An art gallery is more than an art gallery when it becomes a work of art itself. Such a work of art weaves a tapestry of unique but harmonious threads, each with its own texture, color, and message. The visitor enters the gallery the way the imagination enters a painting that is being looked at. For instance, in this painting by Marlene Kort, the viewer may engage the images of these horses trotting along and suddenly be on horseback, on a hot dusty trail, looking for how to corral these ponies. In a gallery that is itself a work of art, the experience is not just mental, it is in 3D. One actually walks about inside the artwork; the eye delights at the items it falls upon; and the senses are all fully engaged. This is the magic created by Hunter Wolff Gallery. It accomplishes in real life, real time, what Eugene Delacroix said was the great purpose of painting, "faire une fête pour l'oeil" (make a party for the eye). That party includes a host of things, from paintings of different genres to jewelry, pottery, and sculpture. All of the pieces work in concert like a good community to create a unique expression that is more than the sum of its parts.
Beyond the simple elegance with which items are displayed, there is an underlying unity that comes from the high quality of each art object. All of the artists showing at Hunter Wolff produce work of superior quality and consistency. All are faithful to a certain expression that is their voice, and thus consumers, no matter when and what they buy, can count on receiving the best work that manifests a consistent stream of creative thought from the artists.
At the center of this creation is the gallery owner, who makes the selections, creates the ambience, and sets the tone for the way the gallery interacts with visitors and clientele. Her name is Sharon Wolff, and she had a definitive idea about what she wanted to create when setting up this gallery some 16 years ago. The idea of community was one founding principle. Coming from a small town, herself, and having lived at times in places of 5,000 people or less, she found in Old Colorado City, a historic center and art district that was dedicated to keeping its quaint feeling. The business community there bonds together to maintain this goal while also looking at what the future might bring in order to work those changes seamlessly into the fabric of this historic area. To that end, Wolff has joined into the planning committees in the area to bring to bear her considerable experience gained from her 30 years in the corporate world.
In terms of the gallery itself, Wolff feels that "art is meant to be seen and felt." She thinks of herself and her staff as "curators" and the gallery as a kind of "education center" where visitors have their questions answered while learning about different art processes and techniques. "It starts with a warm greeting and finding solutions for clients who need special attention when making purchases or require custom work. It means going the extra mile and following up after the purchase," says Wolff. That care and attention has netted the gallery a hosts of clients, many of whom became gallery customers on their vacations to Colorado Springs. Wolff relates the story of a couple who come to the Springs for an annual visit. As soon as they get off the airplane, they come immediately to Hunter Wolff to select a new purchase for their home.
Wolff tallies that kind of success up to not only creating an inviting, visually fascinating environment, but also to using emotional intelligence to understand what the client's needs are even when they may not be quite sure themselves. It is all part of another key ingredient in the creation of this gallery: top quality customer service. That service extends to all parts of the business, including the growing sector of online sales. One effect of the pandemic was the way people turned to the arts in general as a way to deal with the anxieties of the situation. With more people spending lots more time at home, the home environment came under scrutiny. Many decided to change things in that environment to create something more spiritually sustaining through a selection of art.
As the pandemic raged, Hunter Wolff boosted its online presence, pointing out the various price ranges of work as a way of engaging viewers to buy an original artwork rather than a mass produced copy. Sharon Wolff tells of many days spent packing and shipping art during the height of the pandemic with her favorite story being of a disabled woman who had someone drive her to the gallery to pick up a piece. She simply popped the trunk open and told Wolff, "Just put it in there." By using that ability to connect emotionally to the needs of people in distressing times and combining it with both new ways of reaching clients and superlative customer service, Hunter Wolff Gallery maintained its preeminence among the art galleries in Colorado Springs.
The business of the gallery, however, is a two-way street. It requires attention to the artists and their work. Wolff says that every piece is something she would be fine with having in her own home. That does not mean she feels the same about every piece, but the key thing is the quality of the work, which is of a quality that she would live with in her own house. This makes her excited to talk about the work. She also wants to see that the artists selected have a track record and have a consistent thread to their expression. That has to do with building a clientele for that artist's work. She loves to make, and I am sure the artists love to receive, that phone call when she says, "I'm running out. Bring me some more!" By focusing on selling the artists' best work and developing loyal consumers for that work, the gallery has become a productive conduit between the artists and their market, and between the clients and the artwork they desire.
As Hunter Wolff Gallery looks to the future, there is the realization that Colorado Springs is on track to become the largest city in Colorado. That boom in population is quite evident when in winter, which is not tourist season, there are so many license plates from other states, a sign that people have moved here to stay. When asked about how Hunter Wolff participates in shaping the taste of the clientele, Wolff says, "Perhaps we do shape, or at least influence, the taste of local consumers, but I feel that it is the community and those who visit from across our borders shaping us!" She does feel that an event like the First Friday Art Walk is "an important event and tool in shaping the tastes of collectors by letting them see first hand what is available, even possible, and the many options afforded."
Wolff has believed in the power of art from her earliest years where she grew up loving to draw and paint. She even took her creativity into the design of her own clothing out of a desire to express and be unique. She loves that art is always there for anyone to use to express feelings and ideas. It does not discriminate; it is simply a function of being human. She also points out that "art is the best way to learn the value of work and to appreciate workmanship." Her comments on work as a noble expression led me to ask Wolff how she would describe Hunter Wolff Gallery as a piece of art, a work that she has created. She commented as follows:
"Creating a sanctuary-like place is an art and important so that people can gather and effortlessly mill around while they are shopping. There isn’t a day that goes by when we don’t hear comments from customers like, “This is such a beautiful gallery.” “I love this gallery; it is always so beautiful.” I believe we have mastered a work of art to showcase unique art where visitors enjoy an atmosphere that is calming, relaxing, welcoming, and an escape from the challenges of life."
Certainly when one visits the gallery, it is easy to see that it lives up to her primary goal, "Make everyday a good day for whoever walks into the gallery."