You’ve walked the streets of West Chester many times. You’ve passed the galleries on your way somewhere else and, often if not always, regardless of what you saw in the window, you left the gallery door unopened, the artwork unexplored. But, this Friday, October 7 will be the perfect time to redeem yourself. Just as it has since the event started in 1990, West Chester is hosting the bi-annual gallery walk. Businesses will be staying open late, galleries will be serving drinks and food, and, best of all, you may even have the chance to meet the artist whose work you’ve been admiring.
The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce is responsible for bringing the event together, and according to chamber president Katie Walker, “The event essentially combines two aspects: there are the year-round galleries who are always showing, and then we reach out to other businesses to see if they might be interested in hosting one-night shows.” The fall gallery walk will feature eight of those special one-night-only shows at Chester County Art Association, Chester County Historical Society, DNB First Bank, Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, Fulton Bank, The Hickman, Wells Fargo and West Chester Friends School. As for the year-round galleries, you can catch gallery opening previews at FastFrame West Chester, Kent Studios at Z Gallery, Sunset Hill Jewelers & Fine Arts Gallery, The 5 Senses and Visual Expansion Gallery.
Additionally, Stillman Volvo have again been kind enough to sponsor the Stillman Volvo Art Experience for the night, located in the Wells Fargo parking lot on East Gay Street. “It’s basically a street festival in that parking lot,” Katie says. “Artists from the Chester County Art Association will be displaying works, The Lisa Wolfe Music Studio will be providing live music with their Build-a-Band program, and there will be food provided by Sidebar and wine from Dialed In and Tableleaf.”
While previews of the event are readily available online, we thought it might make sense to give you a more in-depth look at some of the featured galleries on the walk. Karen Cavin, proprietor of The 5 Senses on Market Street, and Sandy Riper, owner and curator of Sunset Hill Jewelers & Fine Arts Gallery on High Street, were happy to help us better understand just what we can expect from this biannual event.
Sunset Hill Fine Arts Gallery will host one of the gallery walk’s premier events, as they open local artist Bill Basciani’s show that night. Bill has long been in the area – in fact this isn’t even his first show at Sunset Hill. Gallery owner Sandy Riper actually sold his first piece nearly 16 years ago when he was just 16 years old. Sunset Hill has hosted several shows since then. “Bill’s shows are almost always pretty near a sellout,” says Sandy.
However, judging by some of the pieces Sandy has seen that will debut in this new show, she is expecting a lot of changes from Bill’s previous work. “Being Bill Ewing’s apprentice, much of Bill’s earlier work were still lifes. His work was very trompe l’oeil. However, in this show there are more vibrant colors, more whimsy.” The show’s title piece, “Dare to Dream,” is a large, vivid impressionist painting of a field of tiger lilies.
This will be a brand new show. In fact, many of the works have never been seen. Bill does his own framing, so even a framer has not seen the works on display. “It’s really exciting,” Sandy says, “because this really is the first chance for anyone to see his new work.”
Much of what is exciting about Bill’s work, Sandy tells us, is that there is always a hidden story to each of his paintings, and since Bill himself will be on hand during the gallery walk, visitors will have the opportunity to meet with him and maybe get to the bottom of some of those stories. “Having the artist here offers people the opportunity to develop a personal connection with his work,” says Sandy, “You can meet the person behind the painting and develop a better understanding.”
Bill Basciani won’t be the only talent artist at Sunset Hill during the gallery walk. Dr Paladino, a familiar name to anyone who came up in the West Chester Area School District, will be playing piano over the course of the evening.
Despite having a smaller space, The 5 Senses will be hosting two (possibly three) artists for the evening. Young artist Sara Gallo of Parkesburg, Pennsylvania will be stopping by to talk with visitors about her collection of jewelry made from doll shoes. The idea for the pieces was originally derived from the little plastic heels Barbie is so fond of, but after realizing there was only a finite number of shoes available, Sara started having the miniature shoes made in a variety of colors. This work has seen her awarded a place as a finalist in the prestigious NICHE Awards.
Karen Gavin tells us that Sara’s work goes far beyond piecing together toy shoes. “She’s also a silversmith, and she was actually accepted to the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. That’s a really big deal. Especially for someone so young… though I won’t tell you how old she is,” says Karen.
Also on hand will be Paul Bjorke of Reading. Paul was an art major back in college, but with a family to support, he ended up working in human resources for a large construction company. However, Paul took the opportunity that our country’s economic downturn provided him and left his HR job to pursue his passion of art.
Since then he has been hand-making works from granite, pieces that Karen describes as, “cheese plate or sushi plate kind of things.” The work is smooth, clean and, most importantly original – it’s not something you would expect to pick up in Pottery Barn or Pier 1. “The pieces are really doing very well,” Karen says.
And again, the artists aren’t the only draw. Even if you’ve been to The 5 Senses recently, Karen says you can expect a whole new look to the store. “We’re rearranging the whole place, bringing out lots of new stuff, and debuting some new things.”
If that’s not enough to hook you, we’ll say this: Karen was toying with the idea of serving Mai Tais, though she seemed to be backing off the idea of serving something so potent. “Still, you can definitely expect drinks and munchies,” she says. “Really, we always have a great time. It’s a really good night, with lots of places staying open late. We won’t even start the process of closing down until 10pm.”