By Jim Harris
The Chestnut Hill Gallery & Frame Shoppe, 8117 Germantown Avenue, is celebrating five years on the Hill. The business is owned and operated by Joseph Borrelli and his wife, Suzanne Sheeder. I recently stopped in to ask Joe how things were going.
So, what’s changed in five years?
•“Well, we’ve grown in the number of artists we represent. We presently have about 50 artists under contract, and more ‘in the bins.’”
Has the bad economy affected your business?
•“That damn recession hit us right away. I first noticed it in 2007 — people getting laid off and losing their homes. I tried to adjust. I learned some valuable lessons in running a small business. Things like what works in a certain market. We’re lucky that part of our business is framing and restoration.”
How do you find artists?
•“Sometimes I search for them; sometimes they just walk in the door. A lot are local, some regional, and even a few are international.
Can a local artist actually make a living from painting?
•“A few of the older artists do make a living solely from their art, but most have other jobs, too. One of our artists works nights and paints all day.”
Do you know any crazy artists?
•(Smiling) “A few are what you might call ‘eccentric,’ but they’re all hardworking, and for the most part, easy to work with. I’m lucky to have the fine quality of artists that I do.”
Any memorable events in the last five years?
•“Sure, plenty. Let’s see, in 2010, we did a fundraiser for the work of Doctors Without Borders in Haiti. We also had an artists/poets collaborative that was very successful. We’ll be having another artists/writers event this year, April 16 through 22.”
What else is coming up?
•“May 1 to 28 will be the first-ever exhibit of the stunning collection of the Hahn Gallery (where Borrelli worked for 10 years), with a reception on Saturday, May 14, with the incomparable Roslyn Hahn.”
Long range plans?
•“I’d like to form a committee with other local galleries to make this area an ‘arts destination’ and maybe have First Friday events to attract people from Center City. This community is full of artists. Also, someday I’d like to expand, and maybe open a second gallery in New Jersey.”
Do you draw?
•“No; I doodle. I’m actually a musical artist (he plays with the band ’56 Men’). I still play music, but I’m mostly around visual artists, some of whom are musicians as well. I enjoy their company. Part of my business plan is to help the artist community.”
“I collect art, I love art, and I like the business of running a gallery. It’s a whole lifestyle, and I’m constantly working on it. I always wanted to have my own business, and Chestnut Hill is a wonderful place to work. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m living the American dream.”
For more information, call 215-248-2549 or visit www.chestnuthillgallery.com.