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Chester County Press

For the love of art

01/09/2018 10:03AM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Last October, artist Corien Siepelinga stopped by Mala Galleria to talk with gallery owner Stella Scott about some new work she was doing. “She liked it, but her eyes filled with tears and she said, 'I'm moving.' So we talked. She was looking for someone to take over the business,” Siepelinga said during an interview last week.

On Jan. 1, Siepelinga took over ownership of the landmark gallery, and she opened her first exhibition, “All Creatures Great and Small,” on Jan. 5. It's been a whirlwind few months for Siepelinga, who lives in Avondale with her husband and their two children, ages 18 and 20. But, standing behind the counter on the day the new show opened, Siepelinga was brightly confident that she's becoming a business owner at just the right time.

With her children mostly grown and her husband traveling frequently for business, Siepelinga's schedule was open, and she has already made extensive contacts in the regional art world through her own work as a painter of finely detailed still lifes. She might not have been expecting to run a gallery, but now that it's here, she feels ready.

“I was born in the Netherlands and we moved to Canada when I was 3,” she said last week. “My family's Dutch. I grew up in Canada, and we've been living in the States now for 15 years. We moved around with my husband's job with DuPont Canada, so that's how we ended up in Texas. We did two years in Victoria, Texas, which is in the south. Then we lived for three years in Orange, Texas, which is right on the border of Louisiana.”

Living in Texas with a baby and a 3-year-old, “There wasn't a lot going on in Victoria,” Siepelinga said. “We didn't know a sweet soul. While my husband was at work, I was home with the kids. So I got books from the library and taught myself drawing. The books said to draw what I liked, so I started drawing my children. Then we moved to Orange, so again I went to the library and got books.”

The family eventually came to Wilmington for a job with DuPont, and then they moved to Avondale for the schools, Siepelinga said. Her husband now works for a Japanese polymers company and travels frequently on business.

She discovered Neilson Carlin's Studio Rilievo in Kennett Square, and has studied drawing and painting with him for five years, refining her skills. She first showed her paintings at Mala Galleria about four years ago.

“I've been coming to First Fridays here forever,” Siepelinga said. “I've always liked the art she had. My husband also makes the birdhouses that are sold here. They're at the Creamery, too. I never thought I'd own a business. I just totally fell into it. I came and spent a few days with Stella in the gallery, loved it every day. I thought, 'You know, this could kind of work.'”

Siepelinga's previous career included 16 years in nursing, 12 of those in intensive care units in Canada, Texas and at Jennersville Regional Hospital. “I loved ICU because it's very technical and detailed, and that appeals to me,” she said. “I like meeting people from all different walks of life and making things less scary for them. The part I liked the best was interacting with the families.”

Doing artwork in the evenings was an antidote to the stressful work she did as a nurse, which ended a couple of years ago.

In contrast to artists who enjoy long hours alone at the easel, Siepelinga found out that spending her days painting was frustrating. “I had tried that whole work from home thing,” she said. “and it's not that great for my personality to just be in a basement, painting. It was a little dull. Being here, seeing people, is good for me. Some artists are great when they're working alone. Me, not so much. I needed a balance.”

Siepelinga has taught art lessons to young children through the Willowdale Art Academy, and she plans to offer classes for young people in the back room at Mala Galleria soon. “We'll be making fun stuff,” she said. “I did art with my kids, and also through my church, which is now Willowdale in Jennersville.”

Being immersed in the artistic traditions of the Brandywine Valley has been rewarding, she said. “I've been to the Brandywine River Museum. I like that kind of art, but I like all kinds of art – abstract, the Wyeths. I'm not set on one kind.”

Siepelinga is tapping her friends in the local art world, and reaching out for other suggestions of artists to feature at the gallery. She also has a list of those who have shown with Mala Galleria in the past. The art on view, she said, will change completely from one month to the next, and the shows will have themes, similar to the “All Creatures Great and Small” show.

“I know that March is going to be 'Water,'” she said, “because the theme of the Philadelphia Flower Show that month is about water. The rest of the schedule I haven't figured out yet. It's a work in progress, because I haven't done this before. But I like to go to a gallery and see new things. That's what makes you want to come back – to see what's there next time.

“Stella has been so supportive, and I can call her anytime,” she said. “I love what she started here. I like the way the gallery looks, I like the way she ran it, so I'm pretty much doing the same thing. It works!”

Mala Galleria (200 E. State St., Kennett Square) hosts “All Creatures Great and Small” through Jan. 28. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 484-883-5429 or email [email protected] for more information.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].