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Sweet Mabel Offers Art and Crafts with a Unique Local Flavor

By Marina Jokic

Tracy Tumolo and her husband used to be graphic artists, but twelve years ago, life took them on a different path. The company where they worked at the time was growing rapidly and called for Tumolo and her husband to move down South.

"We weren't excited about moving, and serendipitously, my grandfather's former barber shop, [which was still owned by] my family, [became] available," Tumolo said. "With so many artistically talented friends, we decided to stay put and [open] an art gallery."

The mission of Sweet Mabel is to be as accessible and open to the public as possible. Welcoming all kinds of people through its doors, the gallery has something for everyone. There is folk art from the U.S. and Nova Scotia, pottery, glass, jewelry, lamps, and clocks, and a lot of the works are made with found objects. For instance, some of the jewelry is assembled from typewriter keys, while some purses are crafted from truck tire inner tubes.

"Our motto is 'art doesn't have to be serious' [which means that art] should be accessible to everyone," Tumolo said. "We have been unassuming art collectors for years and were always disappointed by galleries that snubbed us when we walked in off the street."

From serious art collectors to dilettantes, Sweet Mabel is frequented by all kinds of people, and its inventory of works is diverse and engaging. The adjacent store has a colorful and unique catalogue of souvenirs as well as functional and wearable art.

"The store is a very uplifting and colorful space, welcoming kids, dogs, drippy ice cream cones and beers from next door," Tumolo said. "We have First Friday celebrations where people of all ages pack in to drink, eat, dance and sing, [and] it's beautiful."

Initially, the gallery acquired mainly outsider art, but realized over time that they should take advantage of the rich local arts scene. Soon enough, Sweet Mabel began showcasing more local art, eventually evolving into an American art and craft gallery with an eye for local artists that captured the unique spirit of the region. At Sweet Mabel, you will be greeted by friendly faces and you'll enjoy the panoply of diverse art styles and mediums.

"We've learned over the years that attractive, tranquil work has more appeal here than anything urban or edgy, so we try to accommodate," Tumolo said.

Every month, Sweet Mabel features an artist or a group of artists who share an overarching theme as a way to focus their exhibits. Whether it's professional artists or those just beginning to dabble in the arts, the gallery encourages people to submit their work. If their work makes the cut and the audience is taken with it, Tumolo grants a month-long exhibition with a first Friday debut.

Sweet Mabel is also rented out for kids' birthday parties, with shelves of creative materials at their disposal. Children can repurpose discarded objects into fabulous works of art such as race cars, wind chimes, birdhouses, Barbie garden fairies, and dream catchers to name a few. The gallery also has parties for adults and hosts open studio and workshops such as Mosaic Mirrors or Paint Your Pet's Portrait.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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