Middlebury’s high street welcomes Sparrow Art Supply – The Middlebury Campus | Candle Made Easy

On Friday 11th March, Sparrow Art Supply opened its doors to local artists, students and other Middlebury community members eager to explore the addition of a new Main Street store. The store is located at 52 Main Street, a few doors down from Buy Again Alley on the corner by the bridge over Otter Creek.

Before moving to the area, founders Beth Svenningsen and her fiancé had considered moving to Middlebury for a while due to its proximity to nearby ski resorts and love of the small town community. The emergence of Covid-19 while the couple were still living at their New York City home hastened their move. A practicing artist, Svenningsen researched art supply stores in Middlebury to find out where to get her materials, but found the nearest store was an hour away. That’s when she got the idea of ​​opening her own art supply store in the city.

“It just planted that seed in my head,” Svenningsen said.

She applied for a scholarship to Kick Start Middlebury, a program designed to encourage the creation of new businesses in Middlebury. The application required the creation of a business plan and thus helped turn their idea into reality.

While Svenningsen founded Sparrow Art Supply out of a need to create closer art supply options for local people, including herself, she also mentioned her goals for the store to become something bigger and more impactful.

“The idea for the store really came from a need for the creative community in the area and a desire to create a creative community hub here,” she said. Her emphasis on community has guided her approach to managing the store.

Svenningsen mentioned three main parts of their business: an art supply retail store, a gallery to showcase the work of local artists, and community events such as workshops, open drawing sessions, and club meetings. The store will stock items such as sketchbooks, oil paints, printmaking supplies and various other consumables that customers may need.

The store’s gallery features over forty works by artists in its inaugural exhibition, Nice To Meet You.

The shop also houses a gallery displaying a variety of artwork created by people from across the community. On opening night, the gallery held an exhibition titled “Nice to Meet You” featuring over forty artist work after the store had called artists.

“The idea was, ‘I’m really excited to be part of the downtown scene, wouldn’t it be fun if other artists got a chance to introduce themselves to the gallery and the community here,'” Svenningsen said. The show embodied Svenningsen’s idea of ​​community, as customers flocked to see the work.

The final pillar of Svenningsen’s vision for Sparrow Art Supply is community events, which she says are still in development but will happen in the near future. She hopes the store will be open for artist workshops, as well as open drawing sessions and club meetings. Svenningsen draws inspiration for these events from her past experiences at open drawing sessions in New York City.

“I would go with my friends or my sister and we would sit there and we would talk and we would draw separately and it was really fun,” she said.

Svenningsen has made it an important part of her business to serve the community that has influenced her preparations for the business and will continue to guide her adjustments as the business grows.

“I’m really here for feedback,” she said. “I even have one poll up on my website if anyone wants to add their two cents.”

The survey collects information on favorite brands, specific products customers would like to see in store and workshops they would like to attend to give Svenningsen a better idea of ​​what customers expect from a store like hers. That sense of inclusivity extends to the types of products she offers, from student materials to professional accessories accessible to any type of artist.

“Anyone can make art and it can be fulfilling in so many different ways, so I just hope my business can be a catalyst for that,” she said.

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While preparations for Sparrow Arts’ opening have taken many hours of Svennigsen’s life over the past few months, art continues to be a regular part of her days. As a member of the Brandon Artists’ Guild, she is currently exhibiting some of her artwork in her gallery. And a business like Sparrow Arts requires an experienced artist to manage it.

“I’m not an expert on all aspects of art, but I’m a knowledgeable person when it comes to helping people with products they want to find or when they have questions,” she said. She hopes to establish herself as a reference point for the local community, including everyone from aspiring students to multi-degree artists.

With the grand opening and store now up and running, Svenningson can focus on future plans related to community events and adapting to local feedback. As well as hosting other gallery events featuring local artists, she hopes to organize and expand public events for a wide range of Middlebury residents, possibly even Middlebury College’s own arts club.

“If they wanted to host one of their events here, I’d totally be there,” she said. “I’m really here to promote the community.”

Sparrow Arts will be open weekly Wednesday through Sunday – Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – and will expand its calendar for its rotating gallery with different types of exhibitions as well as community events. As the store evolves, Svenningsen’s initial seed, planted at the height of Covid-19, will continue to grow, although her motivation remains the same.

“I think obviously Covid-19 has been a very difficult time, but it’s made room for people to just explore what’s really important to them in life,” she said.

Emily Hogan

Emily Hogan ’24 is a layout editor.

She is not registered but is considering pursuing environmental studies with a minor in math. She is very committed to sustainability and enjoys learning to become more environmentally conscious.

A native of Denver, Colorado, Hogan enjoys skiing, hiking and running outdoors. In addition to her commitment to the campus, she is a canoe guide for the Middlebury Mountain Club and enjoys running with MiddRuns. She also enjoys reading and listening to music.

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