Updated: Apr 25
The Village Artisans Gallery exemplifies the phrases, "shop local" and "support small business"
All of the work at The Village Artisan Gallery is created by American craft and fine artists. Most of them are from Pennsylvania and the PA Cumberland Valley.
I was doing research for this blog and an article that was written by Deborah Hershey, but never published, struck a chord with me. You see, I met P.J. a few years back and I've shopped in her gallery. Hershey, a brilliant artist in her own right, had me nodding in agreement at every word. This article was written eleven years ago but I find the parallels to what's happening in the world today compelling. I couldn't have said it better myself.
So here you go! A window into the world of artist and business owner, P.J. Heyman.
The Art Of Connecting - Deborah L. Hershey
Call It a feat of alchemy, The Village Artisans Gallery in Boiling Springs is thriving.
There's no easy explanation for it, given the gloomy statistics.
Nationwide, larger cities have reported gallery closings in record numbers and many of the former art districts now more resemble ghost towns. The purchase of art falls into the discretionary spending category for many. even under the sunniest skies, In these days of foreclosure and double-digit unemployment , the competition for that endangered discretionary dollar has become downright fierce. So how is that business, in this particular gallery continues to perk - indeed, increase over years past?
The short answer is that owner, P.J. Heyman makes things work. The Village Artisan Gallery has been voted #1 Gallery and #1 gift shop for the 2009 Hot List for a local magazine, is a study in resourcefulness.
Take the gallery's location, arguably the most important factor in any brick and mortar retail operation. The picture-postcard village of Boiling Springs boasts historic significance and charm to spare, but might be described as the polar opposite of "high profile" There is no neon here in this quintessential Pennsylvania small town, no flashy electronic billboards. A modest sign bearing a vintage pointing finger politely offers direction from Route 174 ( about as close as you can get to a major thoroughfare in Boiling Springs) to the gallery on Walnut Street. Yet walk into any of the local draws - the Boiling Springs Tavern, Yellow Breeches Outfitters, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy office - even the local pizzeria and you'll find The Village Artisans Gallery's full-color brochures prominently displayed, and if you inquire, you'll likely receive a glowing endorsement of the gallery itself.
P.J. Heyman has been a driving force in Boiling Spring's premier art festival, Foundry Day, since it's inception in the mid 80's. She's established the Village Artisans Gallery as a tourist attraction through her active involvement with alliances such as Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau wh0 feature the gallery in their promotional materials and on their tourism website Fifteen years of building and maintaining this network has paid off: The Village Artisan's Gallery is connected.
The appealing brick structure that began as a rural church some 135 years ago might also play a role in the Gallery's success. There is, after all, a palpable air of reverence patrons wander through the bright aisles. Something spiritual in the way people connect to the products of human hands - all so pleasingly arranged and displayed, As If to impart divine emphasis, sunlight streams through the many tall windows, illuminating these arrangements like still lives themselves. All while Celtic music, barely audible, persuades all who are present to an improved-if not inspired disposition.
"Just looking at the arts and crafts is uplifting for me," Cheryl Reinecker of York Springs, a regular visitor agrees. " I think the change in our economic climate has impacted all of us negatively. While I have cut back on some purchases, when I need a pick-me-up, I still head to the Village Artisans Gallery. It's closer and less expensive than the metropolitan museums and galleries. I can always find that special gift or something for myself and since it's unique and beautiful , it makes me feel like I've purchased a treasure, even if I've only spent $20.
It takes more than atmosphere to fill the parking spaces surrounding the refashioned little church. Choosing the inventory for a successful gallery is, if not a fest of alchemy, certainly an art. With a vigilant eye for the fresh and extraordinary, P.J. looks first to the rich pool of artists and craftspeople for the magic blend of merchandise that keeps her customers coming back..with friends. 100% of the art that graces the gallery's walls is created locally: works like internationally acclaimed watercolorist Robert J. O'conner's elegant landscapes, award winning impressionist, Kathy Busillo's fine painterly images and the floral studies of Jeannine Swartz, unparalleled in their dramatic boldness.
Additionally, over 75% of the craftwork showcased at the Village Artisans Gallery is native to the mid state. One-of-a-kind pieces executed in wood, fiber, glass, clay, paper and metal - and jewelry in styles ranging from the classically simple to the whimsical , occupy every available inch of display surface.
Deborah L. Hershey
Deborah L. Hershey
P.J. credits her longstanding ties with the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsman for many of the relationships she's developed with local artisans over the years. An accomplished stained glass artist herself, she was involved with the guild as a juried member years before the gallery opened. When she made the switch from selling her work to representing others' work in her own gallery, the connections were already in place.
Frequent trips to the higher caliber craft markets in Baltimore and Philadelphia serve to round out P.J.'s inventory and keep her abreast of new craft trends and innovations, something her customers have come to rely upon.
P.J.'s relaxed, unflappable demeanor might give the impression that orchestrating a successful gallery is easy, as is the case with most who excel at what they do. Not so, according to neighbors who often notice the gallery's lights burning long past the posted closing time. With newsletters to compose, a website to manage, advertising strategies to plan and the constant crush of paperwork to address, after hours at the gallery are yet another resource in P.J.'s arsenal. She's quick to credit the support of her husband Gene, who loves to cook and doesn't mind spending a solitary evening fishing the local streams.
Those late hours allow P.J. Heyman to do what she loves best: spend her days taking care of customers. "The level of service P.J. provides separates The Village Artisans Gallery from other shops." says Linda Bales , a faithful patron since the gallery opened. "Every purchase is boxed, gift-wrapped and, if requested, packaged for shipping. And if I need something in a different size or color, P.J. Is on the phone with the artist making an inquiry.
Master wood carver, Gay Foltz , The Village Artisans Gallery artist-in-residence, is always on hand in her studio within the gallery. Not only does Gay invite visitors to observe firsthand the craft she's perfected-sculpting award winning creatures of fantasy from rough cuts of wood, She;s also an active ambassador between the gallery's clientele and the art world. An integral part of the gallery since it's beginning, she;s as familiar with the other artists and their work as P.J. herself.
It's difficult for most artists to sell their own work" one of the gallery's artists recalls approaching P.J. for the first time. "But P.J. was calm and kind. She chose several of my pieces and matter-of-factly passed om others-but from the start, I felt like she was in my corner. That was three years ago and she continues to 'shine the spotlight' on my work, bringing it to the attention to the right customers"
For the artists, this standard of representation is golden. And for the patrons of The Village Artisans Gallery - the opportunity to connect with some of Pennsylvania's finest artists and craftspeople , along with P.J. Heyman's 24 karat service- well. perhaps it is alchemy at work, after all. - End of article
P.J. has now been a member of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen for more than forty years.
Just a few weeks ago, on March 27, the Village Artisans Gallery was designated one of the Central Penn Business Journal’s Coolest Spaces.
A few years ago with the support of the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau they started Cumberland Valley Arts with other craft/art related shops, galleries, studios and artists to work at promoting American handcraft and art in Cumberland Valley PA.
April 1st was the 25th anniversary for the Village Artisans!
For the duration of the Covid-19 closure , The Village Artisan Gallery is continuing their "25% off everything 25th anniversary discount." Check out their Facebook page and email email@example.com to check on and purchase Items.
In 2012, 2013 & 2016 The Village Artisans Gallery was chosen" Best in the Valley Place to Shop"
The Village Artisans Gallery
321 Walnut St., PO Box 303, Boiling Springs, PA 17007
At this writing , Deborah Hershey is creating a website for her work but much of her work can also been see publicly on her Facebook page.
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