Bearing fruit

Dedication keeps artist-run Orchard Gallery going

By Susan Kline, courtesy photo

By Susan Kline, courtesy photo

There was an empty space at Glenbrook Square.

A group of artists approached mall management with the idea that they’d rent that empty space for November and December. That’s right at the height of Christmas shopping time. They’d pool their resources, hang some of their original art, maybe make a sale or two or many, get some money and that’d be the end of things.

This was 1983, and none of those 15 artists or so had a business plan, business experience or even expectations.

Flash forward almost 37 years, and that little gallery set up in the big mall on the north end of town has grown and expanded and now has a space along Covington Road. The Orchard Gallery of Fine Art is still going strong as an artists-run business – a place where connoisseurs can satisfy their itch for original art and those looking for gifts can find that unique present to wow loved ones.

“What keeps us going is the dedication of our members,” says Sue Davis, one the original artists who is still a part of the gallery. “It’s their gallery. They have a sense of ownership.”

Davis and her husband, Steve Vachon, whom she met way back when the gallery first opened, are two of the last of that original group. Others have come and gone over the years. Some moved away. Some passed away. Some left to do other things or partake in other projects – but there have always been artists here to fill their shoes.

They work together to keep the gallery open; that includes staffing, sharing expenses and running the day-to-day operations under a board of directors.

“There are so many great artists in Fort Wayne,” Davis said. “And there is interest. There is definitely interest in us.”

The gallery offers up everything from paintings to stoneware pottery, clay, wood pieces and sculptures and jewelry. Works by the 15 gallery members are always on display, but other artists can be featured there, as well. Typically, a new artist is featured every month.

That helps keep the gallery fresh with something new to display all the time.

“This has kept us new and interesting, and now people stop by and see what’s new,” she continued. “They want the artists’ work that’s their favorites, but you have to introduce new and exciting work.”

The Orchard Gallery’s story continues – that of one of the most unique businesses in the city, run by the artists themselves.

“There wasn’t anything like us before,” Davis said. “And I don’t think anybody at that time would’ve said we’d be open today. It was like, ‘Oh, heck, let’s try this.’ I don’t know if I want to say it’s a surprise, but it’s maybe a surprise because you might not think something like this would work in Fort Wayne. But it’s been wonderful.”

First appeared in the March 2017 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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