A “small-town gallery with world-class talent.”
How did you become involved with the West End Gallery?
It’s a family business so I was raised, quite literally, in the business. My parents, Lin and Tom Gardner, founded the business in 1977. They opened a custom framing shop with a dedicated gallery space on Market Street in Corning. I was born in 1979 and spent much of my young life at the Gallery from the time I was a baby in a play pen near Mom’s workstation early on. Later, I would spend nearly every day after school at the gallery. Then, in my teenage years, I started helping with chores and projects contributing in some way to the business. I started creating and selling handmade earrings at the Gallery around the age of 16. I guess I always had a creative spirit and an eye for business at an early age. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart.
Flash forward 43 years and here I am running the family business. I’m honored to work side-by-side with my mom who still works at the gallery full-time. We exhibit and sell artwork by many of the region’s most talented artists, including my father, Tom Gardner’s paintings. I can always count on the encouragement of my husband and partner in business, John Gardner. (He took our last name if anyone is wondering.) I’m grateful for the business my parents started and for the faith they placed in me when we purchased the business in 2015. It’s humbling.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of running the gallery?
There are four main aspects of the business that go hand-in-hand, so I want to give equal emphasis to the value of each.
Art: I am passionate about original artwork made by regional artists. I love that every single creation is unique. You know when an artist brings in a new piece to exhibit that it is one-of-a-kind. Likewise, when a customer decides to add that piece to their collection, you know there will never be another just like it.
Guests: I work with some of the most amazing people in the world. I’m very fortunate. It’spretty special when someone walks through the door, whether a visitor simply enjoying the exhibit or a customer that collects artwork. They often have a similar appreciation for the artwork and the artists that create it. One of my absolute favorite things to witness is when a guest walks through our door and connects with a particular work of art. They don’t need to know why they connect with it. They don’t have to know anything about art, the process or art history. Sometimes the connection just happens in the blink of an eye. It’s undeniable. Someone just gravitates towards a particular work of art, and I love being in a position that affords people to connect with that artwork. I love every aspect that surrounds that gravitational pull; welcoming them from the moment they walk through the door, telling them about the artist that created it, discussing the process of said creation and offering opportunities for them to meet the artist in person during opening receptions, gallery talks or artist demos held on site.
Artists: The artists in our region have exceptional talent. Each is incredible, multi-faceted and as diverse as a snowflake or kaleidoscope. Their ability to create something from the materials they work with astounds me. Their creativity, passion, ingenuity and perseverance amaze me. I often step back and consider all the time that went into a single work of art, the number of materials that were used, the colors that were selected, the careful consideration of the subject, and even the movement that goes into a piece, the placement of a brushstroke, for example. This doesn’t even take into consideration the hours of practice, years of experience, including experimentations, various inspirations, breakthroughs, heartaches, frustrations, and pure joy that led up to that point in the artist’s career. Decades in many cases. People aren’t often here to just buy a pretty picture. They are buying a small piece of someone else’s life. Our guests usually recognize the skill and expertise of the artists we represent, and they often connect with the artwork on a more personal level. It’s beautiful to witness and be a part of that process, even if only in some small way.
Small Business Ownership: I must add that I appreciate the opportunity to run my own business. It has been a great experience. As many small business owners can attest, with the freedom of running your own business comes massive responsibility, especially when you’re trying to support your employees and, in our case, the artists we represent and their individual careers. We have certainly faced some challenging times in recent years, but we have succeeded and, in fact, have thrived. This experience has shown me I’m much stronger than I initially thought and stronger now because of the challenges we have faced and any new challenges that will come our way.
How many artists does the gallery represent?
We currently represent 50 talented regional artists working in a variety of mediums: oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache, wood, bronze, glass, and more. The artists primarily reside in Upstate New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Many of the artists are emerging and some are nationally, and even internationally, known. That’s why I love to say we’re a “small-town gallery with world-class talent.” It’s true. There are so many talented artists everywhere in our region. We’re very fortunate.
What is your favorite Finger Lakes location?
Market Street in Corning’s Gaffer District is definitely on my list because it literally feels like home to me. I’m a “Market Street Kid” at heart. Always will be. I’ll tell you the same thing 30 years from now.
And, of course, Taughannock Falls. My husband, John, and I were married 21 years ago at the base of the falls on a misty day in front of a Justice of the Peace and two photographers from West End Gallery who were also friends and doubled as our witnesses. It was a special moment in a beautiful place.
Why do you enjoy living in the Finger Lakes Region?
So many reasons! I enjoy the topography especially the rolling hills, broadleaf trees and large bodies of water. I’m particularly fond of our ever-changing seasons especially fall and winter. I love the variety of colors on display in the fall and I love the quietness and solitude of the winter. It’s comforting. I enjoy the people and the communities that surround us. Each is unique and contributes to our society as a whole. We also live in a culturally rich region. It’s pretty amazing how much our region has to offer. There’s something for everyone. Museums, galleries, shopping, unique eateries, wineries, breweries, you name it … we have it in the Finger Lakes Region.
Visit the West End Gallery at 12 West Market St., Corning, NY 14830. For more information call 607-936-2011 or visit their website at westendgallery.net.