Bellport LuAnn Thompson

LuAnn Thompson started her framing business under a staircase in what was then the Phoenix Arts Gallery in Bellport Village.

She paid $125 a month for the privilege of sitting there, taking orders. (She did her actual framing at home.)

Ten years later, she’s in her third location in Bellport, and in a building she owns. Perhaps ironically, one of the building’s two storefronts is the old Phoenix studio.

So, if you haven’t followed, she now owns the stairs she used to work under.

And when the Brookhaven Arts & Humanities Council pulled the plug on Phoenix — a studio that was first established by a cooperative of local artists before being taken over by the nonprofit arts council — she stepped up to keep the dream alive, so to speak.

Paper Cup Studio opened its doors in the old Phoenix space June 25.

“I wanted to see the gallery remain open to support the local artists, and I did not want to see something else close in the village,” Thompson said.

This Wednesday was a busy day at the Paper Cup Studio, where artists were signing up to participate in the Paint the Great South Bay fundraiser through the South Bay Art Association.

There, Regina Lento was collecting $25 sign-up fees from artists who, from Aug. 20 to Aug. 22, will be fanning out across the South Shore, from Mastic to West Sayville to paint the bay.

“Fire Island is fair game,” Lento said “As long as they post on Facebook where they are, so if people want to see an artist paint they can go onto the Paint the Great South Bay page and see.”

Then there’s an actual exhibit, which will feature two works each from up to 40 artists at the Paper Cup Studio from Aug. 23 through Sept. 26.

Thompson, a former South Bay Art Association president who renovated the two-level studio with her contractor husband, Jim, said the only way for the space next door to her Bellport Arts & Framing Studio to be sustainable is to run it like a business, which wasn’t exactly happening before.

She thinks she’s figured out a way to do so through offering art classes, renting Paper Cup out for month-long shows, and offering the upstairs or downstairs for wedding or baby showers.

“And that gives the space some exposure, too,” she said.

She’ll also takes a percentage of sales from private shows at the studio to help pay the staff.

“We’ll be running the gallery” during the private shows, she said. “With the arts council you had to do it yourself. So if you wanted to show, you had to quit your job and sit there.”

Her hopes is that Paper Cup will come to offer a community center-meets-coffeehouse type of environment for people living or visiting Bellport Village, a place where the public could drop by any time the studio’s open, chat over some free coffee, buy a book by a local author or just sit and use the WIFI.

And while they’re there, they’ll get to see some pretty good art on the walls too.

Photo: LuAnn Thompson at work in her Bellport Arts & Framing Studio. (Credit: Michael White)