LITTLETON, NH – The September/October 2013 issue of artscope features wanderlust: Littleton, New Hampshire, which hosts its final Second Friday of the season this week and which will be holding its 44th Annual Littleton Art Festival on September 28 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Artscope managing editor Brian Goslow, who wrote the article, visited BAD-ART gallery at 35 Mill Street in July, and last month, in preparing the wanderlust feature, he conducted this email interview with owner Jon Stroker.
WHEN DID BAD-ART OPEN?
BAD-ART opened on April 1, 2012 — a very fitting day for what we were doing.
HOW DID YOU PICK LITTLETON AS THE SITE FOR THE GALLERY AND HOW HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN?
I moved to Littleton from Connecticut about 11 years ago. Over the past couple of years there has been a great resurgence of Main Street businesses popping up in Littleton and there are now no empty storefronts. Littleton is a great example of Main Street coexisting with box stores. The gallery started out as an experiment. I honestly didn’t know if it would last six months.
We have been here for almost a year and a half and things have been going great. We do a lot with community functions; we have kids classes on Sundays, and we have had music and benefit events, so we are being an active member of the community. In the beginning, many people didn’t “get” why I called it “BAD-ART.” I did it as a goof really. The type of art that we do is mainly Outsider, Pop and Folk Art, historically each of those art styles have been called “Bad” at one time. I figured that we embrace the word and I can’t tell you how many times people have walked in and said “this isn’t bad art, it’s good art.”
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR CLIENTELE?
Our clients are young and old. They are the people who “get” what we are doing. We appeal to many tourists because we are a ‘fish out of water’ type gallery. They don’t expect to find us where we are. The best compliment I have ever received was from a visitor from Austin. Texas and he said, ‘This place should be where I am from.’
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR OWN WORK AND WHAT IS ITS PRICE RANGE?
I am currently working in a few different mediums. I have been doing a series of paintings of famous people in stencil form with interesting backgrounds. I create robots out of old camera equipment, furniture, etc… Most of my work involves recycling objects, be it canvas, vinyl records or anything I have interest in. I try and keep everything I make under $100. If I sell it, it drives me to make something else. I recently purchased 17 televisions for the 1950s. I have no idea what I am going to make out of them, but they will soon be another creation.
WHAT’S YOUR ART BACKGROUND?
I was an art major in high school and minored in art in college. I was also the cartoon editor for the college newspaper for three years. Then life happened. I gave up art for about 15 years. I was inspired to get back in a few years ago when I started following an L.A. graffiti artist. He was tired of the ‘vandalism’ part so he decided to start creating his art on vinyl records and thrift store paintings. I started painting on old records too and one thing led to another and that is how we ended up with a gallery.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE OTHER ARTISTS IN THE GALLERY AND WHERE ARE THEY FROM?
There are two other main gallery artists, Matt Bassett from Danville, Vermont and Jason Tors from Sugar Hill, New Hampshire. Matt’s art has a whimsical pop feel to it, and Jason’s work in his own words is ‘Abstract Graphic Cacophony.’ We also have a few pieces from other local artists. I also buy art from all over the world that I feel fits in the gallery. So you can come in and walk out with pieces of art from Japan, England and Littleton, New Hampshire.
WHAT’S THE GENERAL COST OF MOST ITEMS IN THE GALLERY — AND WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SALE?
Our tagline is “Eclectic and Affordable art for the Masses.” I hold that true to all that we sell. Over 50 percent of the items in our gallery are $50 and under and only a few are over $100. All three main artists are very prolific in what they do. Also whenever I see a blank spot on the wall it get the creative juices flowing and makes me want to create more. I want someone to come in, fall in love with a piece, and be able to walk out with it with the money in their pocket.
WHAT ARE THREE OR FOUR OF YOUR MOST POPULAR “LINES” OF ART?
Any of Matt’s 12” x 12” dog head and Pop culture paintings fly off the shelf. Where else can you get an original piece of art for $25? Also my “Twisted Past” series sells well. I frame old photographs and write funny quotes under them. Jason has been doing a series of Minecraft inspired painting on recycled canvas that has been a hit too.
WILL YOU BE OPEN POST-SUMMER, AND IF SO, WHAT WILL THE HOURS BE?
We are open year round. Normal business hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and by appointment.
FOR FIRST-TIME VISITORS, WHAT PLACES DO YOU RECOMMEND THEY VISIT IN LITTLETON?
Littleton has a great mix of shopping, food and scenery. Chutters is a popular stop — They’re the Guinness Record holder for world’s longest candy counter. Just L is a great shop, featuring modern antiques for the Eames era. Also, the Schilling Beer Company is opening right next to us. Homebrew, woodfired pizza and art, all in the same area. You can’t go wrong with that.
(For more details: call (603) 854-1498.)