By JOHN T. WARD
She’s known, at least to redbankgreen readers, as the artist who transformed Sea Bright’s downtown bus stop into a trompe l’oeil beach cottage. She’s also been known to help tastefully yarn-bomb locations around town.
Megan Gilhool continues to knit, and said she plans to reprise her bus stop masterpiece, now that the Ocean Avenue enclosure destroyed by Hurricane Sandy has been rebuilt.
In the meantime, though, she’s settled into the life of storefront merchant-slash-curator, running the ArtSea Gallery on Ocean Avenue in a space occupied, pre-Sandy, by a dry-cleaning shop.
Gilhool jokes that at age 59 “and holding,” the “real reason” she opened ArtSea late in 2013 is that “I was getting too old to climb ladders” for her mural work. But the real real reason is that she believes she can make a go of it as the proprietor of a for-profit gallery that features the work of New Jersey artists and doubles as classroom space where kids get their creative impulses nurtured.
“Art is a tough sell,” Gilhool admits. But she figures that by offering jewelry, knitting classes, fresh flowers and BYOB rentable party space, she can bring in enough traffic to benefit the artists whose work adorns the walls.
The ArtSea facade, with frequent use of the sidewalk out front by chalk artists, adds color and panache to downtown that recently got an overall freshening-up, courtesy of a paint company. Inside, a recent afternoon at the gallery featured a series of “pour painting” demonstration classes. Live music isn’t uncommon. Later this summer, Gilhool hopes to organize a mermaid parade in town.
The artwork includes several paintings of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge, including one or two by artist Hunter McKee, as well as a 65-pound bronze bust of Albert Einstein.
On display with the art is Gilhool’s mordant humor. Speaking of a sculpture of stacked LED lights that she was planning to put out in front of the store, she said, “it’ll be there permanently – until somebody buys it or destroys it.”
Can an art gallery make it in a relatively quiet shore town?
“I think we have a shot,” said Gilhool. “I think people are ready for this.”