THE CHERYL NEWBY GALLERY is a showcase for some of the country’s leading artists—and so much more. Since opening her gallery in 1983, owner Cheryl Newby has earned a reputation for a highly curated collection of paintings and sculptures, a focus on education and, perhaps more than anything, her welcoming style. In a cottagey space overlooking a Japanese koi pond, a subtle experience draws you in that is unique in the business of showing art.
“My philosophy,” muses Newby, “regarding the presentation of artwork is centered around space. We keep the number of artists we represent at around 20, because I feel each one deserves to have enough space around the work so the customer can better appreciate it. Paintings shouldn’t be stacked on a wall, one above the next—I find that very distracting to the eye.”
Newby’s foray into the art business began with a love for original natural history prints and antique maps that she shares with her husband, Fred Newby. When she decided to represent living artists, acclaimed American landscape artist and author Ray Ellis (1921–2013) was her first. Over the 26 years of their collaboration, she says they built a relationship based on mutual respect and trust.
“Ray and I had a wonderful working relationship,” she notes.
“I learned about how to work with artists, how much the gallery relationship with the artist means. It’s like being in a marriage—you both want to sell paintings; you want the same thing.”
When Newby decided, in 2000, to expand her representation, Ellis helped her with the vetting, gradually bringing in established artists “who know who they are and what they want to paint.”
“I’ve been accused of being very picky,” says Newby, with a smile. “Ray was so well known, any artist would be honored to be in the same gallery with him, so I had to be very careful about the artists I chose and would run each one by Ray to get his opinion.”
Offering a variety of styles, techniques and media is among Newby’s criteria when selecting artists for the gallery. With serious talent from California to New York to Florida, the gallery’s roster of artists satisfies that requisite handily.
“I wanted to offer a diversity of media, so I looked for a really accomplished pastel artist and found Lisa Gleim, an Audubon Artists Gold Medal of Honor winner. We also chose Daniel Ambrose because he is a master egg tempera painter and has a unique style.”
During a recent summer show of work by Ambrose and ceramic artist Glenda Taylor, Newby reserved a section of gallery walls for a striking photographic display illustrating the process of making and painting with egg tempera, a technique of painting that originated in Europe around the 12th century.
“It can be hard to understand what goes into the making of art,” explains Newby. “So, I had the idea to work with Daniel Ambrose to shoot photos detailing the step-by-step process of making tempera. I also photographed Glenda Taylor at work on the pottery wheel in her studio. She takes pottery to another level.”
Acclaimed South Carolina artists Mike Williams and William McCullough are both represented by the gallery. “Mike is one of our best-selling artists. His semi-abstract paintings have made collectors out of folks who never thought they could cross the threshold from realism to abstract painting,” says Newby.
Bronze sculpture has become another major part of the gallery’s business over the past decade. “We are only a few miles down the road from Brookgreen Gardens, and many of our patrons are lovers of sculpture,” she says. “We are proud to represent some of the country’s best figurative sculptors working today.”
Of the sculptors exhibited by the gallery, Sandy Scott, Gwen Marcus, Tony Hochstetler and Amy Kann are Fellows of the National Sculpture Society.
Reflecting on her 37 years as a successful gallery owner, Newby says she appreciates more than anything the friendships that have developed along the way. She also believes children have a place in the gallery and treats them to a scavenger hunt when they come in with their parents.
“So many people seem intimidated by galleries. I believe if they had been introduced to art at a young age, they would be able to enjoy visiting galleries and museums as adults. Art is such an important part of life!” she exclaims. *
Wendy Swat Snyder is a Charleston-based freelance writer (sweetgrassandgrits.com).