Charmed by Maudie, visitors flock to N.S. art gallery featuring Maud Lewis home

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Charmed by Maudie, visitors flock to N.S. art gallery featuring Maud Lewis home

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia says it's had an influx of visitors following the release of Maudie, a biopic about folk art icon Maud Lewis.

"We're seeing a big uptick in visitation to the gallery. The film has generated a lot of interest around her story," said Colin Stinson, manager of marketing and communications for the gallery.

"They see her house and want to experience ... what her life was like."

Gift shop sales surge

Sales at the gallery's gift shop are way up as well, Stinson said, with purchases of Maud Lewis merchandise doubling since the movie's limited release last month.

Stinson said people from around the globe are logging onto the gallery's website to purchase prints and other Lewis items. 

The art gallery in downtown Halifax houses a large collection of Lewis's work as well as the actual home she shared in Marshalltown, N.S., with her husband, Everett Lewis. 

Visitation on the rise

Between March 1 and May 3, the exhibit had 3,134 visitors, up from 2,084 visitors over the same period last year. 

Joan Carey visited the gallery Wednesday with her daughter, shortly after seeing Maudie on the big screen.

"It's wonderful, she was a talented girl," said Carey. "We thoroughly enjoyed it."

A story 'close to home'

Lewis painted folk art from her tiny home in Digby County until her death in 1970. She lived in poverty for most of her life and sold her paintings for as little as $2. 

She would eventually earn national attention with the White House even ordering two of her works during Richard Nixon's presidency after Star Weekly published a story about her. CBC also made a documentary about Lewis. 

Renda Vandetoorn, Carey's daughter, is a social studies teacher in Hantsport, N.S. She said she teaches her students about Lewis and her work.

"It's amazing to have seen the movie and know that it took place so close to home," she said.

More Lewis works on the way

Stinson said more of Lewis's work is coming to the gallery soon.

In June, the gallery will add a new Lewis exhibit on the second floor, featuring works from a private collection on loan to the gallery.

"She's an untrained artist and learned everything herself. It's a unique story," said Stinson.

Maudie is currently the No.1 film in Atlantic Canada and has surpassed $1 million at the Canadian box office, making about $4,000 per screening.

The film will be showing on a total of 82 screens across the country by May 5 and opens in the United States on June 16.