Northside Artists Cooperative
An Art Gallery And Much More
by Charles McGuigan
The Northside Artists Cooperative is hands down the finest gallery in all of North Side. It may well be the best art gallery in the entire Richmond metro area. And here’s why—it’s owned and operated by artists and it’s a space where art is not only displayed but where artists teach and lecture and explain the very nature and process of art.
It all started with an artist and a germ of an idea. Diana Vincenti, a fiber artist who grew up in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, has lived in Ginter Park for about 20 years and has been a member of the Ginter Park Recreation Association for more than a dozen of those years. Nine years back she started the annual Ginter Park Art Show held in the Lewis Ginter Recreation Association building on the first Saturday in December, which has proven to be one of the most popular seasonal shows in the area. “It has been such a great success,” says Diana. “We saw that this neighborhood really supports the arts and we fill the entire building for the art show with over 30 artists.”
We’re walking through a large room in this same building over on Brook Road. Large windows, with a single pane in each sash, are like floodgates that allow the sunlight to pour into the space and pool up even in the corners of this room with floors of golden oak and trim of natural wood. But everything else is painted white and the ceilings are of a lofty height.
It is the perfect space for a gallery, and that’s exactly what Diana was thinking even before this room was converted.
“This is such a beautiful room,” she tells me. “It never got used and a couple of years ago I thought, this could be a beautiful gallery.” Diana kept mulling it over, considering how it would be possible to transform this room into an art gallery. She had trouble finding anyone with sufficient energy who could help her mold this idea into a reality. So she just kept turning it over in her head like a piece of art that never gets made.
“And this past summer I ran into Dale Burrell,” Diana remembers.
Dale, like Diana, makes window treatments on the side, so they had that much in common. Plus this: They’re also both visual artists.
“I ran into her at a fabric store shopping for my clients and I told her about my idea about the space and two days later she emailed me and said, ‘Let’s do it; we’ve got to do it,’” says Diana. They contacted a few people, like themselves artists. “We admire their work and wanted to see if they were interested,” Diana says.
That was back in June. A month later they opened the gallery for the first time. “Everyone loves it,” says Diana. “So it’s been real exciting and the neighborhood’s been really responsive. We just keep getting more artists filling out applications.”
Artists can either become members or show their work as visiting artists. “Visiting artists don’t pay anything to show here, we just take a 30 percent commission,” Diana explains. Member artists, who pay a monthly fee, do not pay the co-op a commission and they are also allowed to use the space for teaching classes and hosting private functions. ”Visiting artists can use our space, too, but it’s a fifty dollar fee to do that.” And the Ginter Room, right next to the kitchen, can also be used. “So we’ve been teaching workshops out of that,” says Diana. “Dale’s been doing these printing classes. I’ve done a children’s weaving class.”
Other members also use the gallery space for instruction. Carra Rose, who taught at the Visual Arts Center, is now a member of the Northside Artists Cooperative and teaches jewelry making to kids. “Jennifer Pace is also a member and she’s going to be teaching knitting classes,” Diana says. “A new member, Ruth Anne Young will be teaching painting eggs in the new year leading up to Easter. We’re going to have the art of wine tasting with Scott Wilkes. And his wife is going to be doing children’s cooking classes.”
Another member may soon be teaching furniture making to kids. “So we have a wide range of classes currently scheduled or coming up between now and January,” says Diana.
Other members of the co-op include Nga Weaver, a potter, Mary Lu Bennett, a stained glass artist and Faith Bily.
As we walk through the gallery we look at oil paintings by Kris Taylor, pottery by Alex Johnson and Jennifer Dyson, stained glass by Mary Lu Bennett and so much more. Including these teardrop shaped pendants cast of clear resin that encase June bugs and Japanese beetles and other insects like amber. It would a great place to do your Christmas shopping. Each gift is utterly unique and each piece hand-crafted by a local artist. A great place to shop locally.
“Our mission is not only to have a space for a gallery but to teach art classes,” says co-founder Diana Vincenti.
Open Saturdays 11-5, or by appointment
3421 Hawthorne Avenue 23222