HOT SPRINGS – Mars Hill welcomed an art gallery in September 2021, and now Hot Springs has one, too.
Gallery 339, located in the old Biker Depot building on the bypass, hosted its grand opening ceremony April 16, according to owner Terry Thirion.
“It’s exciting, but it’s also scary because I’m asking, ‘What do I do? What is my best way of going about doing this? What do people want? How do I attract people to come here?'” Said Thirion. “We just have to see what comes up. I trust that something good comes out of this.”
Thirion, originally from Belgium, has owned a home on the Laurel River in Hot Springs for 25 years with her husband, Bob Fitzpatrick. The couple permanently moved to Madison County from Charlotte last May.
The gallery currently features three artists – Thirion, Jennifer Boylan and Swannanoa resident Elaine Lacy.
Thirion calls herself an “experimental painter,” as she employs impressionist, abstract expressionist and even mixed media styles in her work.
The owner said some of her favorite subjects include frogs, birds and moths.
“I see birds everywhere,” Thirion said. “Butterflies and moths, they’re easily moving. The birds, too. They just can join us when we’re in pain.”
Lacy takes a lot of her inspiration from nature, too, she said.
“My love for ceramic art derives from the deep joy I feel when touching the earth and observing some of its most beautiful features, especially trees, birds and flowers,” she said in her artist statement on her website. “Creating a piece of art from soft clay acts as a form of meditation and a way of expressing gratitude for the profound beauty that surrounds me.
“While my initial artistic training was in drawing, oil painting and photography, I have delighted in depicting elements of the natural world on a ceramic” canvas, “both for display and for daily use. Each hand-painted piece is made with the hope that it will delight those with whom it lives and engender an appreciation of the magic of the world in which we live.
Boylan crafts rugs made from sheep’s wool, and is a painter also.
“The rugs are a passion of mine,” Boylan said. The rugs are made only from wool, no skin, meaning no sheep is harmed. I buy wool from local farmers when possible. The way I make them is a process called felting. It’s laborious. It involves hot soap, water and rolling. This helps bind the fibers. I started making them as rugs to meditate on and it evolved into an eco-home decor thing. “
Boylan said she has been making rugs for 10 years but has painted almost all of her life.
“My painting style I think can be described as ethereal and whimsical,” she said. “I love painting and am a self-taught artist. A lot of my paintings are inspired by poetry, myth, fairytales and music. I like to think that I translate living through a magical or otherworldly lens when I paint.”
The gallery operates on commission, Thirion said, adding that she hopes to bring in additional regional artists to be featured.
“The ideal situation would be that there would be a couple of artists that would want to be here in the gallery, show their work, and they would work one day a week, and that would be their payment,” she said. “They could work here, too. I’d like that. That way I could stay open more days.”
The gallery is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from noon to 5 pm
Thirion’s work is also featured at 362 Depot in Asheville’s River Arts District.
Thirion reserves half the building for a studio space, where she has hosted multiple workshops for the public, including a composition class in March.
“We all need composition,” the owner said. “One of the things people learned was how to see composition in a different way. It’s everywhere around us, really, composition. If you took your camera and you look in here, you can find composition in here. (In the class) we were talking about how you’re going to divide your space up – is it going to be a grid? Where’s the horizon – is it going to be at the top or the bottom? What’s the mood of the painting, or the piece of art you’re making? Why’re you doing it? You know, things like that. People need to ask themselves that. ”
For the owner, who formerly worked as a life coach, teaching others offers an equally exciting opportunity.
“I want to have my own thing,” she said. “The students have to develop their own style. I’m constantly encouraging them to develop their own style, not to do my style.”
Thirion said she plans to offer the workshops once a month and is seeking out other artists to come in and teach classes as well.
In the near future, portrait artist Nan Sherry, a Marshall resident, will offer a two-day full workshop, according to the gallery owner.
“I want to offer more workshops, especially if it can be affordable to the community,” Thirion said.
For now, the gallery owner is excited to be open and operating in Hot Springs.
“Everybody that I’ve talked to is saying, ‘We’re just so happy you’re open,'” Thirion said.