Not Just Another Pretty Pretty Façade
North End Gallery is home to the inspired work of many of the region’s most talented and accomplished artists
Writer: Crystal Brandt
Any quaint town square worth its weight in cobblestones would be incomplete without an art gallery. In historic Leonardtown, the picture-perfect scene is completed by the North End Gallery.
The gallery offers a one-of-a-kind collection of fine art, jewelry and crafts created by up to 35 juried artists and artisans from Southern Maryland. One of the few organizations to outlive the 1980s, North End has stood the test of time.
In the spring, the gallery was awarded $5,000 from a façade improvement grant program and completely refreshed its storefront. The program was created by the town to help local businesses improve their exteriors in order to encourage tourism and to show pride in the community. As a result, the gallery has a new sign, a freshly power-washed and painted awning, updated lighting, outdoor seating and a handicapped-accessible door.
One of the most striking improvements is the new stained-glass panel that was designed and built by gallery artist Lani Clark of Windward Stained Glass to fit inside the transom. Mary Ida Rolape, another gallery artist, used glass enamel to fuse the address numbers into the center panel, which was then soldered into the transom panel.
“Updating the façade is something we’ve wanted to do for 15 years,” Clark says. The overall effect is beautiful, cheerful and inviting.
A collective effort
The co-op structure makes for a strong communal environment, and Clark is amazed by the collective effort of the organization.
“The way everybody pulls together when there’s a project is great. Everyone pitches in and we get done what we need to do with whatever skills you have.” This lively community knows how to have a good time, too.
“Everybody really enjoys working there. We have enthusiastic artists, we have a good time, and everybody’s very creative and individual,” she says. “It’s fun being with people who have similar interests but are very different from yourself.”
Established in 1986, the gallery was formed by Sally Carter and Pat Lewis as an artist co-op to show and sell work created by its members.
While the operational structure remains as it was, the location has changed since its inception. The first location was established in a small building owned by Carter, situated just north of the intersection at Route 5 and Hollywood Road in Leonardtown. Carter ran a pottery business there that occupied the space until a school bus crashed through the front of the building.
It was then, when the shop was closed for repairs, that Carter reconsidered her future and partnered with Lewis to take the first steps in forming an artist co-op. They reached out to artists, held planning meetings and organized members to beautify the building and turn it into a space worthy of community art shows.
The doors officially opened Sept. 1, 1986, with their first show and operated in that location for seven years. By then, Carter had decided to sell the building and the co-op members had to find a new home for their endeavor. They landed at their current location in the heart of Leonardtown, owned by the St. Mary’s County Arts Council, and formally re-opened in March 1993.
The “North End” name originally belonged to a print shop that used to operate in the first building.
When the co-op was established, the name stuck — which made sense because, geographically, the location was at the north end of town. Even more interesting is the name for the gallery space at the rear of the current gallery.
The “Mulberry Fields” room was named after the Valley Lee home of the Jansson family, early members and supporters of North End. The Janssons — Holger, Mary, Gordon and Eric — bought the Mulberry Fields property in the 1960s to preserve its historic legacy as a former working plantation and prevent it from being developed.
Always something different
The gallery adds new work every month, which means that each visit will be different.
“There’s always something fresh,” Clark says. “We rehang the gallery four to five times a year, and the art changes all the time with individual shows coming and going.”
It is the perfect spot for relaxing and taking in the inspired work of the region’s most talented and accomplished artists.
Over the years, the collection has featured a range of work, including diverse oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings, pastels, etchings, serigraphy, jewelry, pottery, photography, woodcraft, fiber, fused glass, stained glass, clay tiles, clocks, mixed media, notecards, calendars and matted prints.
Artists interested in joining the co-op must have their art accepted by a voting jury. Accepted artists pay a one-time fee as well as monthly dues. Members volunteer at the gallery and help with the maintenance and upkeep of the space, as well as attending receptions as often as possible. The gallery earns a commission on every sale.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recovery efforts, North End moved its sales online over the past few months.
The gallery quietly reopened for a few days before the July 4 holiday.
Art lovers can find the North End Gallery just off the town square at 41652 Fenwick St. The hours vary by day and might change.
For now, it is recommended that visitors go to northendgallery.com or call 301-475-3130 to make sure the gallery is open.
When things return to normal, business hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. •