The Art Guru, formerly located in downtown Gorham and just a short walk from campus, closed at the end of the last semester, leaving students stuck trekking into Portland for supplies. The store had been open since 2004.
The owner, Jeremy Greene, is an artist himself and a longtime member of the southern Maine art community.”The reason it’s not in business anymore is the economy, and there’s a lot less students living on the Gorham campus,” said Greene.
With most art classes based in Gorham, many of USM’s art students spend the majority of their time there. For these students, the closing of the store is a great inconvenience.
Senior sculpture major Willow Ross said the loss of the store is “devastating.” In previous years, Ross said she was able to buy most of her supplies from the Art Guru . “Everyone’s been talking about it. It’s a huge bummer,” she said. ”There are very little supplies at the school book store.”
Ross said she hoped USM could open a specified store on campus or expand their art resources in the future to remedy this loss.
USM Art Outreach Coordinator Deborah Loughlin said she is concerned for art students on campus, because they deal with large expenses. “Lab fees can run $500 a semester — one brush could be $100. The cost of making art is expensive,” She said. “There are eight full studios here in Gorham, and they require specialized materials.”
The USM shuttle bus trip from Gorham to Portland takes an estimated 45 minutes each way, an estimated hour on Saturdays and doesn’t run on Sundays. The Art Guru, in contrast, was just a 5-10 minute walk into downtown from the Art Department.
Greene said another contributor to poor business was an extensive sidewalk construction project that blocked the downtown area for almost a month. “With the construction they did on the sidewalks this summer, every business in that center took a huge hit,” Greene said. “People couldn’t get into their buildings. That was very frustrating.”
In 2008, Green’s store moved from the Gorham Village Mall to Church Street. Greene said his business took a hit soon after the move. “I definitely noticed the economy shift. It happened right when I changed location” said Greene. “The first thing that people cut from their budget is art. It’s not like gasoline or food. It’s just something that people desire.”
The closing of The Art Guru has not just deprived USM art students of a convenience, but also a helpful guide with experience in creative projects.
“It was easy to go to him with a project idea and ask him what you would need,” said Ross. “It’s a big thing with sculpture, because you may get one medium and need another one, and it’s not like you can return it. It’s experimental.”
Greene said the closing of the store has some benefits. “One of the nice things about being free from the store is that now I can teach, which is what I tried to do when I was in the store. But I found I didn’t have a lot of energy working more than 50 hours a week.”
Greene teaches mixed media art classes out of his home in Gorham. He said he is still available for some art supplies. “I am still available for framing and portfolio reviews. I can be reached by phone.”