Art Watch: Destination galleries

Most art galleries are centrally located in every town, but several great galleries in our area are a bit off the beaten path, but should be on everyone's art radar!  Destination galleries like Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville Delaware offer one of the greatest gallery spaces for contemporary 20th and 21st Century art, including works by the Wyeth family, Bo Bartlett, Clayton Bright.

Somerville Manning Gallery at Breck's Mill

Somerville Manning Gallery at Breck's Mill

Their current show featuring paintings by Timothy Barr ends October 15. Somerville Manning is housed in Breck’s mill, a beautiful, historic stone building.  The mill, now gallery, is located at 101 Stone Block Row in Greenville just downstream on the Brandywine River from The Hagley Museum.  A gallery visit, a walk and lunch at the Hagley would make a lovely fall day outing.

The newest destination gallery in our area is Ivystone Studio, which promises to offer an exciting mixture of contemporary sculpture and painting in a gorgeously renovated barn.  The most innovative contemporary art gallery in Chester County lies just five minutes from the center of Downingtown. Owner Justin Smith has been hard at work renovating this beautiful 1800s stone barn to create the perfect space to showcase contemporary art installations.

The exterior of the gallery is quintessential Chester County, and the interior is a wonderful mix of farm craftsman stone and timber with intriguing, architecturally designed exhibition spaces. High in the rafters, decks are cantilevered off each side of the barn; "that will be an exhibition space" Justin points up and explains, "and we would like to make a bridge way that connects them."

Ivystone Studio. Photo courtesy of Ivystone Studio

Ivystone Studio. Photo courtesy of Ivystone Studio

Justin also installed rods and pulleys along the ceiling to exhibit hanging art and mobiles. The largest walls in the structure are painted wood squares that are engineered to easily move around to recreate a space for each exhibition. Evidence of Justin's creative invention is in every detail of this large beautiful barn, from copper patch details, hand blown glass fixtures, "lazy Susan" display spindles and hand-made furnishings; there is myriad items to devour, and that is before the artworks have been installed!

Below the Ivystone Studio barn is a gated pasture that will be used to display contemporary sculpture and installation art, which will transition into a space for a farmer's market seasonally. Justin wants exhibit street artists as well as fine artists. "There are so many titles these days! I want a fusion of everything, where it doesn't feel forced." He is looking for the "up and coming collector" who is "looking for a more street art feel." The space will act as a buffer to get customers into the more contemporary, fast flowing art scene" without having to travel as far north as Philadelphia or New York.

Justin was raised in Chester County and went to Delaware County Community College for Art, but transferred to Salem Community College's Glass Education Center in Salem New Jersey where he could learn to make scientific glass lab apparatus.

Hand blown glass by Justin Smith. Photo courtesy of Ivystone Studio

Hand blown glass by Justin Smith. Photo courtesy of Ivystone Studio

You will see evidence of Justin's passion for glass throughout the studio, and he will be having classes in scientific glass forming once things get up and running. I asked Justin how he first thought of this barn renovation turned contemporary art gallery, and he said that it was a result of something he saw as he came out of a coma in 2014. He remembered that when he was waking up, he saw the soaring interior of an old stone building that eventually transformed into his hospital room.  At first he thought it was a chapel, and then when he was searching out real estate, he walked into this barn and looked up. With complete clarity, he knew this was the place that he had envisioned. The openness and non-compartmentalization of the space was most appealing for him and he was inspired by the possibilities.

He is most intrigued by artwork that goes from "nothing to something." Junk, or reused, remade material that is selected and shown as art. He is also drawn to installation art that can be put together one day and completely dismantled the next. Justin likes the "fastness of evolving art" that tells the story of its creation, and the creative impulse behind the work.

The gallery is currently open by appointment only, but a full scale opening is scheduled for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving 2016. The Oxford Arts Alliance has a contemporary art installation show at Ivystone in the works for Spring of 2017, and there are talks to tie the studio and show into the Chester County Studio Tour for May of 2017 as well.  As Ivystone Studio lies a good 20 minutes from West Chester or Kennett Square, this is a "Destination Gallery" that will be full of surprises and innovation. "They will be very happy they made the trip," Justin Smith smiles proudly. If you are an artist or an art lover, for more information about Ivystone Gallery and future happenings, go to

Blue Streak Gallery in the Trolley Square area of Wilmington is also a gem of a small gallery, away from downtown, that features an ever changing exhibit space for local contemporary art. This week's show at Blue Streak features the work of Chester County abstract painter Vicki Vinton, which you should definitely check out in its last week.

This Sunday, October 2, Paw Printz is a wonderful art show benefit for CompAnimals Pet Rescue. It takes place at Borderland Vineyard, 332 Indiantown Road in Landenberg from 1 to 4 p.m. and will feature thirteen wonderful artists, live music, family crafts like face-painting, food treats for dogs and humans as well as wine. Some of the artists in the show include ceramic sculptor Jill Beech, steel sculptor Ellen Durkan, and jewelry artist Cheryl Titcher. Go out to Borderland Vineyard this Sunday for a great family art day in support of man's best friend.

Does it need to be suggested that many Chester County vineyards and wineries are great destination galleries?  If so, try Galer, Wilson, and Borderland.

About Lele Galer

Lele Galer is an artist who has chaired numerous art shows, taught art history and studio art, public art and has chaired, written and taught the Art in Action Art Appreciation series for the UCFD schools for the past 12 years. She worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and wrote for the Associated Press in Rome. She has been dedicated to Art History and art education for most of her adult life. Lele and her husband Brad own Galer Estate Winery in Kennett Square.



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