A Talent Showcase: The Gallery Shop Helps Artists Connect with the Public
The Gallery Shop, at 824 Pike Street in Lemont, has been a staple in the central Pennsylvania arts community for more than 30 years.
The shop features works of 50 artists and craftsmen, from an array of paintings to glass pieces. Visitors can find jewelry, handmade paper, mirrors, pottery, weavings, woodwork, quilting, scarves, and other unique items.
Ann Hettmansperger, the shop’s owner and an artist herself, has been a part of the shop since the beginning. The shop ran as a cooperative under the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania until 1998, when a group came together and organized the idea of running an official store to show and sell local art.
The shop started with only two missions: to have a place for artists who were experimenting with ideas and to have a place to present work to the public. Now, the shop aims to impact the community by not only selling original work, but educating the public about techniques used, along with continuing to be an outlet for practicing studio artists in central Pennsylvania.
“It grew out of the arts festival – that was the core group of people who really were enthusiastic about starting something like this,” says Hettmansperger. “They wanted a stable place where they could put their things and people could find them; not just once a year at the arts festival.”
Hettmansperger was surrounded with the tradition of art growing up; her mother was a writer and a poet and her grandfather was a musician. She pursued music early in her college career at Indiana University, but quickly realized the competitive nature. Later in life, while living in Iowa City, she discovered her interest in pottery after watching a professor; she began to explore the arts, along with learning art history.
“It’s an integral part of my life,” she says. “I feel that the arts are an important part of culture and if I can do something to contribute to that, I want to support that as much as I can for other people.”
Steven Strouse, a woodwork artist, became a member of The Gallery Shop in 1995 after stopping by, and has been a supporter ever since. For the past 24 years, he has sold and distributed his artwork at the shop.
“Over the years, Ann has been so gracious to help me and other local artists,” Strouse says. “It’s given me a place as an individual artist, as it can be hard to have showroom space to have your work on display.”
The shop has acted as a home to many artists, allowing them to explore and start their art careers. Some artists have been working with the shop since the beginning and others come and go, but they still enjoy coming back.
“Ann has had a big impact because of the amount of people she has touched,” Strouse says. “Some people might not know she’s played a big role behind the scenes.”
The shop provides a connection between local artists and people who want to buy.
“It’s an uplifting thing to do,” says Hettmansperger. “Recognizing what we have … it’s a very vital group of artist that are here.”
For Jenny Conway, being shop manager is more than a job. Over the years, she has built relationships with artists and customers, understanding the process and techniques of artists’ work and translating that to customers.
“As manager of The Gallery Shop, I have the best job ever,” says Conway. “I’ve been here 10 years and have met so many wonderful people. Our customers are the best in the world. They come in to buy special unique gifts for friends, family, themselves, and gifts when they travel. Pieces from this shop are literally all over the world.”
Customers range from frequent visitors to stop-ins from out of the area who make annual visits. Conway hopes more people will learn about The Gallery Shop and understand what it’s truly about.
“I’ve heard so many times [that] being surrounded by beauty gives this shop such a wonderful atmosphere and energy, a place to enjoy,” she says. “The artists in the shop are wonderful. They are so talented and a pleasure to work with. This shop is a real treasure for our community.”
Throughout December, the annual holiday atrium show will feature work by all of the Gallery Shop members, with an array of handcrafted artworks and ornaments for holiday decorating, entertaining and gift giving.
For more information, visit gallery-shop.com.