She stood at the center of the room and smiled. People brushed her shoulders as they milled about the gallery with price lists in hand. It was the first time Sarah Tarpley, 28, of Beflast had exhibited her art, and she wasn’t the only one.
At the opening of the third annual “44N 69W: Radius Belfast” Friday at the Aarhus Gallery, 159 pieces of artwork were on display from floor to ceiling. Each painting, sculpture, collage and drawing was made by a different set of hands, and each of the 159 artists lives within 30 miles of Belfast.
“It’s just wonderful that we have so much talent in a 30-mile radius of Belfast,” Tarpley said.
Tarpley, who suffers from chronic tremors, started painting two years ago as a way to relax the tension in her muscles. Her exhibited piece, “Mystic Flowers,” is an eerie white and black acrylic flower over a watercolor sunset.
It will be on display at the “Radius” exhibit until March 27, then the artists’ $5 entrance fee and 20 percent of the money from artwork sales will go to Good Shepherd Food Bank to be distributed to food pantries in the Belfast area. Last year, the gallery raised about $1,200 for food pantries.
“In the dark of winter, it’s a good time to do something like this because after the holidays, people forget, and pantries run dry,” said Ingrid Ellison, one of the eight Aarhus artists.
Artists of any experience and age could submit artwork of any medium and size to the exhibit.
“I think we have ages 5 to 91,” said Aarhus artist Willy Reddick.
For those at the reception who were looking to purchase some artwork, the diversity of style and content meant there was something for everyone.
A grape of purple glass on a tile mosaic by Teresa Vandrey of Searsport hung on the wall surrounded by artwork from floor to ceiling. An oil painting of a sleeping pig, “Pig Dreams” by Susan Renee Lammers of Bucksport, was displayed not far from a contemporary oil painting “Nirvana” of orange, organic shapes broken up into four wood panels by Ben Hall of Belfast.
On a shelf with earrings made of split pool balls was “Be a Gardener,” a photo booklet by Marian Fowler of Belfast. She felt proud to show a book in which she combined photos of her toddler grandson helping in the garden with a poem by the mystic nun Julian of Norwich, she said.
“Anyone can enter, and they’re more than happy to put it up and put a price on it,” Fowler said. “It’s just such a wonderful thing. And it’s giving people a place to put their work.”
Though many inexperienced artists were excited to have their artwork exhibited at Aarhus, plenty of people in the crowd were well-known, professional artists and crafters.
Ed Moffitt of Stockton Springs has been showing his portraits and organic shapes in charcoal and graphite up and down the East Coast for the past 20 years and has a studio in Belfast. But it was the first time he has participated in the “Radius” show.
“It’s astounding — such a diversity of work, so many ideas, mediums and people,” Moffitt said. “And I know three-quarters of the people here. It’s a social occasion. We need this after a hard winter.”
A group of four local artists who often exhibit together and see one another at craft shows met at the reception to have refreshments and view the artwork together. The artists — Sandy Dolan of Searsport, Dianne Horton of Swanville, Rainy Brooks of Searsport and Betsy Headley of Belfast — each had a piece on the wall.
On the price list, there were artists from Washington, St. George, Waldoboro, Jackson, Morrill, Monroe, Brooks, Sorrento, Blue Hill, Owls Head and Rockland.
The gallery has organized the exhibit for the past three years, and it was popular from the start. In the first “Radius Belfast,” 175 people participated.
“It’s great fun. It makes for a great party,” said photographer Johan Selmer-Larson of Freedom, who called the Aarhus Gallery “a mini New York city” for its ability to bring the arts alive. “These guys are a sensation around here.”
The Aarhus Gallery was opened at 50 Main St. in Belfast by a group of artists in the winter of 2007 and is run by eight artists: Ingrid Ellison, Willy Reddick, Wesley Reddick, Abbie Read, Richard Mann, Annadeene Fowler, Mark Kelly and Kevin Johnson.
“[Aarhus Gallery] is such a wonderful asset to the community,” said Betty Schopmeyer, director of the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. “This is such an interesting variety.”
Schopmeyer entered a mixed-media collage of letters and blocks and sells her jewelry at the gallery on a regular basis. She also attends special events at Aarhus such as a reading of “Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices” by Dylan Thomas on Feb. 20.
The Aarhus artists spent the Monday through Wednesday arranging the 159 pieces on the walls and shelves of the gallery. They placed the pieces on the hardwood floor and grouped them based on subject or color.
On opening night Friday, the center of the left wall of the gallery was aglow with paintings of bright, rich colors. And a section on the right wall clearly was designated for animals, with a wood mosaic wolf pointed toward a photo of a house cat lined up beside a photo of a lion and a larger-than-life crow in dark oil paint. A few feet down the wall, accompanied by organic compositions painted by her neighbors, was Tarpley’s flower.
The Aarhus Gallery is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. For information, visit www.aarhusgallery.com or call 338-0001.