After five years at Waverly Place, the doors to Waverly Artists Group Studio & Gallery will close for good Nov. 19. Just thinking about it makes owner Gary Bradley tear up.
“We have received such grace in terms of letting us stay here,” he said of the shopping center’s management. “They’ve been great to us.”
In the end, though, the rent became unsustainable for the gallery.
“I’m not ready to close down,” said Bradley, who is actively searching for a new location in Cary. “Sadly, art is a hard business.”
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Waverly Artists Group began on a whim, which is how Bradley tends to operate.
“If there’s a door, we walk through it,” he said, explaining the philosophy he and his wife live by.
“My life mission is to rehumanize the world through beauty,” he said. “In a world full of brokenness, beauty can reshape and give us fullness of life.
“Beauty pierces the soul.”
Five years ago, he signed a lease on the Waverly Place property without having any plan for how to use the space.
“Within hours, I was on the phone calling people,” he said.
Bradley enlisted a couple of partners – artists David Foster and JJ Jiang – and they set to work preparing a gallery.
“It took five weeks,” Bradley recalled. “We stained the floors ourselves.”
Bradley’s idea was to offer a place for artists to work, teach and showcase their works, all the while contributing to the community and having fun in the process.
At the first open house, 600 people showed up. After the first year, Bradley became the sole owner.
The gallery has 19 artists, including three jewelers. A weekly painting class has been a boon for the community.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s been a 10,” he said. “It’s a supportive environment and an opportunity for them to test their work.”
Bradley is proud of what has been accomplished.
“We have avoided, as far as I can tell, any hint of distrust or broken relationships among us that was something of our own making,” he said. “I think this is one of the real jewels in our crown.”
Nearly $400,000 worth of art has been sold at the gallery. The memory of one sale in particular makes Bradley light up. About a year ago, a client from out of town found Waverly Artists online and called. The client was decorating a business opening locally. She visited the gallery, and in short order bought seven paintings.
“Then she wondered how she was going to hang them,” Bradley said. “I told her I would do it myself, and when I packed up the paintings, I decided to bring a bunch more. She bought them all. We sold 23 paintings that day.”
Bradley, a painter, didn’t discover his own talent until he was 60 years old and looking for something to relieve stress.
“I bought bad watercolors, bad brushes and bad paper,” he remembers. “I knew nothing.”
Within two months he had sold his first painting. “I’m always stunned when someone buys one,” he said.
At 76, Bradley figures he has two or three years left before he will be ready to pass the reins to someone else. In the meantime, he is planning one last Final Friday open house, “Saying Goodbye,” to be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 28. As a thank you, there will be special pricing from then through Nov. 19.
“We’re all crying,” Bradley said. “It’s going to be so hard. We have developed such a sense of family and we have gotten better as people and as artists.”
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Want to go?
▪ Waverly Artists Group Studio & Gallery will exhibit “Saying Goodbye,” featuring the power of friendship expressed in the art of Errol Engelbrecht and Beth Carrington Brown. A reception is Friday, Oct. 28, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Waverly Place gallery, 302 Colonades Way, Suite 209. There will be refreshments and music. Admission is free.
▪ Regular hours are Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. www.waverlyartistsgroup.com