When most people retire, they slow down and take life a little easier. Not Wendy Harris, when she retired from Hospital Management it took about two weeks before she plunged headfirst into the new role as gallery owner. It’s a far cry from previous jobs in the health care field, having worked as a Radiology Supervisor which included training the radiologists to use new voice recognition software. While Wendy loved these jobs as they pushed her out of her comfort zone at times, (she’s always up to a challenge), they did little to nurture her creative side.
Having opened her gallery, “Artisans in the Loop” in University City just over a year ago as of May 8th, Wendy is reminded of the small neighborhood, Squirrel Hill where she grew up in Pittsburgh. The small, locally owned business, the foot traffic, and small neighborhood feel are exactly what Wendy fell in love with. While many of the customers to the gallery are tourists visiting this historic district, there is a fair number of locals who also shop the gallery for unique gifts of art. As a dog lover, Wendy leaves a bowl of fresh water out front of the gallery. On occasion someone will stop in with their dog, where well behaved pets on a leash are always welcomed and greeted with a treat.
The Delmar Loop is listed as one of the top ten streets to visit according to the American Planning Association. The new gallery is a perfect fit, nestled in the heart of this entertainment, cultural and restaurant district right across the street from Blueberry Hill, a famous restaurant in the Delmar Loop, and just down the street from other popular attractions such as the Tivoli Theater and Fitz’s Restaurant and Bottling Company.
Looking back at her childhood, Wendy stated that she was terrible at art. She once made a sculpture for her father. The head fell off and she had to stick it back on. Apparently, her father thought differently of her artistic talents because the sculpture remained on his desk until the day he passed away. It wasn’t until Wendy was working for an eyecare provider that she discovered her love for the arts and creating. While working for this company, she met a doctor whose wife was an artist. The doctor and his wife invited Wendy and her husband over for dinner. It was then that the wife asked Wendy if she would like to see her bead room. Wendy had never seen anything like it in her life. That was all the inspiration she needed. Ironic that she started out making eye glass chains and selling them. After Wendy attended a bead show she went crazy making things. One thing led to another and she started doing craft shows. While doing a show, she had a conversation with another artist who encouraged Wendy to stand out and to do so, she told Wendy that she should start making her own glass beads.
Taking the advice of another artist, led Wendy to sign up for a four-week class…. she was totally hooked. Although she initially feared the torch, by the time the class was over Wendy had all the equipment needed and her husband had reconfigured the basement to create studio space. Ever since then Wendy has made her own glass beads, works in jewelry, and does fusing.
She first learned of the Best of Missouri Hands when doing art shows. Don Crozier encouraged Wendy to join and it has been a great source to meet fellow artist. She has been a juried glass artist with BOMH for nearly twenty years and recently enrolled Artisans in THE LOOP as a gallery member.
When things fell into place with opening the gallery, Wendy found herself with the dilemma of how to fill the space. She reached out to Peggy King with the Best of Missouri Hands and Kathy Craddock of the Greater St. Louis Art Association in search of suitable artists. Wendy was in search of artists with their own unique style so they would not be competing with each other in the gallery even if they were of the same medium. She likes work that is bright, bold, cheerful and fun. It was important to her to make sure that each artists work be highlighted and shown at its best. Wendy did a lot of research to make sure proper lighting was installed in the new space and she had all the displays handmade by a local company with a minimalistic feel so the artwork POPS!
Having opened the doors initially with thirty artists, the gallery now plays host to seventy artists with a waiting list of others who would like to be a part of this amazing space. Three quarters of the artists are Missouri residents and of those at least twenty five are Best of Missouri Hands members….Allison Norfleet Bruenger, Ann Marie Rausch, Diane Tessman, Elle Hinnah, Jamie Smith, Jessie Cargas, Kathy Craddock, Kitty Mollman, Marjorie Bryan, Michele Mohr, Nina Miller, Peggy King, Stephen Davis, Susie Tenzer, Theresa Gallup, Leigh Roberts, Lisa Hilton, Veronica Greene, Melanie Mollman Hancock, Valerie Hosna, Ken Gilberg, and Yes….Wendy Harris.
While there are a couple artists that help in the gallery including Allison Norfleet Bruenger and Nina Miller, Wendy is still there to work the gallery six days a week. The gallery has a featured artist each month and participates in the community “Get Looped, First Friday’s”. During the Get Looped events the gallery holds a reception 5:00-8:00 pm offering wine and cheese to visitors while they shop for art. The gallery also offers extended hours for other community-based events such as the Loop Arts Fest in June, the Ice Carnival, and Shop Small Saturday. Wendy also offers gallery space to Emerging Artists.
Artisans in the Loop is located at 6511 Delmar Blvd, University City, Mo 63130. Gallery phone is 314-833-3540 and hours are Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday 11:00-5:00 and open 11:00-6:00 on Friday’s and Saturdays. Closed on Monday’s. You can visit the website at www.artisansintheloop.com or follow Wendy and the gallery on Facebook at Artisans in the Loop.