History of the Gallery
In 1974 Norman Ringdahl, owner of The Prints and the Potter Gallery, was a recent graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA in painting. Having worked in a gallery and frame shop in Rochester, NY, Norman returned to Worcester and was hired by the photography department of the Worcester News Recorder, a weekly newspaper. In addition, he taught art courses in the Night Life program. In this position, he met Jim and Linda Winegar and Lou D'Amico, art instructors with the Worcester Public Schools. The Winegars were creating their own line of art pottery, and together with D’Amico they were renovating an old barroom on Chandler Street into a studio and showroom where they could produce and sell their work.
Norman joined forces with these three, and when renovations were finally complete, they opened for business in November, 1974. Their gallery was originally called Chandler Street Crafts and displayed their own work, as well as that of other local craftspeople. In addition to craftworks, Norman developed the custom framing aspect of the business. Although they were small, they began a series of regular, changing exhibitions featuring functional and sculptural pottery, paintings, prints, photography, fiber, leatherwork, jewelry, batik and woodwork. Live musical performances and multi-media events were often staged to accompany the exhibition openings.
As Chandler Street Crafts continued to develop, it was soon evident that the gallery had reached its maximum potential at that location. In 1977, the gallery was moved to Park Avenue and Ringdahl became the sole proprietor of the shop, while retaining the active participation of the Winegars and D'Amico, whose studios were moved to their homes.
With the move and interior renovations ongoing, a new name emerged: The Prints and the Potter Gallery. The new gallery continued to operate under the same principles that were established at the Chandler Street location, with a growing business in custom framing and increased representation of painters, printmakers and original works crafted by American artisans.
The show schedule at The Prints and the Potter continued with regularity, and press coverage and community support were encouraging. Exhibitions varied widely, from artwork produced by local individuals and talented high school teachers to a showing of the woodblock engravings of Winslow Homer.
As additional space became available on Park Avenue, the Prints and the Potter literally broke through the wall, doubling the gallery's display area in the process. Along with the added space they achieved greater visibility with three large display windows.
Economic growth continued at a steady pace, bringing with it increased artistic representation and once again precipitating a move. In 1980, the current location at 142 Highland Street was chosen, as it offered still greater visibility and stability. Owner Norman Ringdahl recalls their success, especially in the face of the idea that "if you can succeed in the arts in Worcester, you can succeed anywhere."
In 1989 the Collector's Gallery was formed in a building adjacent to The Prints and the Potter. This gallery also adopted a constant and ongoing show schedule, with changing exhibits every six to eight weeks. A diverse range of artistic styles and media was shown with each exhibition, including "Pastoral Visions," an exhibition of color etchings by English artist Jo Barry. The Collector's Gallery's next exhibition was "That Was Then... and This Is Now," a twentieth anniversary retrospective of The Gallery. The opening took place on November 27, 1994, and it was viewed as a springboard for the years to come.
In 2014, the Prints and the Potter Gallery celebrated its 40th anniversary of bringing fine art and handmade American crafts to New England’s second largest city. Its custom picture framing division is the oldest framing shop in the city and accounts for roughly half the gallery’s business. Owner Norman Ringdahl is still very much in charge, and he is now serving second- and third-generation customers. Always involved in the local arts scene, Ringdahl has served on the Board of Directors of Arts Worcester, and has been very active in Art In the Parks and its offshoot program, Art In the Parking Lot.
Nowadays, the Prints and the Potter represents such nationally known craftspeople as master glass artist Josh Simpson, Pennsylvania potter Bill Campbell, silver jewelry designer Carolyn Zakarija, and several fine American woodworkers. A number of local craftspeople are also represented in the jewelry, pottery, glass and woodworking displays. English etcher Jo Barry is still an important presence, even after more than thirty years.
Over the years, the gallery has sponsored many exhibitions of fine art, and counts among its regular exhibitors some of New England’s foremost artists, including Michael Graves, Gerard Blouin, Allan Forrest Small, and Ringdahl himself.
The Prints and the Potter also offers both original paintings and reproduction prints by local artist Mark Waitkus, known for his watercolors of Worcester colleges and other landmarks, and who was more recently appointed official painter of the Boston Red Sox, and a licensed artist of Major League Baseball and NCAA Athletics.
The gallery’s biggest event of the year is a fall show called “Paint the Town,” in which roughly a dozen Worcester County artists are invited to exhibit paintings of Worcester and its environs. With its hometown theme, the show attracts a big crowd, including locals who might not regularly attend art openings. It features talks with the artists, refreshments, live musical entertainment by local performers, and open-air painting demonstrations. Some of the Worcester paintings are later made into limited edition art prints, which the gallery offers for sale through the year.
The Wine Vine, a gourmet shop offering fine wines, craft beers, teas, cheeses and other specialties, is the Prints and the Potter’s next door neighbor on West Street. Their Friday evening wine tastings are a popular neighborhood feature, and the Wine Vine routinely coordinates with the Prints and the Potter’s exhibition openings, doubling the festivities.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the gallery hosted a series of exhibitions and festivities in 2014. The first show, “Colors of Spring,” featured twelve Worcester area artists, and ran from May-June. The exhibit also coincided with the Wine Vine’s eighth anniversary celebration and a fundraising event that contributed to the Worcester Youth Orchestra.
June and July featured the return of two of the founding members of the gallery, potters Jim and Linda Winegar, who showed some of their new work. Their pottery was paired with paintings by Norman Ringdahl and his brother, J. R. Ringdahl, who has also served as a member of the gallery staff.
“I am proud to say that for over the forty years I’ve been in business, it has been my pleasure and good fortune to have worked with many talented staff members, skilled craftspeople and loyal customers, without whom we would not still be here. Many have become personal friends. We thank them all, and we look forward to continuing to serve them in the future.”
– Norman Ringdahl