When Rockport artist David Arsenault and his wife, Rev. Sue Koehler-Arsenault, opened a gallery in March 2015, they felt like they were in an ideal place to share his light-filled, colorful work. Now in their fifth year and at a location just 200 yards away from the first, it appears as if they were right.
In the half-decade since Arsenault sold his first Cape Ann oil painting, the Old Garden Road-inspired “Swaying in Time”, he and his wife have not only sold over 1100 works of art, but they have become active contributors to the Cape Ann community.
“It was important to us when we opened the gallery to do two things: to be able to help support local non-profits and to make David’s work accessible to people across many income levels,” says his wife, Sue. “We both feel so fortunate to live here on Cape Ann. Every day we are aware of the beauty that surrounds us and feel grateful to be part of such a supportive art community. We have made so many friends here and have been delighted to meet people who come to Rockport from all over the world.”
To celebrate their success since opening, the Arsenaults will host a 5th Anniversary Party over Illuminations Weekend on Friday, Aug. 9th from 5-8 p.m. at their 8 Dock Square gallery in Rockport. Local favorites Jace Mason and Rhiannon Hurst will entertain guests with jazz guitar and vocals. And a 24” x 18” canvas giclee print of Arsenault’s latest Motif painting, “Mirror Motif” will be raffled in support of the Open Door, the same non-profit they supported during their Grand Opening Celebration in 2014. Raffle tickets may be purchased at the gallery or online at artofdavid.com/more-art.
The gallery has supported dozens of non-profits, ranging from the Open Door to Rockport Illuminations to the First Congregational Church of Rockport’s Steeple Fund to the Thacher Island Association to Senior Care, raising thousands of dollars.
After working 20 years in his private upstate New York studio, Arsenault shares “When we first opened the doors, I wondered what it would be like to try to paint while also welcoming guests. Now I sit right in the front window! What I learned is that when people see some of their favorite Rockport and Gloucester places depicted in my artwork, they come in and open up to share favorite memories and thoughts and feelings about themselves and Cape Ann. It’s a privilege to experience people reflecting on their lives simply because they connect with something they see or feel in my art. Since opening the gallery, I’ve met thousands of fascinating people and had some of the most interesting conversations of my life here. It’s been more fun than I ever imagined.”
Like many artists who have called Cape Ann home or visited, Arsenault ultimately felt compelled to try his hand at painting the iconic Motif No.1. “It is has been painted so often and by so many of the greats. I wondered how I could approach it in a way that I had not seen done before.” His first Motif painting, entitled “Center of Attention” achieved his goal. The oil painting was acquired by local collectors, and Arsenault has now sold over two hundred canvas giclée prints of the image as well. When Rockport innkeepers decided to publish a cookbook, “Center of Attention” was chosen for the cover.
Since that first Motif painting, Arsenault has decided to paint a different view of the Motif each year. His second Motif painting, “Taking the Other Side” (2016) was featured on the poster for the 2017 Motif No.1 Day Festival. Other Motif paintings have included “SuperMoon and Motif” (2017), “Christmas Motif” (2018) and his most recent, “Mirror Motif” (2019). Why keep painting it? “What I intend to do is continue to discover meaning and beauty in something so familiar—and beloved—by so many. It will keep me growing as a human being who’s also an artist and observer of the world I live in and love. The truth is, if an artist can’t find inspiration on Cape Ann, even in the ordinary, then you won’t see it anywhere.”
Looking back over the last five years, Arsenault notes a number of highlights: “Being juried into the Rockport Art Association the first year I applied…A visit from (and art sold to) Grammy-winning singer Sam Smith…Watching the Christmas Tree lighting and Declaration of Independence reading outside my gallery…Meeting and making friends with so many quality people. More than anything, the joy of knowing that an individual has come in to see my work, made a personal connection to something I created, and is willing to invest their money—whether twenty dollars or ten thousand dollars—to bring it home is a feeling I can’t quite explain. It’s a blessing I hope to experience for the rest of my life.”