Art Live: Gallery supports community

Liz Ruff is a tireless arts advocate in West Chester. She leads the Art Trust in its mission to support its local community as president of the board.  Her work in the arts began many years ago. An engineer by trade with a B.S. degree from Penn State, her passion for art led her to take numerous art courses over the years. After a long stint in business, she kept her hands in art while she was busy raising four boys. She was asked to lead the Art Goes to School (AGTS) program for the West Chester Area School District. It was energizing for her. She described her work “As an AGTS volunteer, I learned about the masters and appreciating fine art – basically the only ‘formal’ art education I received. It’s where I discovered my love of abstract and contemporary work. I enjoy producing art, admiring art and more recently, being a patron of artists whose work I love.”

Bowls by Danielle Hawk on exhibit at The Art Trust

On becoming involved with The Art Trust, Ruff said “The Art Trust sprung from a wonderful confluence of events, and I was in the right place at the right time. A local contemporary art gallery was closing and Meridian Bank wanted that space for their West Chester location. The gallery owner, Patricia Garruba Bazan, was the conduit, connecting the bank with a group of people interested in bringing more exposure to contemporary art to the West Chester area, so heavily influenced by the Brandywine School of Art.  At that time, I worked with Ellie Byrom-Haley, president of Gecko Group and a founding member of the board. She had volunteered with me during AGTS, knew my interest in contemporary art & recruited me to serve on the board.”

Founded in 2006 The Art Trust, a non-profit volunteer-based organization, supports and cultivates the exploration of a contemporary aesthetic. Meridian Bank is The Art Trust’s corporate sponsor. It’s been a great marriage. The bank provides 100% of The Art Trust’s fiscal budget, which allows the gallery to use net proceeds from its sales for art scholarships & sponsorships. Each year, between six and eight exhibitions are held. Ruff said, “In 2019, we awarded seven $1,000 scholarships to local graduating high school students continuing their study of art.” The current board is a blend of professional artists, art patrons, art professors & business professionals. The common thread is an unwavering enthusiasm for contemporary art.

"Awaiting Arrival" by Brad Blair on exhibit at The Art Trust

When asked how artists were selected by The Art Trust, Ruff said participation in exhibitions was by board invitation but it wasn’t the traditional representation model. “On occasion we will host guest curators that the board has reached out to. We promote the artists who exhibit with us during a particular exhibition but don’t represent them after that exhibit is over. Artists receive a percentage of every sale and the remainder goes into funds for art scholarships & sponsorships. At the end of every year, we determine the number of each that we are able to award, based on that year’s sales.”

So far, this model has been working well. Regarding future events Ruff said, “Every year brings something new to The Art Trust – and the makeup of the board determines that. We’ve got an incredible plan for 2020. A few teasers: we have an exhibit that has some fun with the plethora of cows, barn and meadow art in our area. And we’re super excited about an exhibit of installation artists…something we haven’t done in quite a while.” If you are interested in exhibiting with the gallery, Ruff’s advice is to attend some events and introduce yourself to board members. Artists whose work aligns with its mission to exhibit engaging contemporary art, email a letter and images of your work to:  For more information visit the website

Other events worth checking out this week: In Birchrunville, the Birchrunville Art Tour on Nov. 9th and 10th. Visit for details and a map.

In Wilmington, Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts (DFVA) Art Show on Nov. 8th and Nov. 9th. For more information visit

In Haverford, the 16th Annual Betsy Meyer Memorial Exhibition Paradox at The Main Line Art Center on Nov 9th. Visit for more information.

Whatever you do this week, support the arts!



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About Constance McBride

A native of Philadelphia, Constance McBride lived in Arizona for 16 years, where desert observations made a transformative impact on her work as a research based visual artist. Passionate about contemporary art, she was actively engaged in the local arts community. She served as a board member for several art organizations, managed an artist collective/gallery space, curated and juried several exhibitions and wrote for two arts publications in Phoenix. She taught ceramics at Shemer Art Center and Museum and exhibited her work both locally and nationally. McBride returned to Pennsylvania in 2018 and resides in Chester Springs with her husband and two dogs. In West Chester, she serves as a board member at The Art Trust Gallery at Meridian Bank and teaches ceramics at Chester County Art Association. She also teaches at Clay on Main in Oley, PA. She is a member of American Craft Council, Philadelphia Sculptors, and Women’s Caucus for Art, Philadelphia Chapter.



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