Hidden Gem: Sanctuary Arts In Eliot Fostering New England’s Creativity
Situated in an 1850s New England church in Eliot, Sanctuary Arts has been inspiring the creative spirit since its inception by Christopher Gowell in 1997. She founded the school in 1999, originally offering classes in figurative sculpture, drawing and painting. The facility has grown over the years to encapsulate a foundry, a sculpture garden and lovely living quarters.
A new nonprofit scholarship program called Sanctuary Arts Connects was recently initiated with a wide selection of quality local made art pieces to drive their winter fundraising efforts. This program will benefit the professors as well as the students, offering support to instructors during this uncertain time while ensuring the facility remains a resource to the community.
One benefit of the pandemic is that people have time to invest in their interests. Many former students and clients have returned to the Green Foundry to pursue fine art casting in bronze. The foundry also provides casting in aluminum, iron and plaster. Molds can be professionally made on site and investments are done in ceramic shell for best results. Each piece is specific and, as one of the foundry managers, Josh remarked about being faced with new projects: “It’s like asking a dolphin to swim,” he said.
Josh and Lauren Dow moved to Eliot in 2005, just as Gowell was completing the shell for the foundry. The Dows were actively involved in finishing out the interior of the foundry, having knowledge to share with their recent BFAs in sculpture from MassArt, where they had met. They moved to Sanctuary Arts in 2006 and have been managing the Green Foundry since. Their home was built nearby on site in 2014, which they share with their two sons and lots of chickens.
Iron casting is also a specialty for the Dows. They founded the Iron Guild, which creates art performances annually in specific locations. More commonly, iron casting for clients takes the form of open-face sand molds. Iron is especially unique to see being cast because of the oxidization that occurs, there are flint-like sparks in the air. The Dows have collaborated with many local organizations for iron casting including the Andres Institute of Art in Brookline, New Hampshire.
As an advocate for the arts, especially local artists, it is vital to preserve these unique spaces.
This resource for creative expression has been transformative for countless students - young and old - for over 20 years. You can be a part of maintaining this special studio’s legacy for artistic development by learning more about the Sanctuary Arts Connects nonprofit. Visit their website here.
Working within the restrictions of COVID-19 precautions, the facility is not currently open to on campus classes. There are a few virtual and Plein air painting classes offered at this time. To see the course catalog, visit this link.
Classes offered this winter include:
- Virtual Drawing & Painting
- Landscape Painting Aided by Photography (plein air & Zoom) with Tom Glover
- Weekly Sketchbook Challenge & Watercolor Basics with Bill Paarlberg
- Dutch Tulips & Colored Pencil Techniques with Carol Morley
- Fresh Air in the Studio with Alastair Dacey
- Pastel Drawing & Figure Drawing with Suzanne Lacke
- Soft Stone Carving with Antoinette Schultze in her Eliot Studio