If you weren’t looking for White Water Gallery, you probably wouldn’t notice it. The place is in a low-slung, asphalt-shingled building known as the “old meat lockers” in the sleepy hamlet of East Hardwick. In the 1950s and ’60s, locals stored their sides of beef in the freezers or lockers in the walkout basement.
These days, the two-room space houses an unlikely combination: an antique Ford car collection and a gallery space with rotating exhibits of local artists. White Water Gallery — so named because of the dramatic, rocky falls of the Lamoille River a stone’s throw away — offers what proprietor James Teuscher calls a “double package”: cars and art.
A sculptor, welder and blacksmith himself, the gallerist also happens to be a Ford enthusiast. The front room of White Water features “Teuscher’s Antique Auto Enclave,” which consists of a 1937 Model V60 — he claims it’s the precursor to the PT Cruiser — and a 1930 Model A Ford that was once a taxi in Uruguay.
On Sundays, when the gallery is open, Teuscher drives from his home in Walden into the village in one of his other two old vehicles — a “doodlebug,” a World War II-era tractor made from a Ford truck; and a 1928 Ford hot rod. At 1 p.m., he gives “a car talk” as part of the weekly open house.
“We live in a car culture; we all have a car story,” Teuscher says. “Cars are art — look at the sculpture on that hood,” he adds, pointing at the Model A. “You see this car and you get a sense of what the 1930s were like.”
Teuscher’s enthusiasm for his antique vehicles (he likes to talk about how the “drive trains” — the engine, transmission and differential — were interchangeable in Ford vehicles from 1932 to ’57) is matched by his passion for fine art. He can’t help sneaking a few of his own sculptures into the car-museum portion of the gallery. Several of Teuscher’s “Crosses” — enormous, Claes Oldenburg-esque railroad spikes augmented with cross pieces — line the walls. Sitting in one corner is “Torso,” a tree trunk pierced by railroad spikes and a large iron ring.
Beyond the car museum is an anteroom that Teuscher calls his “Peep Show,” where he exhibits work by local photographers. On view until July 1 are Burlington-based singer/guitarist Rick Norcross’ shots of famous musicians in the 1960s, taken when he was a music critic for the Tampa Times. Most of the 50 prints are from newspaper clippings about the stars of the era, including Robert Plant, Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and B.B. King. Next month, the “Peep Show” will feature Johnson State College art prof Victoria Patrick Zolnoski’s pre-Raphaelite-style portraits of women.
The large back room is exclusively devoted to works by local artists; until July 1, these are Nancy Schade (stylized, romanticized landscapes); Carol Drury (dark, abstracted landscapes); and Colleen Flanagan (portraits in marker and acrylic). Next month, White Water will feature Ellis Jacobson’s masks.
Teuscher says he launched the gallery two years ago to give area artists more exposure. He doesn’t take a commission for works sold at White Water; instead, he asks artists to contribute 20 percent of their sales to NEKArts, a Hardwick-based community arts nonprofit.
Though White Water was initially open only in the summer, this year Teuscher has decided to keep the gallery open through the winter. He’ll exhibit his private art collection, most of which he’s amassed through trades with local artists. If his current assembly of sculptures, paintings, photographs, cars, “erotic” hub caps and license plates is any indication, it’s sure to be an eclectic collection worth seeing.