It was supposed to be a practical, multi-use space. “Honestly, we hadn’t really thought about a gallery,” says Julie Wilmot, who, with her husband Phil, opened Hendersonville’s newest art space — Art on 7th Fine Art Gallery — last month. Along with a handful of other artists, they’d been looking for a venue that could accommodate five or six studios, room for workshops, and the offices of the Art League of Henderson County.
But once they saw the inside of the building in this trending historic district, a new vision emerged.
“Almost immediately we realized it needed to become an art gallery because of the significant expanse of room in the building that fronts 7th Avenue,” explains Julie. They also knew, however, that the work required to make the space ready would be a major undertaking. It was a definite plus that Phil was a retired contractor. “His vision and project-management skills were critical to our decision to take on the gallery,” she says.
The building formerly housed a fitness center, a florist shop, and, in the 1950s, a pharmacy with a soda fountain, grill, and lunch counter. “We knew about the fitness center and florist,” says Phil, “but [the occupant] before the florist was an unknown” — that is, until the project’s demolition phase, when he found a receipt from the pharmacy and an old exhaust fan for the restaurant’s grill.
They retained the bones of the structure as well as the existing floor plan. They did remove the old ceiling, though, which exposed red iron barrel beams that had been hidden out of sight since the building was constructed. “The result is a stunning gallery ceiling … something my wife and I believed needed to be preserved,” remarks Phil.
The Wilmots moved from Dallas to Horse Shoe in 2018. “We knew when we retired we would relocate to Western North Carolina,” says Julie. “I’d worked at a camp in Weaverville when I was in college and fell in love with WNC, and dreamed of eventually moving here.”
Prior to their move, she was a communications professional working in both the for-profit and nonprofit worlds, a role in which she also created graphic art. Once in Horse Shoe, though, Julie started painting professionally, specializing in alcohol ink, a mix of pigment and rubbing alcohol applied to a nonporous surface.
The spontaneous nature of the medium helps this self-described “control freak” let go and allow the “allure of the vivid colors” to do what they will. Julie’s works are on display in the new 2,900-square-foot, one-floor gallery, together with works by 16 other artists, eight from Henderson County and two from Asheville. (The other six are from Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas.)
Among these are artists working in two dimensions (acrylic, oil, and mixed media) and three (copper, glass, metal sculpture, and wood turning). There’s a strong motif, though: “We specialize in large-scale contemporary and abstract art,” says Julie — pieces that are suitable for chic modern homes but also tailored to “businesses, restaurants, and professional offices.”
The goal, Julie says, is to not offer more of what’s already available in the area.
Artists who have sold or are represented internationally get bonus points when being considered for Art on 7th, she says, although it’s also important to the Wilmots to launch “a few emerging artists deserving of exposure … to an audience who will appreciate their burgeoning talent.”
Art on 7th Fine Art Gallery, 330 7th Ave. East, Hendersonville. For more information, call 828-595-9232 or visit arton7th.com. December hours are Monday through Saturday, 11am-6pm, and Sunday, 12-4pm. Christmas Eve hours are 10am-1pm. Closed Christmas Day and Dec. 26. Winter hours are Wednesday and Thursday, 11am-5pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am-6pm; and Sundays, 1-4pm. Check Facebook (Art on 7th) and Instagram (@Arton7th) for updates about a grand-opening party in the spring.