+ By Andrea Stuart  + Photos by Mark Peria

Wooden moons hover just above eye level while wall-sized paintings stare at passersby with an air of suspended animation, offering layers of vibrant colors and wild textures. Places like FINART are redefining this hamlet by the sea, seeding Annapolis’ reputation as an art hub.

FINART, the brainchild of artist Charles Lawrance, came to the Annapolis Arts District four and a half years ago, after previously residing in Fells Point, Baltimore. Lawrance planted his space at 214 West Street with the intention of rooting down and growing. In 2015, after watching the art scene grow, he helped create and manage 45, a pop-up gallery housed at 45 West Street. “45 held 11 Maryland artists, went for 6 months, and was very successful,” says Lawrance.

The pop-up’s popularity inspired Lawrence to shift gears. He turned his West Street FINART space into FINART Gallery, a multiple-local-artist showcase featuring paintings, drawings, sculptures, pottery, glass works, and prints. Everything about the space is a product of art. The front of the building features a seascape painted by Lawrance. FINART’s sign is a repurposed Ritz Camera store sign that was collected from a store that closed. Artist Haha worked with Lawrance to turn the E into an F and the Z into an N, and Gaylord Livingston fabricated the final sign. 

While Lawrance was recreating FINART gallery, 11 Madison Avenue opened up. Lawrance saw an opportunity for growth in the Arts District by forming a collaborative artist workspace, which he named Studio 11. It is meant to feel much like an artist’s residency, offering space away from usual work environments and obligations and allowing artists to offer demonstrations and classes as well as to work on current projects. Its funky, free-spirited atmosphere is partly due to its bones belonging to a house that has been converted into a communal workspace. The artists at Studio 11 pulled together to carve out this creative space since these kinds of environments are rare in Annapolis.

The affiliated artists work at both spaces. At FINART, patrons can watch artists in action and engage in conversation with them while they create. At Studio 11, artists can work in a private space while spreading their creative wings. Once a work is completed at Studio 11, it can be showcased at FINART Gallery.

Mark Peria, proprietor of Markedcanvas and one of the artists in residence, values the collaboration with Lawrance. “I enjoyed [the 45 West] pop-up so much, and I wanted to rekindle the time we had [there],” he says. “Working around other great artists helps inspire me. They all push me to do better and to make more art.

When Lawrance approached fellow artist Eric Roberge to join Studio 11, Roberge didn’t need a work space, as his projects are relatively small, so he painted two of the larger rooms in Studio 11 in exchange for gallery space at FINART. “I love being around all the other artists,” says Roberge. “A lot of us artists are unconventional, and it’s nice to have a space for unique art.”

FINART GALLERY ARTISTS: 1: Charles Lawrance | Painter, Found Object Sculpture 2 Nevan & Doug Wise of Printemps Pottery | Potters 3 Mark Peria | Painter, Photographer 4 Rachel Fry , Photographer 5 Stewart Weiss | Painter, Sculpture 6:  Eric Roberge | Oyster & Crab Shell Painter 7:  Michelle Jones of Lillie Pad Studios | Glass Works 8: Haha | Painter, Guitar Picksilations 9 Chris Pagent | Painter, Sculpture
 10:  Jah-Haha Collaborative art | Collaborative paintings by Jeff Huntington and Haha

See more work at  www.finartannapolis.com