BELFAST — The business located at 158 High St. can be a bit of a mystery to those who stroll past.

Front window signage labels it an observatory. Behind the glass one sees art, books and antiques embracing a room filled with information about geology and space.

Still curious? That’s exactly what Smudge Studio is all about.

“We invite that curiosity,” said Jamie Kruse, who co-owns the business with Elizabeth Ellsworth, “and we get it a lot.”

Smudge Studio is a business selling works by local artists, but it is more of a classroom designed to inspire a longer view of humanity’s place in time and the cosmos.

“When people walk in, we like them to experience the studio kind of slowly,” Kruse said. “They’ll see local artwork, 100-year-old objects from Japan, we’ll serve them tea and geologically-inspired cookies and I’ll give them an orientation.”

Smudge Studio wants to connect an appreciation of art with a more informed perspective on our place in time and space.

“The whole point,” Ellsworth said. “is to get people to reframe their sense of belonging on the planet, to help them understand that everything they do has meaning, has consequences and to consider those.”

Kruse points to a gallery photo of an aluminum can in a recycling bin.

“Many people don’t know that aluminum is made in the nuclear fires of stars,” Kruze said. “We have been able to use that material to make things. We hope the next time you hold (an aluminum can) in your hands you will have an appreciation of that material in time and space and treat it differently, particularly when you throw it away.”

“Maybe you develop a deeper appreciation of the material,” Ellsworth said. “With that greater understanding of time and space, you might reuse the can yourself, rather than throwing it away. That is a consequence.”

Kruse and Ellsworth both have backgrounds in art and education. Kruse is an artist designer and assistant professor at Parsons, The New York School of Design. Ellsworth is an emeritus professor in the New York School of Media Studios. The pair became enamored with Belfast based on both perspectives.

“This is such a small, local and intimate community,” Kruse said. “It’s why we’re here. Belfast has such a sense of where it belongs as a community and a community of artists.”

Studio hours are Fridays and Saturdays, and by appointment via the Smudge Studio website. Those who choose to come will find a business that is designed deliberately.

“Everything is intentional,” said Kruse. “We display the work of local artists and change the work every three weeks. We do the same in the window (display). We boil our tea for 8 minutes, the same time it takes for a photon to reach Earth from the sun. Our tea cups have a 23-degree tilt, just like Earth.”

Smudge Studios would like patrons to take the long view, to realize they are citizens of the cosmos as much as of their own hometown, and to treat both with equal respect and appreciation.

“We want people to think of their role in this long chain of time, material and the stuff that created us, and to have a sense of belonging and wonder,” Ellsworth said.

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