PITTSTON — The city has become well known for its various displays of artwork over the last several years, and at the center of it was Maria Livrone and Bill Zack with their business Art on Main.
A staple in the community, Maria and Bill dedicated much of their time to displaying their own artwork, and the artwork of others in the storefront. But the two recently decided to close the shop to focus on their own artwork with their business Whimsy & the Welder.
Art on Main’s last business day was Dec. 30.
“We’ve always put our work second because with the gallery comes a lot of responsibility, especially for this one,” Livrone said. “It wasn’t just the responsibility of taking care of our work, but the work of about 50 other artists, and that’s a big responsibility for me and Bill. So, we thought after seven years here that it was time to put our work first.”
The Plains Township residents have operated several galleries over the last 30 years in Plains Township, Wilkes-Barre and Georgetown.
They came to Pittston after Kathleen Goodwin, who was operating Arts Seen Gallery at the time, asked the duo if they wanted to take it over.
“Kathleen was moving was to New York and she asked if I wanted to take over both Arts Seen Galleries — this one and the one in Wilkes-Barre,” Livrone said. “I knew the one in Wilkes-Barre, at the drop of the hat, would be asked to move because that was the condition for moving into that. Pittston, I liked it, I felt a good vibe here, and at first I said no but then I said only in Pittston.”
The name was changed to Art on Main, and the storefront focused on displaying and selling both Livrone and Zack’s work, but also the work of local artists.
Livrone said she did a 70/30 deal when she sold other artists’ work, meaning the artist would get 70 percent of the proceeds.
“I have always wanted to help artists get started or have them make money,” Livrone said. “I always shunned being a nonprofit. We have to prove to people that being an artists doesn’t mean starving. I was always concerned about them making money.”
Often on display was Livrone’s glass work and work by locals such as wood work by Sonny Jones, photos by Bob Price and Diane Cosgrove, and jewelry by Adele Reilly.
Other artists from throughout Pennsylvania, Livrone said, are from the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and artists she participated with in shows.
“I’ve never had to ask (artists to sell their work here),” she said. “In fact I’ve had to turn away, because we didn’t have enough wall space.”
On top of displaying art work in the storefront, Livrone also collaborated with the city on the Second Friday Art Walk, which she said started in the gallery.
She approached mayor-elect Michael Lombardo and former Main Street Manager Rose Randazzo about the idea, but they felt the city wasn’t ready for an art walk.
Livrone held it in the storefront its first year, and was then approached by Lombardo and Randazzo about making it bigger the following year.
Livrone took on the role of organizing visual artists and bringing them to the event, a role she recently relinquished to Mary Kroptavich. Joleen Lazecki is also taking over as a coordinator with the event.
“I am confident that, even though I’ve stepped down from my position, that it’ll continue to grow,” she said. “As long as we have a presence in Pittston, I’ll always be here for guidance. But, it’s time for new minds to take it over.”
With Art on Main closing, a new business will take its place and be an artists co-op in spring. Livrone said she doesn’t know the specifics of who will take over at this time.
With Art on Main no longer on their plate, Zack and Livrone will focus on Whimsy & the Welder, their own art making studio which will be located on Wharf Street.
Their primary focus is on welding art and glass work.
Some of the public displays of their work include the metal crossing guards on South Main Street and the metal flowers outside the apartment complex and Sunday Dispatch office at 71 N. Main St.
Livrone said much more art will be displayed in the coming months.
Despite their niche for art, Livrone and Zack weren’t brought together through it.
The couple has been together for 30 years and met at Odyssey Fitness Center in Wilkes-Barre, where Livrone was a manager and Zack was working out.
“Bright and early, 6 o’clock every morning he was there,” Livrone said.
The two fell in love, and Livrone’s love of art caught on with Zack. The two took a welding class in Lancaster, and she noticed he was very good with it.
She convinced him to quit his job working with Lumber Liquidators, and the two got into the field of art together.
With a bright future ahead with Whimsy & the Welder, Livrone and Zack are excited for what comes next.
“We’re grateful for having had the opportunity, and it’s absolutely through the city and Rose and Michael,” Livrone said. ” This is a beautiful place to have a gallery. We’re looking forward to creating, creating, creating and smiling all the time.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher