Electric blue planters holding colorful ferns flank the entrance of 128 E. Market, Cindy Saadeh's Fine Art Gallery.
Inside, the concrete floors are artfully stained and topped with tasteful natural fiber rugs. Exposed brick and old, distressed, wooden doors are the backdrop for the creative wares. Every where you look there are the elements of good design: strong contrasts of light and dark, complimentary colors, interesting texture and unifying lines.
This jewel box of a shop/gallery is full, but carefully edited.
Merchandise runs the gamut from ceramic pottery that is both handsome and functional as household objects to the purely decorative fused dichronic glass earrings. An array of hand-knitted scarves and hats decorate one corner, another is dedicated to sculpture. Photography, digital painting, intaglio and relief printmaking complement the more traditional watercolor and oil paintings.
And while 'gallery' usually conjures the image of pricey, often unidentifiable art works, Saadeh's Gallery doesn't fit that mold. You can certainly spend hundreds on a large-scale piece but there are just as many customers who are able to find that funky and affordable gift of earrings or a hand-woven basket.
Cindy's innate sense of taste and style, both as a painter herself and as the owner, give the gallery its identity. In 2010, after renovating the space, she set out to sell her own paintings and the work of a few other artists, including the woodworking of Michael Ripper, the gallery manager who also has an in-house studio. That vision has expanded - she now represents 67 artists of varying media.
"Our purpose here has evolved from wanting to have a place to paint and exhibit my artwork to becoming a source for local talent and an educator for the public about the different media and styles regional artists use in their creations," she says.
Originally a native of Winston-Salem, N.C., she studied under a mentor who trained her in the "Old Master Technique" and apprenticed in France as well. Early on she made her own canvas, oil paint and medium in the tradition of the old masters and painted in that classic realistic style. Cindy has since deviated from the technique by painting more impressionistically but still sometimes makes paint and uses her master's medium.
What she learned she gladly passes on to others.
"We have workshops given by our artists, which have been a great way for people to learn to do something new and take home a personal creation. In addition to that, I teach an ongoing Monday morning painting class as well as hold painting parties - a fun night out - for the gals, or dates, co-workers, anyone. Participants are not pressured to follow a lot of rules but they can all enjoy doing something creative."
The gallery is also used to feature a different artist each month.
"Their opening reception is held on the First Thursday where we have a themed open house complete with wine and hors d'oeuvres... We like to think we have a warm environment in the gallery where people can just relax and be social if nothing else. We have fun," Cindy says.
In addition to showcasing talent at her gallery, Cindy can sort of 'take her show on the road.'
"Some people have trouble picking out wall art or other accessories for their home or office and don't want to hire a designer to do the whole place for them. We can come look at their space, suggest how and where they might add art and then offer them pieces from our gallery artists to complement their decor. We call it Artistic Design Services and it's an exciting new option that we can offer to our customers."
It's just another way that Cindy Saadeh is making art more accessible to the people of Kingsport.
"I so enjoy being part of this community where it really feels like we are making a difference, at least in the art world!"
The gallery is open from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Saturday, with First Thursday events from 5 to 8 p.m. Call the gallery at 423-245-2800 or visit www.cindysaadeh.com.