North Raleigh News

Sunflower Studio & Gallery in Wake Forest will scale back services

Linda Burrell speaks with students during an art class at Sunflower Studio & Gallery on Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
Linda Burrell speaks with students during an art class at Sunflower Studio & Gallery on Tuesday, May 3, 2016.

Linda Burrell fulfilled a lifelong dream 16 years ago when she opened Sunflower Studio & Gallery.

The art teacher and small business owner manages artists, hangs art for art shows and does mountains of paperwork as she keeps up with day-to-day operations. Sunflower is also a hotspot for live music and other special events during downtown Wake Forest events.

As she approaches her 60th birthday, Burrell is ready to scale back her gallery business this month.

She will continue to host art classes in three rooms of the historic house on East Jones Street in downtown Wake Forest that is home to Sunflower Studio. But Burrell will rent out most of the space to Wake Forest Hobby, which buys, sells and trades sports cards.

“As I get older, I’m realizing that I only have so much energy, and where to put that energy, it’s into teaching and into my own endeavors,” she said.

Six local artists who are displaying their work in the gallery have found other places to showcase their talent, Burrell said.

Even though customers won’t be able to buy artwork anymore, plenty of creativity will remain. Sunflower will host four weekly art classes and monthly Saturday workshops, as well as several adult painting parties each month.

On Tuesday, Burrell’s students were busy with various projects, from pencil drawings of cats to acrylic paintings of peacocks.

Reese Taylor, 15, said she has been taking classes from Burrell for more than five years and has developed a passion for art that she wants to pursue in college.

The classes at Sunflower give her an opportunity to continue her studies beyond art class at Rolesville High School.

“I want to be able to practice any time I can,” Taylor said.

She and her peers will show some of the art they have been working on this semester at a children’s artist reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 20.

Taylor said she used to dislike painting with watercolors, but it has become her favorite medium after Burrell taught her the proper techniques.

Burrell has had a passion for teaching her whole life. She received a degree in art education from UNC-Greensboro and taught for many years at schools in North Carolina and South Carolina.

She opened Sunflower in hopes it would allow her to create art while still teaching students.

“The dream was to encourage other artists,” Burrell said.

In the early days of her business, she said, artists began asking if they could hang their art in her gallery space.

“I kept the rent prices very low so they could afford to rent the spaces, and in return for that they would work three days a month in the gallery,” she said.

After 16 years, the gallery business started taking up so much time that Burrell and her business and teaching partner, Gayle Blackerby, didn’t have much time to create their own art. Now they will have more chances to paint and teach.

“We’re sorry that all the artists and the art won’t be in here anymore,” Blackerby said. “But it’s going to help her a lot, and it’s going to help me too.”

Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802; @ReporterCioffi

Find out more

To learn more about art classes at Sunflower Studio & Gallery, go to or call 919-570-0765.