One step inside of the Local Artists Gallery in downtown Rogersville and you can’t help but be inspired by the beautiful colors and artwork that surround the corner gallery.
And that's exactly what founder Lee Hoellman wants.
“We aren’t an exclusive gallery,” Hoellman said. “We are the communities' gallery.”
The not-for-profit organization was created to help bring attention to the unique and awesome artists that are local to the area.
Her dream nine years ago of a gallery to show off and sell the artistry of the area has blossomed into a hotbed of beautiful pieces that come from every part of the mind imaginable.
“We just want everyone to come in and see the talent of the artists that they may not even know is around them,” she said.
Brooms, jewelry made from numerous materials including recycled paper, wood pieces, knives, toys, porcelain dolls, sculptures crafted from gourds, handmade glass, soaps, soy candles, numerous knitted items, and paintings all surround the three rooms that make up the gallery. It is all available to view and purchase from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 4 p.m., Sunday, during the holidays.
The gallery itself doesn’t really make any money. All aspects of the gallery are completely
run by its 50 members. A nominal membership fee provides each artist with his
or her own space to display their work and also goes to help pay the bills.
“It’s not about the gallery making money,” Hoellman said. “It’s about the artists, number
one, inspiring them. And it gives them a place to display and hopefully sell
their art work.”
The gallery is the brainchild of Hoellman, who moved to the Clinch Valley area in 1971.
While the town of Rogersville was moving into the 20th century, Hoellman and
her neighbors continued to participate in an Appalachian Renaissance. But she
was so impressed with the talents of the neighbors around her, instead of just
bartering and buying amongst themselves, she wanted to bring their work to
In 2005, she decided to approach Betty Richardson with the idea of renting the space on the corner of East Main Street and South Church Street, where the gallery now
stands - thinking the historic downtown area would be the best place to
showcase the area's art work.
“While we are about promoting the arts, we also want to bring people back to the downtown area,” Hoellman said. “To help them recognize the beauty of the downtown.”
After presenting her idea to Mrs. Richardson, a nerve-wracking pause was followed by some gratifying news.
“That is the best thing I’ve ever heard for my building,” Richardson told Hoellman.
It was a gratifying answer for Hoellman, because it was the final step in giving birth to her idea. Without the Richardson family's nod, Rogersville probably wouldn’t have a place to view the local talent.
“We are so grateful to them,” Hoellman said. “Because without their kind hearts, none of this would be possible.”
Today, the Gallery includes more than just an exhibit and marketplace. Over the past two years, the members of the gallery have taken it upon themselves to help try and instill and nurture the talents of the people of the community by offering different classes.
“Some of our members enjoy being teachers,” Hoellman said.
All sorts of classes are available for people of all ages and skill levels. Even if you have never picked up a brush before, there is a class for you. Craft classes are also offered.
“Every single person has something inside of them. They just haven’t discovered it yet. And that is what we are here for, to provide that outlet and inspiration. You don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.”
Students in one class in particular, known as the Busy Brushes, got to display their work at their own exhibit on one of the First Tuesday events hosted at the historical Hale Springs Inn every month as a revolving gallery.
Classes are offered year-round, with special classes for kids during the summer months when they are out of school.
Anyone interested in taking classes can visit the gallery and view their information table, which provides dates and times for each class. To learn more about the gallery or the classes they offer, visit the website at www.rogersvillegallery.com or find them on Facebook at Local Artists Gallery.