Manchester youth art group has new home downtown

By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
Manchester - posted Fri., Dec. 20, 2013
Manchester High School junior Victoria Cirilo with her sculptures at the Dec. 5 Imagine Main Street event, at the new Young@Art studios at 54 Purnell St. Photos by Brenda Sullivan.
Manchester High School junior Victoria Cirilo with her sculptures at the Dec. 5 Imagine Main Street event, at the new Young@Art studios at 54 Purnell St. Photos by Brenda Sullivan.

The Dec. 5 "Imagine Main Street" First Thursday event was an especially exciting evening for a group called Young@Art.

Its holiday pop-up store was the first activity to be held at what will be Young@Art’s permanent home in downtown Manchester at 54 Purnell St.  The space was previously occupied by Beller’s Music, which is now located at 881 Main St.

"This space is ours," Elysia Petzold said with excitement. Petzold, a student at Manchester High School, is one of the first young artists to join Young@Art, a new grassroots organization offering mentorship, free studio space and marketing experience to young artists in the greater Manchester area.

"All of us can envision that this is going to change lives," Petzold said.

Young@Art’s co-founders, Gwyneth Amy and Chris Chaffin, were also clearly excited about the group’s new headquarters because its configuration is perfect for the group’s plans.

Besides several former practice rooms that will become individual studios, the entry area includes plenty of space for a retail store and art gallery.

Not only will this addition to downtown Manchester enrich the lives of young artists, Chaffin said, it also will add to the town’s assets.

"There’s nothing like this in the area," Chaffin said. "There are bits and pieces – art classes, school programs – but nothing this comprehensive," he said.

The idea of a program that would provide guidance and practical tools and experience for young artists had been talked about in the local art community for a while, Chaffin said, but momentum started to build after a brainstorming session with a "think tank" called CountMeIn!Hartford. (

"You pitch your idea and they mull it over and then they plug you into resources and contacts… really, since then, it’s been a flurry of growth," Chaffin said.

In the last 10 weeks, Chaffin met an artist who would become co-founder of the group and will direct its activities, Gwyneth Amy; several young artists began working with a local restaurant, Los Sarapes at 697 Main St., to design and paint murals on its walls; donations have begun to come in; and now – with the help of downtown property owner John Lee and Imagine Main Street Board of Directors Chair Stephen Gates – Young@Art has a home.

Plans are to solicit more community involvement and to reach out to young artists – or what the founders like to call "creatives" – not only in Manchester, but surrounding towns such as Bolton, Vernon, South Windsor and others, Chaffin said.

Besides being offered free materials and work space, young artists will work in the retail area in order to learn business skills, and professional artists in the area will share their techniques and advice as mentors. Visitors will be able to observe and talk with the young artists, as well, during open studio hours.

Membership in Young@Art will be open to an age group of 15 to 25, although anyone interested should contact Amy or Chaffin regardless of age, they said.

Amy said she decided to take a leadership role in this endeavor because, "I’m a professional artist, I’ve lived in Manchester my whole life and I am supportive of young artists – so, this just clicked with me."

Chaffin, a Manchester High School graduate, said this group could become a model for other towns.  "What we’re offering is an opportunity to learn skills artists don’t even learn in college, real-world skills, from business cards to money management to customer service to marketing. Just like ‘Imagine Main Street’ offers help to businesses to give them a leg up, that’s what Young@Art will do for young artists," Chaffin said.

As for what’s next, Amy and Chaffin said they are looking for mentors, supplies for renovating the new space, artists’ materials and especially, grant writers.

For more information about Young@Art, write to To view some of the co-founders’ artwork, visit and

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