Corning, New York, has a natural sophistication. It comes, partly, from being the headquarters of an international company with global name recognition. A place like Exhibit A plays into that sense of contemporary style and offers an outlet for artists "who have a clear voice," as owner Ann Wells phrases it.
It's clear what artistic territory Exhibit A is staking from a glance inside. Paintings and sculptures of a breathtaking breadth and depth—both minimalist and sleek and socio-political and intricately wrought—open a near window upon the world of contemporary art. An experienced art buyer will feel at home here, but Ann provides a level of personalized service that appeals to the first-time decorator as well. Ann counts both as her clientele.
One of the gallery's biggest advantages is Ann herself. As an exhibiting artist for many years, a "dormant artist," as she says, Ann admits it is easier to trumpet someone else's work than your own. "A person trying to date someone can say, 'I'm a fabulous person, you should go out with me.' But, it is much more effective when someone else says it."
The stereotypical perception that art galleries are stuffy, intimidating places evaporates upon arrival. Ann welcomes visitors who just want to see what she has on view. Teenagers, travelers through Corning, even well-behaved elementary students make wonderful art patrons.
"Art is like food. You don't have to know all about food to enjoy it. You don't have to be an expert in art to find what speaks to you," says Ann.
Artists with local followings are proud to call Exhibit A their Market Street gallery. These include painters Samuel C. Guy and James Paulsen and, of particular interest in a city built around glass, Dutch glassblower and printer Anne Gant, who blows glass forms and presses them—hot—into wet rag paper, destroying them one by one in the process, but leaving their echoes behind, patterned onto large sheets.
Exhibit A can connect patrons with artists for commissioned pieces, as well as install both indoor and outdoor art displays. Temporary art can be arranged for special events. The gallery has shipped works to New York City, Washington, D.C., Houston, and London, among other locations.
"It's great being able to help artists reach people that actually acquire their work."
The public has ample opportunity to meet and speak with the artists at opening receptions. "The media sometimes portrays artists as aloof, unfriendly types," says Ann, "but really they are so easy to talk with."
Ann even recommends art galleries like hers as the ideal location for first dates. She watched one young couple pause at each piece for discussion and leave beaming. "It was the first gallery they had ever been in. And it was a positive experience. That is a good thing."