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The Artists Behind the Gallery
by Gina Gallucci-White & photos by Turner Photography Studio
The Fine Arts Company champions local artists who make quirky, attractive pieces.
As curator of The Fine Arts Company, Lauren Hoffman helps to find local artists to showcase each month on their gallery wall and discover interesting items to sell at the store. She got the job shortly after her own mixed media show featuring her pop culture creations at the Hagerstown-based art gallery. “It’s really cool whenever people come in and they tell me they really like certain artwork (not knowing it’s hers) and I’m like, ‘Really! What do you like about it?’ and they tell me and I say, ‘Well I’m the artist that did that’ and it kind of blows their mind,” she says. “It’s really interesting. It’s like they kind of see me as a rock star almost. It just feels really good.”
Initially a biology major at Hagerstown Community College, the pull toward creativity was too great to ignore and she switched majors to visual arts. Now a full time artist, she organically creates pieces but also enjoys doing commissions as well. “It is such a fun process to get to know my client and really bring out their personality in the pieces I create,” she says. One of her best sellers is a portrait of a house with balloons attached to it — similar to the Pixar movie “Up.” “Anything that is popular, I like to put my own spin on it,” she says.Helping local, regional, and American artists in a variety of different mediums succeed is at the core of The Fine Arts Company. Business partners Melissa Kaiser and David Nathans decided to start the business after going into art galleries and noticing how expensive pieces were. “We both love art, but we wanted it to be affordable,” she says. “Most people can’t afford it...we wanted something that is affordable for the middle class to make them feel like an art collector.”Melissa always enjoyed art, and found she was good at creating pottery, but decided not to pursue it as a career. Instead, she graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served active duty for nine years. After a stint in the business world, she decided to venture back into her love and appreciation of art by opening The Fine Arts Company with David in November 2013. “We really wanted this store to focus on more of a local artist flare,” she says.Patrons can find a variety of different items for sale, including pottery, jewelry, socks, handmade soaps, blown glass ornaments, chocolate, and more. Pieces range in price from as low as $2 to $4,600. “We’ve found that our customers like things that are very pretty,” Melissa says. “Pretty and a little bit different than what you would get at Target or Bed Bath and Beyond. It has to have a little bit of quirkiness, it has to be pretty, and it has to be a good price.”
Some of the artists are found through going to trade shows or fine arts festivals. Others inquire if they may sell their items at the store and submit pictures for review. “We don’t want to just show anybody,” Melissa says. “We want good quality, at a good price.”
Callie Badorrek was Christmas shopping with her husband when they first came upon The Fine Arts Company. “I was really impressed with the caliber of work I saw in there,” she says. The Hagerstown-based artist asked if she could sell some of her clay pieces there and was accepted. “I really like that they take chances on new artists,” she says.
A love of animals, science fiction, and fantasy can be found throughout her work including dog treat jars, cat banks, and gargoyles. Her best sellers are custom ordered cat and dog urns — which are not sold at the company. She creates a sculpture of a customer’s beloved pet and places it on top of the urn. “I used to work at a vet clinic so I have a good understanding of both animal anatomy and people who are grieving, having lost a pet,” Callie says. “I work with the client to create something that reflects the personality of their pet.” Art has been a life-long passion for her. “It’s nice because I can combine (art) with my other love, which is pets,” she says. “It’s really good for me because I can combine two things that I love and understand.”
Mary DeMarco began selling her LaContessa handmade pewter jewelry at The Fine Arts Company after being approached at a trade show. Next year, her company will celebrate 30 years of business. Inspired by nature and the coast, her jewelry includes bracelets, earrings, necklaces, pins, and rings. “I always love what I am working on that is current,” says the Baltimore-based artist. “My favorite piece is always what I am working on now. It’s always evolving.”
Gallery shows are popular and feature artists within a 50-mile radius of Hagerstown. Begun over a year ago, the shows give an opportunity for local artists to show their work, Melissa says. “It helps the community, and it also freshens up our store.” Every second Saturday, a “Meet the Artist” event is held where guests can ask questions and talk about the pieces on display. “I am just really passionate about helping local artists because that’s how I got my start,” Lauren says. “I had my show there and I was able to sell a good bit of stuff.” Lauren’s next show at The Fine Arts Company, titled “Artpoptart: Collages Evolved,” will be held on June 13, with an opening reception at 6 p.m.
Besides the gallery shows and selling local art, the company also hosts painting parties where groups come in and paint a canvas with a certain subject. Past themes have been cherry blossoms, a walk in the woods, a cardinal on a snowy branch, and Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflowers. “It’s just a chance for friends to do something a little bit different,” Melissa says. Patrons bring themselves and a beverage of choice while the company provides the paints, brushes, canvas, and instructions. “It’s a fun time out with friends and we have a lot of repeat customers,” she says.
The Fine Arts Company
18031 Garland Groh Blvd., Hagerstown
Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Sun. Noon–5 p.m.