By Ingrid Howard
At the end of this year, Artists Incorporated will close its Vestavia Hills location.
The art gallery opened 19 years ago at its location off Rocky Ridge Road in Vestavia Hills. For the past year, it also has been operating on Saturdays at a storefront in the Shops of Grand River mall in Leeds. By January, the artists plan to consolidate the gallery and operate only the Leeds location.
Treasurer Cathy Jo Wheeler said the Vestavia Hills community has supported the gallery for decades.
“I think our customers continue to support us,” she said. “We have good crowds, and they’re the same people who have been supporting us all these years. Unfortunately, their homes are full. They’ve shopped with us for 19 years and they don’t need anything else.”
Many of the gallery’s loyal Vestavia Hills customers already have visited the Leeds location, Wheeler said. Additionally, the gallery draws customers from all over the country at this storefront.
“Lots of out-of-state people, they’re driving through, they see the mall and they stop because they need to walk around a little bit or get something to eat,” Wheeler said. “And they come in. We had tour buses last week.”
One customer from Hawaii came to the Leeds location searching for local art to take back to her friends. She bought three of Wheeler’s handmade bracelets.
“I never dreamed that I’d have jewelry in Hawaii,” Wheeler said, laughing. “It’s exciting to meet new and different people like that.”
The new space in Leeds also brings new opportunities that don’t fit in the Vestavia location. While the Vestavia gallery is a long, narrow rectangle, the Leeds gallery is a big, open square.
Wheeler said that the artists will have the space to start teaching classes in Leeds, and there already are people of all ages who are interested in signing up. Classes could be focused on a variety of topics, such as painting, pottery and glass.
“As soon as we get out there and get a little settled and get our classroom set up, we’ll start teaching classes out there,” she said.
In addition to Wheeler, Artists Incorporated has a board of seven other artists, five of whom are founding members of the gallery.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the local community. From Vestavia, the Chamber of Commerce, we won the small business of the year a few years ago. So, we’ve had a lot of support from the area and a lot of support from the Over the Mountain communities,” Wheeler said. “We really appreciate them and hope they’ll follow us as we move to our new location.”
The Leeds location is at Suite 114 at the Shops of Grand River between Michael Kors and Dress Barn. For more information about upcoming events and featured artists, visit artistsincorporated.com.