fine Art on 114 Pearl Street and is perfecting a technique using recycled plastic and Styrofoam in sculpture and mixed media. He runs the website directory www.snowhillarts.com.
Nancy Ellen Thompson runs Nancy Ellen Thompson Studio & Gallery on 107 Pearl Street, primarily a working studio for her watercolor paintings. She also takes groups to Europe on painting and sketching trips and teaches workshops in town.
Don Cheeseman recently opened Swimming Dog, where he makes fused glass pieces, instructs classes and rents out use of his kilns, and runs a small retail space.
Additionally, Ann Coates operates Bishop Stock, Ellen Tolliver and Gary Weber run Regal Beast Clay Studio, Jan Coulbourne oversees 101 Green Street Gallery, Kelly Deutsch heads Vintage Pink Quilt Studio on 212 North Washington Street, Jack Helgelson runs A Diamond On Pearl on 109 Pearl Street and David Thompson will soon open 1/2 Gallery on 301 North Washington Street.
Other artists of note in Snow Hill are Jerry Nolte, Olga Deshields, Steve Mathews, Christine Taylor, Joe Scukanec, Dawn Tarr, Sharon Himes and Scott Dolby.
More notable than having so many spaces for art, Volker said, is how many people in the town actually make things.
“There’s a lot of small towns that have a lot of interesting things to see in gift shops … but I think the fact that there are so many people painting and carving and melting and building and all the stuff here is kind of interesting,” he said.
“It’s a diverse group. We don’t all paint – some carve and some use glass,” Fisher said. “I think, for a town that has a population of 2,100 … that says we’re very art minded.”
What all the artists have in common, Cheeseman said, is they enjoy living in Snow Hill.
“This is a great place – maybe you shouldn’t tell anyone that,” he said with a laugh.
Economic and Community Development Director Michael Day jokingly said the town mantra is something like, “we want people to come spend their money and then go home.”
Day said Snow Hill uses the Arts and Entertainment District designation as a promotional tool. Because of recently changed state regulations, he said an artist can get tax benefits by living and working in Snow Hill, where rent is relatively low, but also get the same benefits selling work in any of the other 23 districts statewide.
“Compared to other places, it’s fairly inexpensive here,” he said. “We’re trying to showcase this as a place to come and check out.”
He said there’s a saying at the state level that Easton is Berlin on steroids and Frederick is Easton on steroids.
Where does that leave Snow Hill?
“We’re on vitamins,” Fisher cracked.
Thompson moved from South Carolina in 2001 and remembers scouring the area for two weeks, meeting with scores of Realtors and generally feeling unsatisfied with what was available. Then, she discovered Snow Hill.
“I had a list of things that I wanted and Snow Hill checked all those boxes,” she said. “I wanted to live in a town that had a sense of community, I wanted to live in a historic district, I wanted to have a loft so I could have a work and living space, I wanted to be near good medical, and I wanted to be near water. And we have all that … and it has never let me down.
“We have our ups and downs as any small town does, but this is an incredible place for the arts,” Thompson added.
Volker said art, itself, is “an open-ended concept” that plays into the diverse interest of Snow Hill artists.
“It lends itself to a lot of different interpretations. Some people think art is something that’s going to be wild and crazy and they can find it here. Some people think art is something that’s classical, or something nice for my house to buy, or expensive to buy, or cheap to buy, and its all here,” he said. “It doesn’t exclude anybody.”
Adcock said traffic overall has picked up and the town does a great job of including each artist in event promotions.
What’s more, Volker said, is the town is willing to work with artists interested in moving to Snow Hill. He fell in love with a vacant storefront on Pearl Street “with no floor – it just had gravel. It had no electricity. It had no plumbing.”
Volker went to the bank that owned the property and convinced them to renovate the space. The town added a small grant for façade improvements.
“I said [to the bank] you’re a savings and loan aren’t you? And they said, ‘Yeah.’ I said don’t you loan people money to fix up their property? And they said yes. And I said, maybe you could loan yourself some money and fix up that store front,” Volker said.
“It’ll be good for me because I need a place, it’ll be good for the town and it’ll be real good PR for the bank,” he continued. “I tell people to go talk to the landlords because they all need somebody who’s interested in the spaces … the landlords will do that and they’ll help you get going on it. People are really welcoming.
“When people come here I say this is the time to get in on it. Don’t wait three years – do it now,” Volker said. “Now is when places are vacant and they’re available. You can talk to the landlords and work out a sweet deal … and move your studio here. Get in on the bottom floor.”
The State of Maryland and Town of Snow Hill offer benefits and resources for artists including Maryland Arts and Entertainment District tax credits, low-interest loan opportunities, façade improvement funding, VOLT loan programs, building improvement funds, enterprise zone funding, Maryland Small Business Development funding, Snow Hill business loans and Maryland Historic Trust tax credits.
“Snow Hill is a great place for these artists. Everyone is looking at small towns now, but where else does somebody go that can also make a living and have quality of life?” Day said.
“We don’t have a lot to offer in town in terms of nightlife, but there’s plenty 45 minutes away in either direction. We’re 15 minutes from Berlin if you want that dining experience and there’s a community college and two universities within a short drive.
“We’ve got a lot to offer and still have that small town feel … sometimes it’s almost like a family, especially during events when everyone gets together,” he added. “You’re probably not going to sell gangbusters here, but it’s a great base of operations.”
For more information, visit www.SnowHillMD.com or call 410-632-2080.