By Kaitlin Candelaria
Meredith Keith never intended to be an artist. In fact, she went to college to become a doctor. Although she describes herself as an “artsy-craftsy” child, her love for creating art is something she almost grew into on accident during her college years.
“I was apprenticing for a man who did interiors and we were painting the walls, floors and ceilings with murals and texturized painting,” Keith said. “One thing I loved about working with him is that we had to learn to communicate with customers. It wasn’t like painting was all about me, it was more of a ‘I’ve got to learn what you want and what’s going to please you.’”
Keith said learning to communicate with people who didn’t necessarily know what they wanted became a big asset for her later on as she began working professionally as an artist.
“My mindset is that I’m painting as a service,” she said. “Starting out with that mindset was helpful because it was a great way to back into painting as a career.”
It’s also a mindset that has helped her make a success with her Gallery 1930. Not only is she planning an expansion of that gallery, which will include a wine bar, she’s also in the process of opening a second studio in Pepper Place.
“She’s such a great bridge between the fine arts and wanting to please the customer,” said Keith’s gallery manager, Amanda Morisette. “It’s decorator art, but it’s still appreciated by critics and collectors.”
Keith has a difficult time describing her style, but she said that she works to keep up with what decorators in the area are doing.
“I like to paint on a large scale and I like to experiment with new subject matter,” Keith said. “I do a lot of requests but I like to keep them noncommittal because it frees us both up. Sometimes, paintings just take a turn and you can’t really predict what’s going to happen and a commission can birth a series of varied paintings.”
Keith, who’s worked as an artist professionally for about 15 years now, eased into owning a white-wall gallery by renting her current space from restaurant-owner Al Raibee in English Village for showings one month at a time back in 2010 before finally sitting down with her mother, Kathryn Keith, and sister, Laura Vogtle to create Gallery 1930. Now, she and Raibee, who owns the popular English Village restaurant Vino, are working together to expand her gallery space and add a wine bar.
The new larger space will feature work from Keith and other artists whom she works with and is set to open in early October. It will also be available for events.
“I would love to have it to where people come from out of town and know that we have consistently great pieces and great taste,” Keith said. “I don’t want our gallery to be sleepy old school traditional. I want it be fashion forward.”
Keith said her style has definitely evolved since she began painting 15 years ago.
“I started off with very folky-type art with lots of polka dots,” Keith said. “I don’t know how I got from that to buildings and structures, but my process has certainly gotten more refined. Each painting has mistakes, but I have gotten better at predicting and correcting the mistakes. My process is more streamlined, but I still love to experiment.”
Keith is known for her paintings of Birmingham skylines, but she keeps her subject matter varied.
“One of her biggest assets is how versatile her work is,” Morisette said. “She can paint a horse or an abstract or a cityscape.”
Keith, who is a Mountain Brook native, said that, although the Birmingham art community has room to grow, she’s found a place here because of Southern tradition.
“I think people love to entertain in their houses and that’s a Southern thing,” she said. “People put a lot of money, time and energy into their homes, so I think they appreciate art that can really enhance that and make it somewhere you want to be.
That’s what makes art collectors here different from art collectors somewhere like New York. The majority of people that I’ve observed here are people who just want a cool atmosphere in their home.”
For more information on Keith or Gallery 1930, please visit www.meredithkeith.com.