by Bing McGilvray
On Main Street, shops come and go, as do buildings over time. Time on Middle St. has tried, somewhat successfully, to stand still. It still evokes the days of Schooners, Sargent, Hopper, Blackburn and Olson. Past, present and future dance here.
Center Street connects Main and Middle and in the middle of Center Street, at #6, you’ll discover the Post Historic Studio. The brainchild of Ben Nelson, PHS is a holistic experience, his and ours. You would not be wrong in calling it an artsy retro-chic antique boutique but it is so much more.
Ben, a friendly young man with a creative, nimble mind and a pet rabbit named Mr. Rabbit, happily answered my questions without ever putting down his brush. He may just be the coolest new kid on the block.
Bing: OK. Sitting here with Ben Nelson, proprietor of the Post Historic Studio. How long have you been open?
Ben: I opened on May 27th of this year. It was a really cool start. I had a special artist, a performer from California, Joe Louis (Salami Rose) come in and play for the opening.
Bing: PHS is so enchanting, there’s some magic happening here. Everything’s going well? You’ve said people enjoy coming and hanging out.
Ben: Oh yeah. It’s a really fun place to hang out.
Bing: Every time I come in you are painting. You’re working on this beautiful fish at the moment.
Ben: I paint friend’s pets on commission. This one is just for fun.
Bing: Tell me about you. You’re young, 20 right?
Ben: Yes, I am. Well, I originally convinced myself I was going to go to college for pharmacology. I was committed to that. When I got to college I was disappointed. Not what I expected. Kind of like high school all over again. Especially with the college I picked.
Ben: I think I learned and changed a lot after that experience.
Bing: Absolutely, yeah.
Ben: Pharmacy wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want it anymore. I would have been $200,000 in debt.
Bing: Right. Instead …
Ben: I opened this studio in Gloucester. I grew up in Rockport, lived here 17 years. So, I know the area. Came back looking for a place. This one popped up at just the right time.
Bing: Perfect. It’s a wonderful mish-mash of an artist’s studio and gallery, curiosity shop and as you said, a place for like-minded minds to intermingle. I don’t think there’s anything on Cape Ann quite like it.
Ben: It’s a very fun, creative environment.
Bing: Indeed. Tell me how you came up with the name Post Historic Studio.
Ben: The title took a really long time. We had group chats to brainstorm names. I asked my English teachers and all my friends. At first, it was going to be The Gloucester Gallery. But I wanted something more interesting. I’m in the process of making a giant T-Rex skull, still working on it. So I was thinking pre-historic and then came Post Historic.
Bing: Yeah, it’s really good. Strangely, it does describe the place. Whimsical, future nostalgia. Poetic, ironic and iconic, a paradox of space and time. You’re doing a daily, extended performance piece.
Ben: Wow. You’re right. Thanks.
Bing: Thank you, Ben. I’m going to walk around and take some photos. You are really doing something special.
Bing McGilvray is an artist, flaneur, raconteur and bon vivant living in Gloucester.