HALLOWELL — An artist always starts with a blank canvas, and that is what a prominent Water Street venue will have starting next week.

The Harlow Gallery is moving from one end of the street’s busy downtown area to the intersection of Water and Winthrop streets for what Executive Director Deb Fahy said was a new beginning with limitless potential.

“Our reputation as a venue in the Maine arts world has grown considerably, and our reputation was way bigger than our space,” Fahy said Thursday during a tour of the new space. “There was only so much programming we could do (in the current space) because it’s one small space, but this move is a game changer.”

The Kennebec Valley Arts Association, the nonprofit organization that runs the gallery, will host a “blank canvas” open house at the new location, 100 Water St., from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 8. The new space, on the street’s east side, also will house a pop-up art show for six weeks starting Sept. 23. Fahy said the current gallery space will continue to operate until early 2018, when operations will move to the new building.

The new building has two floors of potential gallery space, a second-floor office for Fahy and other staff members, a small kitchen area and a bathroom. The building will be made Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant with the construction of a ramp outside and the installation of a wheelchair lift, but Fahy isn’t sure when that work will be completed.

Fahy said the expansion was a necessity because of the organization’s growth. When she started more than 13 years ago, there were fewer than 100 members, one employee and a $30,000 budget. Now the group has more than 300 members, four staffers and a budget of $130,000. Renovating the current building, which the nonprofit owns and might sell, would cost more than the building is worth, she said.

Geoff Haughton, who owns the Liberal Cup, and a business partner are the Harlow’s new landlords. He said the new location is a gateway to downtown from the north and the west, and it will send a message to passersby that Hallowell has a vibrant art scene.

“Maybe it will become a little cultural district in and of itself, as it complements the musical events that happen in the same area,” he said via text message. “We are very pleased to play a role in keeping the Harlow Gallery where they belong and where they’ve been for their long existence.”

The landlords are taking care of some minor renovations and work to the building, and the nonprofit will pay a favorable rate in exchange for a 10-year lease. Haughton said it’s a beneficial partnership for both parties.

There will be many more options for programming in the new location, Fahy said. No longer will the staff have to work around things when setting up for a workshop or class. There’s even a sink to clean paintbrushes and other materials.

Fahy said the gallery’s programming throughout the year should pay for the rent easily; and any additional money, including potential proceeds from the sale of the Harlow’s current building, will act as the nonprofit’s first endowment, which is something it’s never had.

“In 50 years, we’ve never had a chunk of money we could fall back on during hard times, so this is a win-win,” she said. “When you have a 50-year-old organization, there’s a lot of tradition and history, so this is a big deal.

The board was committed to remaining in Hallowell, but Fahy said other towns were considered before the agreement was made to relocate the gallery to the other end of Water Street’s downtown area. The move comes as Hallowell’s downtown prepares to undergo a huge transformation next year when the Department of Transportation carries out a multimillion-dollar reconstruction of a stretch of Water Street.

Mayor Mark Walker said the gallery’s move is just another example of Hallowell’s continued desire to move forward as a city.

“I think it will be a centerpiece, and it’s great for the Harlow and the city,” the mayor said. “The infrastructure and the look of downtown is going to be so much better.”

Walker said having the Harlow move to that spot is a perfect resolution to getting that central location filled and meeting the gallery’s needs.

“I’m thrilled that it worked out,” Walker said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

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Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ