At the tender age of three I moved from the city of Medford to, what my grandma Nora use to call the sticks, Billerica. Sixteen years later I married and was off to explore new lands, returning only to visit my parents. Another sixteen years pass and as fate would have it I found myself back in Billerica. Already an established artist working from my home studio, sending my art out to galleries, collecting royalties through my New York art publisher and enjoying doing what I love, creating art.
Shortly after moving back home I saw a notice in the local paper offering grants from the Billerica Arts Council. Having never written a grant before, I decided to jump in and explore. My efforts paid off and I received my first funding to create what was to be the first of many Billerica paintings and limited edition lithographs. Billerica being more of a sports town rather than a cultural town, I had many naysayers who thought signed and numbered prints would not be a big seller. I, however, believed our town pride would say differently. I set up a booth at Yankee Doodle Homecoming. The day before the weekend a photo of my new lithograph depicting our town center graced the cover of our local paper. The next morning, when the parade was over, the town pride I believed in, descended on my booth and there I sold half the edition for a total day sale of one hundred prints. The remainder of the edition sold out in less than a year. Repeatedly people approached me, “Colleen what are you going to paint next?” I began to see how my art could make a difference in our town. Each year following I created a new painting along with limited editions that would benefit a different organization in town.
The truth that “in giving we receive” became so clear as I began to share my vision of a gallery and art center with my community friends. Sandy Wilson from the Enterprise Bank said, “Colleen, I want to make this happen for you”, and I got a loan to open Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes at Faulkner Mills. Then again, two years later, when I was going through some personal hard times, Fred Ciampa, CPA offered me space in his building for a third of what I was paying at the Mills, which enabled me to stay open and continue to offer art and classes to the families in our community.
I receive such joy knowing that adults and children are discovering their own creative expressions through the teaching artists at my art center. I am honored to have my art displayed in so many businesses and homes in our town. Most of all I am thankful for a hometown that has embraced my art, and me, the artist, helping me to see that “giving is the gift”. To quote Vincent Van Gogh, “The more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”
Colleen is the owner of Colleen Sgroi Gallery & Art Classes at 12 Andover Road in Billerica Center. You can see more about Colleen’s gallery and classes at www.ColleenSgroi.com.