After succeeding, finally, this outlet for creative artwork will close

  • Thorndike Street, at the old Rumford School on Wednesday. October 28, 2020.

  • Christa Zuber touches the painting her husband, Jeff, made of their dog Salvador at The Place Studio and Gallery on Thorndike Street, at the old Rumford School, on Wednesday. Below are brushes used by students at the studio. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Christa Zuber touches the painting her husband, Jeff made of their dog Salvador at The Place Studio and Gallery on Thorndike Street, at the old Rumford School on Wednesday. October 28, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Christa Zuber at The Place Studio and Gallery on Thorndike Street, at the old Rumford School, on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Christa Zuber touches the painting her husband, Jeff made of their dog Salvador at The Place Studio and Gallery on Thorndike Street, at the old Rumford School on Wednesday. October 28, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 10/28/2020 4:58:24 PM

We all know that COVID-19 has no mind, no plan, no sinister thoughts of ruining local businesses and breaking hearts.

For Christa Zuber, though, the mid-March quarantine felt personal, as though fueled by a pandemic waiting and ready to strike once her business turned the corner, a cruel tactic to build hope, then smash it.

In this case, Zuber’s classes at The Place Studio and Gallery were, finally, filling up on a steady basis. All forms of artwork were flying in and out of the eclectic studio on Thorndike Street, at the old Rumford School.

Then, during a landmark stretch of time in which the right formula had been discovered and Zuber seemed destined for success, everything stopped. More than seven months ago. The day New Hampshire closed.

The booming business, ready to fly after a long, noble, dues-paying process, was grounded for good. It will be closing the day before Thanksgiving.

“It was worth the five years of suffering and trying to make it work,” said Zuber, “and when it finally comes to fruition, this ends up happening.”

The effect was and remains profound. Zuber and her husband, Jeff Bowden, are selling their house here and moving to the coast of Maine, years before they had planned.

“It does not make sense to have an in-person studio when no one is coming in,” Zuber said.

Things were slow when her studio opened in 2014 also, but steady.

Zuber had big ideas, a plan to appeal to the widest artistic crowd possible. She studied art and theater at Brandeis University and in Australia, and she traveled to New Zealand and the Fiji Islands as well.

She coordinated learning programs at the Currier Museum of Art and the Children’s Museum in Boston, and she taught school, grade and middle school kids, in the states and abroad.

With a kaleidoscope of visions, she saw a flow of artwork of all kinds – papier-mache, ceramic painting, glass painting, painting painting – being bought and sold, people gathering to talk art, ideas being exchanged.

Her website put it this way: “a place to slow down and tap into your own creativity, to gather to be inspired by other artists.”

She called it a “relaxed, eclectic drop-in do-it-yourself art and craft business offering a variety of activities, as well as an educational place for people to learn about making and appreciating art.”

That all sounded rosy in theory, but finding the best and most effective plan to create an educational environment would need trial and error, and that took a few years.

“Through the years we figured out what works,” Zuber said. “What days and times are good. We offered weekday nights and weekend mornings, and we tried afternoon and night and tried it all to see what works best.”

Something clicked. Last January, art classes at The Place Studio and Gallery began bursting at the seams, attracting 25 students at a time, the maximum number allowed.

Every seat in her New Year’s Eve watercolor class, billed as a quiet way to relax and start the year fresh, was filled and energized. Her class on something called needle felting – students made koala bears from wool – was a sell-out hit as well. So was the fundraiser that raised money to help victims of the Australian bushfires.

“I was in business for six years,” Zuber said, “and it took me five to finally start selling out my classes.”

Zuber taught five days a week. She had to. Sometimes she taught on the weekend. February was terrific as well. Attendance was so high during those two months – the ones preceding this new world order – that Zuber’s husband planned on leaving his tech job to join his wife as a full-time partner at the studio.

“He doesn’t love his job,” Zuber told me, “and it was getting to the point where these classes kept selling out, so there was no reason for him to keep going.”

There was no reason for her to keep going to the studio, either. Zuber gave virtual classes for two months, but never felt comfortable doing it. She returned to her studio in June and said one or two people per week would visit.

Diminished income and continued lease payments made it impossible to continue.

“We were trying to do it in person and then we decided it was just time to go to the (Maine) coast,” Zuber said. “It came to the point where we had to make a decision.”

That was in August. Artwork can be dropped off at the studio through Nov. 13. The lights go off on the 26th, the day before Thanksgiving.

Nothing personal, COVID-19 says. Try telling that to Zuber.

“There was a mourning period,” she said. “I was thankful it was successful, but I had to mourn the loss of that success at the same time.

“It comes and goes.”




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2020 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy