Longwood Art Gallery celebrates ten-year anniversary in downtown Kennett Square
By Steven Hoffman
It was ten years ago this week that the Longwood Art Gallery opened in downtown Kennett Square. Owners Marjorie Kuhn and Sheila Washington have specials planned throughout April to celebrate the milestone with their customers.
During an interview last week, Washington and Kuhn—friends since long before they became business partners—took a stroll through ten years of memories as they reflected on their first decade as business owners.
“We're fortunate to be here in Kennett Square,” explained Kuhn. “The local art scene is very strong here.”
In May of 2004, Kuhn and Washington were thinking—just thinking—about opening their own business. They could both frame artwork, and they both loved art. They found out that Mary Davies, the longtime owner of the Longwood Art Gallery on Route 1 just outside of Kennett Square, was retiring. Washington and Kuhn wanted to inquire about buying some of the artwork.
Instead, they ended up buying the business.
They worked for months making the gallery theirs, meeting new customers, organizing events, and making connections with local artists. They quickly came to the realization that the gallery space wasn't right for them. They started to look around the area for other potential homes, and liked Kennett Square, with its mix of shops and restaurants.
“We talked to some of the merchants around town,” Kuhn explained, “and we really liked Kennett Square.”
A space at 200 East State Street became available at just the right time and the Longwood Art Gallery had a new home.
As Kuhn and Washington prepared to open in Kennett Square, there was immediate interest in the new gallery. In fact, the owners remember a visitor to town stopping by to ask about framing work. It was the first of many times that someone was attracted by the large window displays. At that point, the gallery was still two days away from its opening.
“That was encouraging—that we had our first customer before we were ever even opened,” Kuhn explained.
As Kuhn and Washington started to get a feel for the kind of artwork that would be popular locally, they filled their gallery with bold, exciting, and original artwork that ranges from representational to expressionistic to modernistic to abstract. The work includes all mediums, everything from brilliant acrylics to oils saturated with color, to fluid watercolors. The gallery also offers photography, fine art reproductions, art restoration and consultation services and an eclectic mix of handcrafted glass art, jewelry and pottery.
“I think we have things for people with all different tastes,” Kuhn explained.
Washington and Kuhn agree that one of the best aspects of the work at the gallery is making connections with local artists and meeting customers.
“We've made a lot of close friendships,” explained Kuhn. “They start out as customers, but they become friends.”
A guest book on the counter includes the names of many residents from the local area—Kennett Square, Newark, Hockessin, West Chester—as expected, but also art enthusiasts from New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and other cities from as far away as Maine and Florida. Longwood Gardens and the popular annual Mushroom Festival bring a lot of visitors to Kennett Square, and the Longwood Art Gallery has become one of the popular stops.
The Longwood Art Gallery has had enduring relationships with artists, too. Most of the art in the gallery is the work of talented local artists like Unionville artist MaryAnn Weselyk. Washington and Kuhn first started working with Weselyk in 2005.
“MaryAnn has quite a following,” Kuhn explained. “Her work has very vivid colors. She does oils and acrylics.”
Another longtime collaborator is local artist Jack Giangiulio, whose watercolors are tremendously popular. Washington and Kuhn saw his work in a gallery nearly a decade ago and loved it. They talked to him about bringing some of his work to the Longwood Art Gallery, and the relationship has continued ever since. The gallery will once again be featuring Giangiulio’s work during an exhibit in June.
“He's been one of our bestselling artists,” Kuhn explained. “He's a real success story.”
Kuhn and Washington agree that local art enthusiasts seek out an eclectic mix of art, and the art scene is becoming more diversified with each passing year. Original artwork is the most in demand locally. The Longwood Art Galley offers art at affordable prices, and even has a layaway plan for the convenience of customers.
Custom framing remains an important part of the business. The Longwood Art Gallery has a design room and Kuhn and Washington spend a lot of time working with customers on the specific designs of the framing.
The Longwood Art Gallery actively participates in Kennett Square’s First Friday Art Strolls and other events, offering wine, cheese, and live music.
“The art strolls were another benefit of coming here to Kennett Square,” Washington explained.
“It’s always been a big attraction to come in,” Kuhn added. “Supporting community events and non-profits is important. We're fortunate to be in the borough, to be in this community. Kennett is such a fantastic town. It’s great to have a business here. The local community really supports the businesses in town.”
To celebrate the first decade in downtown Kennett Square, the Longwood Art Gallery will be featuring 15 percent off all gallery-owned framed artwork and 10 percent off one piece of framing, with 15 percent off two or more pieces from April 1 to April 30.
On April 3, the gallery will be hosting The Ladeens, a local band that plays Irish music, for the First Friday Art Stroll. On April 3 and 4, all gallery-owned items in the store will be 15 percent off. From April 7 to April 11, the gallery will offer a 15 percent discount on all gallery-owned pottery, from April 14 to April 18, there will be 15 percent off all gallery-owned glass art, and from April 21 to April 25 there will be 15 percent off all gallery-owned jewelry.
For more information about the Longwood Art Gallery’s special offerings to celebrate its ten-year anniversary and other activities, visit www.longwoodartgallery.com.