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For the First Time, Again: A Lively Reception at Portsmouth's 3S Art Space

3S Art Space echoed with the sounds of chatter on Friday for the first time, again. This weekend, the Portsmouth gallery held its first in-person art opening and reception since the pandemic began.

Many art venues are reopening and returning to old rhythms as COVID-19 restrictions ease. 3S welcomed three artists to ring in this new normal and the start of summer.

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M.J. Benson, one of the artists featured in the show, says talking to people about her work and letting them explore what they see in it are crucial parts of being an artist.

MJ with her work
Credit Samantha Coetzee, NHPR
M.J. Benson with a poster of her work outside the gallery.

“To ask me everything from ‘how did you do that’ to ‘why did you do that’… and to listen to other people who don’t necessarily know I can hear them, or to listen to people have conversations about the work [is important],” she says. 

Benson says some of her paintings had been curated in online shows when people couldn’t gather to see her work during the pandemic. But it just wasn't the same.

“You can’t really replace the feeling of seeing a piece of artwork in person,” Benson says.

For viewer Erin Hegarty, it was her first time back at 3S since the start of quarantine.

“I think it’s refreshing kind of how normal it feels,” Hegarty says. “I know it's been so long but I feel like people are getting back in the swing of things and really wanting to celebrate it being summer and building community.”

If you're planning to do something for the first time again, we'd love to help share your story. Send an email about your plans to, or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here for more details on how to participate.

Samantha Coetzee joined the NHPR team in 2020 as a weekend Board Operator and is now NHPR’s News Intern. A senior journalism major at the University of New Hampshire and New Hampshire native, Samantha is also the General Manager of WUNH, UNH’s student-run radio station.

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