NEW MARKET — Jon Henry’s General Store on North Congress Street is offering a unique way to view work by area artists.
A drive-by gallery opened in March so that artwork can be viewed by a visitor’s car. Henry said his store is operated out of a former BB&T bank building with a drive-by window located in the back.
“We wanted to think of a useful idea for it,” Henry said, adding that as an artist and someone who is involved in the art community, “I thought we could turn it into a little art gallery and every month we could have events tied to the gallery.”
Henry said the type of art that has been shown at the gallery has been one of its main selling points. Artists like Greg Stewart and John Ross have shown various works, and artwork on display now is an exhibit involving pasta noodles by Richmond artist Nava Levenson. She said she was drawn in by the uniqueness of the gallery.
“I hadn’t heard of an art space like it,” Levenson said. “It breaks the conventional model of a white wall metropolis gallery that can be a very intimidating place to be a viewer.”
Henry’s gallery also works with the New Market Area Library to host artist talks, which give people an opportunity to speak with artists about their work.
“With the gallery being near the street, it would be kind of difficult to host a reception here,” Henry said. “I reached out to some of the folks at our local library and asked if they would do an artist talk in conjunction with this event. They were really open to the idea and really helpful.”
Henry said that people from all over have visited the gallery since it has opened.
“There have been people who have seen the gallery on Instagram, and they would stop in,” Henry said. “We’ve had people who would be driving on the interstate just to look at the gallery and get back on. I’ve been surprised by the reaction so far.”
As he continues to build up a roster of artists to present their work at the gallery, Henry said the unpredictability of the exhibits is part of the fun.
“It’s kind of unexpected to folks,” Henry said. “We get folks who walk by and ask, ‘Are you selling that piece of art?’ or ‘What does this have to do with the products in the store?’ We tell them it’s an art gallery and then have a conversation about the gallery.”
Levenson said she hopes that new concepts like the drive-by gallery will help drive more people into the world of art, noting that it’s a good way for “folks to dip their toes” into the contemporary art scene.
“So for artists, our work is able to reach an audience that may normally shy away from viewing contemporary art,” she added.