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Fine crafts help tell New Hampshire’s story

League of New Hampshire Craftsman opens gallery at Hooksett Welcome Center

Next time you stop to gas up or grab a bite to eat at the Hooksett Welcome Center off I-93 north, check out the fine hand-made crafts at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s newest gallery.

The Hooksett gallery may be smaller than the League’s seven other galleries located throughout the state — but it is in one mighty location.

Twenty million cars stop here every year.

“We’re thrilled,” said League Executive Director Susie Lowe-Stockwell about the opportunity to open the new gallery. The Welcome Center is being developed by Alex Ray, owner of the Common Man Family of Restaurants and conference centers, and Rusty McLear, President and CEO of Hampshire Hospitality Holdings and owner of Mill Falls at the Lake.

“One of the many things that Alex and Rusty are so great about is wanting to present the New Hampshire story, and giving people a sense of what they are about to experience,” Lowe-Stockwell said. And now fine craft from juried members of this venerable guild will be part of that story.

The gallery will feature jewelry, prints and notecards, scarves and other textiles, wine glasses and pottery — inventory created by New Hampshire artisans and carefully selected to appeal to tourists and commuters shopping for gifts and souvenirs.

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation helped get the new gallery up and running.

While the Foundation does not typically provide funding for start-up projects under its regular grantmaking programs, Senior Program Officer Melinda Mosier thought that the nonprofit League’s project might dovetail perfectly with the passions and interests of some Foundation donors. Mosier worked with an anonymous donor who offered a $70,000 challenge grant to get the gallery open.

When Mosier called to tell her about the challenge grant, Lowe-Stockwell said, “I just was floored.” She said the Foundation’s “stamp of approval” helped to spur other donors — including the Duprey Companies, Mount Sunapee Resort, another anonymous donor, and the Curtis and Alice DeSouza Little Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation — to provide funding that exceeded the original challenge.

“It surely helped knowing that the Charitable Foundation was looking at this as a great economic engine as well,” Lowe-Stockwell said. “I am just so bowled over by this incredible sign of support. I think everybody will be very happy with the outcome.”

The shop promises to boost sales of crafts made by New Hampshire artists — and spur awareness of the League’s education programs and promote visits to the larger galleries around the state (Concord, Hanover, Littleton, Meredith, Nashua, North Conway and seasonally in Center Sandwich).

“The promise of it is that, over time, this gallery has the opportunity to contribute to the League’s long-term sustainability as well as provide income to individual artists around the state,” Mosier said. “And it adds a little bit more of that local flavor.”