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LaBelle Winery ventures into art

If making great wine in New Hampshire wasn’t enough for the success story of LaBelle Winery, located at 345 Route 101 in Amherst, they always added a brush stroke or two, in the form of featuring art on display that the public may purchase.

Now Amy Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Framing and Fine Art Gallery (15 N. Amherst Road, Bedford), has partnered with the winery, managing the galleries in Amherst and in the LaBelle’s Portsmouth location.

Blending wine and art seems like an obvious choice, noted Michelle Thornton, LaBelle director of marketing and business development.

“Amy [LaBelle, namesake of the winery] has always loved the arts,” said Thornton. “She was actually a ballet dancer. And she is obviously into the culinary arts, and consumable arts. So, when she opened LaBelle, she felt very strongly about representing all types of art, especially the visual arts. And the galleries were something that she had planned right from the get-go.”

Thornton went on to say that Amy LaBelle wanted the visual art on the wall as an enriching experience.

“She’s really into the educational part as well,” added Thornton. “It’s to open a dialogue, to allow someone to see something different, in support of all artists.”

Of the partnership with Sullivan, Amy LaBelle, said, “Amy was a natural choice for us. Her attention to detail, artistic eye, relationships with and support for artists as well as her ability to operate a thriving business was just what we were looking for. We know she will curate and manage LaBelle’s art shows with the same attention and commitment to excellence and diversity that our gallery patrons have come to expect.”

Sullivan said she was contacted earlier this year and asked if she would like to create exhibits for local artists at the winery.

“It’s a beautiful, great space,” Sullivan said. “We just knew that our art could enhance the space even more and would be a wonderful backdrop for the artwork and the artists that we already showcase at the gallery.”

The idea of tasting wine, and viewing art appealed to everyone in involved, from curator to owner to guest.

“Our tour guides, who give tours here, have been educated by Amy [Sullivan] and they share that with everyone,” said Thornton. “There is definitely some synergy between the consumption of art, and visually looking at paintings. They’re both things that are crafted and created by an artisan.”

The other side of that, added Thornton, is education.

“When we’re giving a tour, we’re talking about how the wine is made,” she said. “Why our vines look the way they do, all the methods used in the winemaking process, but then when you look at art, you don’t want to just say, ‘here is art.’ People want more information. In education, the goal at LaBelle winery is that our guest has left with something more than what they came with and the art on the walls, and the partnership with Amy Sullivan helps with that, and gives that guest a better understanding of art, of wine, of vineyards, of the culinary experience.”

The galleries at LaBelle is the first time that Sullivan has shown art outside of their own gallery.

“This is the first time that we’ve partnered with another business to do this,” Sullivan said. “We have about two dozen artists that we show regularly within our gallery. We think that’s the right number for us to hold onto. At the same time, our gallery space is quite small, so we’re constantly shifting exhibits, so this allows us to have additional space. All of the artists that we have are New Hampshire artists and while they’re established, they’re always eager to find other places to show their work. And we think LaBelle is the perfect place.”

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