Not just an art store: Max's hosts local artists
Published 4:57 pm, Thursday, September 23, 2010
Max's Art Supplies is a link to Westport's once thriving artist community. Located in the downtown area along the Post Road, it has been supporting artists -- with its expansive merchandise and knowledgeable staff -- for nearly 55 years.
But the support doesn't end there. Each month, a different artist is given the business' entire window space to showcase their works.
"I think it's a great asset for us and for the town to show what is still going on in the art world here," said Max's owner Shirley Mellor.
There is limited show space for artists outside of juried shows and galleries, according to local artists Sherri Wolfgang, so Max's storefront goes a long way towards making people aware of the talent in their town.
Visitors to Max's who inquire about purchasing a pieces in the windows get directed to the business cards left by the cashier area.
"We don't get involved in the sale," said Max's employee Rita Englebardt.
Max's keeps things entertaining along a strip of the Post Road where sameness is often the norm.
"I love looking in the window and seeing which artists is featured," said Wolfgang, who happens to be this month's featured artist.
"It's a little treat. It's visually stimulating."
On one side of Max's entrance this month are figurative pieces that Wolfgang, who runs The Wolfgang School of Art, did in a sepia tone with oils, charcoal and graphite. The art in the other window shows a different side of Wolfgang's creativity - mainly color and textures on larger canvases, done in oil, charcoal and encaustic.
Max's is the only art supply store left in Westport and while it has its loyal customer base that makes regular visits for art supplies, the custom framing aspect of the business has helped it to survive when art supply stores have fallen by the wayside. Many artists today, said Mellor, only need a computer and an operator.
"It's just not like it used to be," she said, "When you had commercial artists who needed tons of materials, lamps and so forth."
Besdies the framing, Mellor said it's also a big help that she owns half the building.
Westport still has artists but that segment of the population has dwindled as the decades have passed.
"We used to be known as a great arts community," said Mellor.
"It's difficult to justify that reputation anymore."
By virtue of its continued existence however, Max's is helping to retain some semblance of what once was.
"It has a certain feel a certain small, a certain nostalgia, that you can't get from [an office supply store or a pharmacy where art supplies can be purchased]," said Wolfgang, who bought her first drawing pad at Max's when she was 12 years old.
"It really is one of a kind."
If the window space helps the artists, then it's likely the visual changes at the front of the store catch people's eyes and inspire some to visit Max's for the first time.
"I certainly hope so," said Mellor.
The phone number for Max's is 226-0716 and anyone interested in The Wolfgang School of Art, the only school left in Westport, should call 454-4518.