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The Alderson Artisans Gallery was created in 2015 by Alderson Main Street and a small group of local artisans working together to create a space to display their work. They set up a small storefront location on Riverview Ave close to the Alderson Memorial Bridge. The following year, the gallery suffered considerable damage as a result of the June 2016 flooding of the Greenbrier River. The galley was shut down, remodeled, and it eventually reopened in the same location and has been in operation ever since.
On September 3, 2023, their doors will close again as the gallery members pack up the displays and prepare to move to a new location. They’re leaving Greenbrier County, walking across the Alderson Bridge, and setting up in their new location in Monroe County. They’ll occupy the historic Bank of Alderson that sits on the corner of Railroad Avenue near city hall.
It’s a move that will almost triple their floor footage along with an airy, well-lit space. In addition to having more room for displays, there are also plans to expand the offerings at the gallery to include a variety of art classes for children and adults.
Jo Perez, director of the Alderson Artisans Gallery, is excited about the move even though it includes a lot of work. “This endeavor is all volunteer. None of us get paid, including myself. And sometimes it’s many, many hours of work. It’s a labor of love for those artists who feel like they want to offer art to a community that has very little.”, said Perez.
The co-op is supported by around 30 artisans who work in a variety of mediums including water color, photography, sculpture, quilting, and jewelry making, etc. Perez said they try to represent every art form that’s found in Appalachia, but it’s difficult to pin down what sells best. “It just depends on the person who walks in the door. They may have a vision for what they want to look for or they may see something that strikes them. It changes all the time.” Perez continued, “We may have one month where we sell a lot of garden art or sculptures. And then another month when the fabric art goes out the door. And the next month maybe it’s jewelry. So we just can’t predict it.”
The gallery is available to all artists who wish to display, however, pieces are accepted through juried selection by artistic peers. This means that each art form is evaluated by artisans with skills and knowledge in that medium. The gallery sustains itself by commission from sales and through donations, but the percentage varies based upon the artists’ involvement with the gallery. “We’ve never had a work requirement.” Perez explained, “We’ve asked our artisans to work and artisans will choose to work in different ways. Sometimes they work behind the scenes and others will sit behind the cash register. We have a variety of categories for artisans, and if you’re not a working artisan, we will take more in commission. We try to create opportunities for artisans who can work, who are at a distance, and who can’t work. We have dues paying artisans and we have those who don’t pay dues.” Perez stated they also have some volunteers who are working for individual artisans who can’t volunteer themselves. “So we have a lot of options that will benefit the artists. And the idea is that we’re a venue for the support of artisans.”
Supporting their artisans is one of the primary goals of the gallery. They’re hoping foot traffic, additional hours, and accessible parking surrounding the new location will make up for losing their storefront exposure on Route 12. They plan to use signage and other marketing venues to draw visitors to the gallery and adjacent businesses including Alderson’s Store and a local cafe. They also have a presence on the Internet that includes a Facebook page and a standalone website, aldersongallery.com. Customers may search for their favorite artisan and purchase items that will then ship to the buyers. The website also includes information about artisan submission guidelines and ways to donate to their non-profit organization by becoming a “Friend of the Gallery”. All donations and net gains from sales go back into the gallery.
The Alderson Artisans Gallery’s grand reopening in their new location is October 7th during the Alderson Fall Festival. Their current hours are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 11am to 5pm.