By Chad Ingram
“Burnout” says Erin Lynch explaining the decision to close the Art Hive along Highway 118 in Algonquin Highlands. “Predominantly it’s burnout.”
For more than nine years the Art Hive Maple Lake Artisans Collective has been showing and selling the work of Haliburton County artists.
The model required that artists who wanted to display their work put in volunteer hours working the shop.
“This place was an artist-run centre” Lynch says. “There’s usually someone paid to organize them. Everything here was volunteer-run.”
In the end it came down to not enough members having the time or the energy for things to carry on.
“The Art Hive is not just me” says Lynch who owns and lives in the historic general store building that’s served as the home of the Hive. “It was a group decision as things have changed in people’s lives. A lack of energy resources combined with some challenging economic times.”
Priorities for some members have changed some wanting to go into just exhibiting.
“That spreads things too thin” Lynch says.
Others have had illnesses in their families and circumstances for Lynch herself have changed quite substantially.
For the past year she’s been employed as a studio technician at Fleming College.
When the Art Hive held its annual general meeting in October its 10 members decided that a recruitment drive was necessary. While that effort was successful in attracting five or six new members Lynch says at the end of the proverbial day there was still not going to be sufficient resources.
Along with working in the shop collective members also sat on various committees.
“Marketing maintenance finance” Lynch says listing off committee responsibilities. “Marketing is huge. It’s the biggest part of the business.”
The Art Hive had received some funding in the past but Lynch said that criteria at organizations such as the Ontario Trillium Foundation had changed so that the Hive was no longer eligible.
Its sales were not quite enough to get assistance from the Ontario Arts Council.
“Even still [if we got funding] it’s getting the energy” Lynch says. ‘The summer is really challenging because we’re open seven days a week. I’d rather go when things are good.”
When Lynch posted the group’s decision to discontinue the Art Hive on social media last week it evoked an outpouring of sadness from the community.
“No words . . . you will be missed very much” wrote one resident.
“I’m so sorry to hear this” wrote another. “I recently discovered the Art Hive and enjoyed a few of the workshops. You’ll be missed.”
Along with acting as a gallery and shop the Hive also routinely put on workshops and provided a venue for various performances.
“It was a platform to enact creative fantasy” Lynch says.
One year at the Hive’s annual Fashion Fallies a wearable art fashion show artist Kathleen Atkinson-Hindle notably wore a dress made of cabbage.
Lynch says she’s been having mixed emotions ready to move on to the next chapter of her life but also nostalgic.
“I read those emails and get teary” she says.
Lynch will be putting the building up for sale likely in the spring.
“For entrepreneurs it’s fantastic opportunity” she says noting that it includes the store living space and a workshop.
During its nearly decade-long run the Art Hive received a number of awards including from the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce and the Arts Council Haliburton Highlands.
The Art Hive’s last day of operation will be this Saturday Jan. 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Resident are invited to stop in and enjoy light refreshments.
“The Art Hive was great thing and provided many artists an interesting venue” Lynch says. “There was mentorship for emerging artists and a sense of community. For customers it was the only place that sold exclusively Haliburton County artwork. The end of an era.”