Chalkboard Studio in Barnstable Village, Cape Cod, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with an open house on April 27.
The three core founders, Jackie Reeves, James “Jamie” Wolf and Richard Neal met at Cotuit Center for the Arts (which Wolf originated) — and started painting together there, for the hell of it. Reeves, who was looking for studio space, said, “I was used to working with other people around. I grew up in a big family where we all shared space.” Wolf “never worked with others until the three of us started talking, having a beer together. I found I could still throw paint with them around.”
He was leaving Cotuit and wanted a studio. Neal had been making do in his basement.
When fellow painters Karen Ojala and Edie Vonnegut showed Reeves the historical 1854 Old Schoolhouse owned by the Unitarian Church of Barnstable, she convinced Neal and Wolf to join her there. The three chose the name “Chalkboard” because, “it related to the schoolhouse it had been and the inference of ideas and innovation,” Neal explained. Over the decade, they say their bond has grown closer with one major commonality: “All our parents actually encouraged us to become artists,” Wolf said, adding “usually it’s the other way; parents say ‘don’t you dare.’”
Growing up in Detroit, Wolf’s father was a graphic artist with clients like General Motors and Chrysler. “I’d work on stuff with him. He convinced me not to be a commercial artist, but to learn how to paint.” Neal’s mum encouraged him as did his great aunt, the painter Adelaide Newhall. Reeve’s older sister was an artist and her parents were architects and modernist art collectors in Montreal.
Reeves found herself on the Cape, when her husband got a job there. “I was in my late 20s, before kids. We said, ‘this is pretty, yes let’s do it.’ I had no idea there was an art scene here.”
She said, “I was trained in design art where I focused on drawing and printmaking. I then dabbled in graphic design doing logos, brochures, t-shirts, etc.” Then she became a commercial muralist, painting for “businesses (restaurants and hotels), private homes and schools” such as the Ritz hotel, and her favorite, a three-story high mural on Barnstable High School.
Wolf came to the Cape in the 1980s from Boston, where his art was selling well in galleries. Then, “the stock market crash came; a lot of people stopped buying art, stopped building houses to hang art in.” Boston rents were becoming prohibitive. Delivering a piece of art to Cotuit, he was offered an affordable winter rental.