CANTON — Vicki Boatright isn’t a newcomer to the downtown Canton art scene.
A popular painter known for depicting cats, she’s worked out of multiple studios and locations over the course of more than a decade.
But through changes and the daunting challenges of the pandemic, Boatright’s passion for art has not waned.
More proof is the opening of BZTAT Studios at 209 Sixth St. NW.
Collaborators in the new art space are photographer Aimee Lambes and Neil Weakland, who is moving The CUT Cinema, a small theater specializing in independent films, from the former Vital Arts Gallery space to BZTAT Studios.
Boatright creates art under the name of BZTAT.
Plans for a soft opening during February’s First Friday activities were cancelled due to the weather. Boatright admitted the studio space is a work in progress.
Her full-time job is at Just Imagine Gift Gallery in downtown Canton, where she oversees the gallery and art program for adults with developmental disabilities.
Starting in March, hours at BZTAT Studios will be 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Movies are expected to be shown from 6 to10 p.m. Fridays starting in late April or early May, Boatright said.
“Vicki invited me, and I was hoping to continue the theater, as it had a small following, and I was told by the community that they liked having an indie theater in the arts district,” Weakland said.
“There will be weekly screenings,” he added. “We will continue to show pre-distribution films, foreign films, local films, and old classics.”
Updates on BZTAT Studios will be posted at www.facebook.com/bztatstudios.
“With this venture, I’m really working hard to make sure we get all the business nuts and bolts down,” Boatright said. “And I’m getting consultation from different people to make sure that happens.
“I’m feeling pretty positive. Obviously, I’m a little anxious about it as well, but it’s not the first go around.
“… I know we’ll make a go of it one way or another.”
Boatright and Lambes both previously worked out of Vital Arts Gallery at 324 Cleveland Ave. NW. Vital Arts closed recently, but the same space is scheduled to reopen later this month as Patina Arts Centre under new supervision.
Boatright said she’s the primary owner of BZTAT Studios, where she’s leasing space from the building owner.
“So we’re kind of going to have a multimedia space, and we’re going to make it a casual viewing environment for both art and film,” she explained.
“We’re going to have comfy couches, as well as chairs,” Boatright said. “We’ll make it where people can make it their own space for enjoyment.”
Boatright said she considers the Sixth Street NW area to be an arts corridor, referring to Eulogy Tattoo, Just Imagine Gift Gallery, Muskellunge Brewing Co. and The Hub Art Factory.
BZTAT Studios is also located in the Canton Arts District.
‘A good fit’
Lambes will showcase her vibrant, color-rich and often travel-inspired photography.
“BZ and I have been friends for years, and we have the same passion for art and the Canton arts community,” she said. “It seemed like a good fit.”
The new studio’s main purpose is to sell Lambes’ photography and BZTAT’s artwork.
“We may on occasion feature other artists on an invitational basis, but we do not intend to be a consignment gallery,” Boatright said.
To purchase art online and for more information about the studio, visit http://bztatstudios.com.
Lambes said she expects to use the space for on-site photography, “but it will not be set up like a traditional photo studio.”
Lambes has shown her photography as part of group and solo exhibitions both in Canton and outside Stark County. Photos from a trip to Cuba have been featured.
Her work includes portraits, live theatre, live music, weddings, food and real estate.
“If I had my druthers,” she admitted, “I would shoot travel and only travel.”
‘Travel is just in my blood’
Lambes said she’s drawn towards contrast, “whether in color, texture, subject, etc.”
Starting out, Lambes worked primarily with slide film, which she said is richer in color and visually distinct from digital photography.
“Travel is just in my blood,” she wrote in an email, noting she drove long-haul trucks in the ’90s prior to discovering photography.
Subjects have included landscape and architecture, as well as photographing people.
Lambes said she previously used only a fixed focal length lens.
“I have carried that over into what and how … I shoot now,” she continued. “I think sometimes that constraints can create more interesting results in one’s art. … I hope that viewers of my work can see the story in the image, or find their own story.”
Travels will continue, Lambes said.
She’s been hired to photograph a wedding in Italy this summer. Destinations also include Antarctica. Tentative trips to Mexico, Honduras, Michigan, Arizona and Maryland are also planned this year.
Born in Connecticut, Lambes grew up in Southern California before moving to Seattle when she was 17. Following moves to Portland, Nashville, Columbus and elsewhere, she’s lived in Jackson Township with her husband for the last 15 years.
Explaining her passion for photography, Lambes said she sees the world in vignettes.
“I saw the world this way before I discovered photography, and when I found a camera, everything just made sense.”
‘Part of who we are’
Boatright said she’s excited to share a gallery with Lambes and Weakland. A focused approach should make the studio a “fun space” for the public, she said.
The CUT Cinema “serves those looking for film experiences that they won’t be able to see anywhere else, and serves local filmmakers who need a venue to exhibit their work,” Weakland wrote in an email, noting the theater will seat 20 to start while offering traditional movie concessions.
BZTAT and Lambes both have followings outside the area.
Boatright has received acclaim for her contemporary and customized pet portraits of cats and dogs. Gaining an international following, she’s also found success through Internet-based sales.
“The other aspect of it is just our artistic souls are just such that we won’t quit,” she said. “I think that’s what’s unique about artists, especially in this uncertain business climate.
“Artists don’t have a choice,” Boatright added. “We can’t shut down. We have to do it as part of who we are.”
Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and [email protected]
On Twitter @ebalintREP