Sun setting on Christmas in Miniature

A 40-year tradition is coming to an end. This year's Christmas in Miniature, at least as most people in the Chadds Ford area know it, is the last one. And the person who started it all will be retiring and closing her doors in January.

Christmas in Miniature was born as the brainstorm of Barbara Moore in 1982 when she was the director of the former Chadds Ford Gallery. When that entity moved to Florida four years ago, Moore reopened the shop as Barbara Moore Fine Art Gallery in the same space in the Barn Shops and continued the tradition she started more than three decades earlier.

"I keep telling myself that this is my last Christmas in Miniature," Moore said. "I can't quite get my head around that, but it's what's going to happen."

With retirement a month and a half away, Moore was reflective about her time in the little gallery at the Barn Shops.

Barbara Moore, of Barbara Moore Fine Art Gallery, is retiring in January.

"It's something I just can't imagine. I've worked in this building for 46 years and not to be here is a matter of 'what am I going to do?' To not be able to fill these walls with art for people to see and to communicate what 40 years-plus means to me with regard to the art and especially to my clients, my customers who are also my friends…." She paused in thought and became reflective. "It's time for me to go."

But she became animated when thinking back to the first two years of the exhibit when it was brand new. She said it took a few years for the customers to figure out what was happening. Miniature art was hung on every wall in the gallery, on both floors, along the staircase, and even in the bathroom.

An artist's works were not hung together, rather they were spread out. As Moore explained, if a person wanted to see what Paul Scarborough, Duke Snow, or Rick Bollinger had in the show, they would have to look all over. And even then, they wouldn't see everything because some art was kept in reserve to fill the spaces left when people would take art off the wall to buy.

"People were taking two, three, or four pieces off the walls and when they would bring them to me to write up the sale, they would look back and see that we had filled those empty spots with new artwork that they hadn't seen. Then they'd have to go back to see what they had missed," Moore said.

She added that the same thing happened the second year, but people were starting to catch on. Moore would go upstairs to get new work to hang in the empty spaces, but by then, people would wait for her at the bottom of the stairs to see what new pieces she was bringing.

"Those first two years were exciting, not that it's not exciting now, it's just not the same because it was so fresh and new then, like a romance," she said

An art buyer takes a picture off the wall during Christmas in Miniature. (File photo)

Moore previously worked with her former husband in a body and fender shop for six years and, in some ways, that prepared her to run an art gallery. She said that while she never did any of the bodywork on the cars, she would inspect the finished product, paying attention to detail and saying yea or nay to the job before calling the customer. She likened that to examining her makeup.

But she needed a job after the marriage ended. Former Chadds Ford Gallery owner Shirley Winther hired Moore to run the shop in 1976. Winther said in a 2002 interview for the 21st Christmas in Miniature that Moore "is really good."

Moore said she came up with the idea for the miniatures to help younger adults without much money afford original art. She said many were buying inexpensive reproductions and loved how they looked once matted and framed, but she thought they could do better.

They would look at the work of their favorite artists, such as Andy Wyeth, but they couldn't afford those pieces, Moore said.

"I began to wonder how I could wean the young couples away from those $25-$35 reproductions and move them to original art. Then I thought, small pieces. They can start with this."

The idea caught on with her customers. Parents and grandparents would wind up buying the less expensive small pieces for their kids and grandkids, giving them a start in buying and collecting original art from respected professional artists, and Moore is proud to have served three generations of art buyers.

Over the years there have been characters that would come into the gallery, and not just the quirkiness associated with artists. Customers, too, have color to offer. Moore said there was one person who would tell her how to hang toilet paper, making sure there was a little bit of overhang to make it easier for people to get some. Or the woman who wanted Moore to follow her up the stairs so Moore could catch her if she lost balance. And walk in front of her when she walked down for the same reason.

Moore's expertise and knowledge of the local art scene allowed her to keep going when the Chadds Ford Gallery relocated in 2017. She was able to maintain the gallery as her own when she and Bri Brandt, the owner of Arden and James who designs and makes handbags, joined forces to share the space of the old gallery. But that too is coming to an end with Moore's retirement.

"I opened my shop in Chadds Ford to keep Barbara's firsthand knowledge of Chadds Ford history, art, and culture here in the village. I'm so proud of what we have accomplished together," Brandt said in an email.

For now, though, the focus is on Moore and Christmas in Miniature. The swan song for the 40-year tradition begins Wednesday, Dec. 1, and runs through Dec. 31. Two weeks later, on Jan. 15, Barbara Moore Fine Art Gallery will close its doors for good.

What will Moore do now? She moved to Delaware a few years ago and has a view of ships sailing up and down the river.

"I'll sit and watch the ships go by on [what she calls] the Riva Delaware."

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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