For the past 12 years, ArtExposure has served as an epicenter for the arts in Pender County.
Travelers along Highway 17 in Hampstead may have noticed a large, red and white, barn-like structure along the roadside. It may look like a farm building, but inside is a big surprise: a multi-colored world in which art reigns supreme.
This is the home of ArtExposure, a 5,000-square-foot art gallery, studio and classroom space where the senses are excited by the works of 40 artists, including watercolors, acrylics, oils, pastels, photography, metalwork and jewelry. With instruction and classes in painting, drawing and other forms of art and activity, including ballroom dancing and yoga. It’s also a place for students to get in touch with their creative sides.
“We’ve been well received since opening in 2009,” says Ellen Elder, who owns the gallery with her husband, Mike, a retired Marine. Ellen is a retired art teacher who had a dream of one day opening a center for art and artists as well as the community.
Before building ArtExposure, the couple traveled extensively, and Ellen says that they visited art galleries wherever they went, looking for ideas and things that they liked. Most of the art spaces they liked best were in converted homes and old warehouses, but Ellen also was inspired by the spaciousness of a barn.
The Elders took a big risk in building their barn and trying their concept in Hampstead, but the gallery has proven to be a success.
“There was nothing in this area (between Jacksonville and Wilmington) that supported the arts,” Ellen says. “When we built ArtExposure, supporters came out of the woodwork.”
Jacksonville portrait and landscape artist Karen Lee Crenshaw was the first artist to rent space at ArtExposure in 2009. Her painting of the former swing bridge to Topsail Island was the first piece of art sold in the gallery. She says most artists work in isolation, so it’s important to have a place like ArtExposure nearby.
“I was attracted to ArtExposure because there would be more artists and more energy,” she says. “It also gives me a more public and professional space.”
To Sabine Baeckmann, an artist specializing in watercolors and oil, ArtExposure is a “cultural hub” and one of the area’s premier galleries. The semi-retired medical illustrator and graphic artist from Buffalo and her husband, Richard, also teach ballroom dancing on Fridays. Beginners are welcome, as are singles. Baeckmann is hanging a show entitled Aqua and Equis at the gallery on October 9, 2021.
“We get people in here for shows and special events,” Ellen says. “But we’d love to have more people driving by to stop in for a few minutes.”
The gallery is a great place to find a gift for a friend or something beautiful to decorate your home. Prices for the artwork range from $10 for a small piece of metalwork to $3,000 for a large painting. All of the art is original and handmade. ArtExposure also has a custom frame shop and a gift shop.
Classes are for adults and children, even for someone who has never done art before. Painting classes include acrylic painting and watercolor workshops as well as drop-in painting sessions. Ballroom dancing classes are held every Friday at 7 pm, and yoga is held on Saturday mornings at 9 am.
ArtExposure rents seven artist studios, and all of them are currently rented. Visitors can stop by the studios and may get a chance to watch an artist put paint on canvas or work with ceramics. The artists have 24-hour access to their studios. Ellen says that there is a spirit of cooperation among the artists that pushes everyone to be better. The artists display works within their studios, but they also may rent wall space in the gallery for more exposure.
Any artist wanting to rent wall space or a studio must be juried in or have fellow artists review his or her work to ensure that it meets the ArtExposure standards.
Next time you ride by the red and white barn in Hampstead, be sure to stop in and say hello, meet the resident artists and see what you’ve been missing in this art haven.
Want to go?
22527 U.S. Highway 17, Hampstead
ArtExposure is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and closed on Sunday and Monday.