*This story first appeared in The Budget’s June 6, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
Loves Gallery, a new art gallery in downtown New Philadelphia, is more than a venue to showcase the work of owners June and Jennifer Contini. It’s also a place for the community to discover area artists and experience the joy of creating.
“It’s not about me at all,” said artist Jennifer Contini, who spent two decades living and working in New York City before returning to her Tuscarawas County roots last year and opening Loves Gallery with her mother and best friend, artist June Contini. “It’s about seeing other artists and getting the youth involved.”
In addition to showcasing their own work, including June’s paintings of angels and animals and Jennifer’s signature “pop hearts” and hand-painted ornaments, the two women are also using their new, downtown venue to introduce the community to other local artists.
“It’s about really letting the world see all the talent that’s out there,” Jennifer Contini said. “We all are blessed with different gifts and different styles, and I want to show all types of artwork.”
During the month of April, the gallery hosted the work of its first- ever featured artist, Dover native Carla Wherley, for a special exhibition titled “Suddenly Sunflowers” showcasing the artist’s series of sunflower paintings.
“Her show was really successful,” Jennifer Contini shared. “It was just well received, and she made several sales. It was a great show.”
The artist currently being featured at the gallery is Sarah Dugger, whose exhibition of minimalist paintings and printed textiles titled “To the Max” will remain on display through the end of June.
While she and Dugger share similar stories, having both lived and worked in New York City, and were also featured in several of the same shows, Jennifer Contini shared that it wasn’t until she returned to Tuscarawas County that she and Dugger really connected.
“She came back to the area as well. She lived in San Francisco, and she lived in New York City, and now she’s raising her children here in the hometown where she was born and raised,” she said. “She gave me a lot of great insight and was really nurturing with me coming back into the community.”
The community will have an opportunity to meet Dugger and check out her work during a public reception at the gallery on June 7 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Other artists set to be featured at the gallery this summer include Zac Yoder, a landscape painter who also works as a manager at the gym where Contini works out.
“I met him at the gym, but I saw his artwork at the Bread Head Bistro in Dover, and that’s when I selected him to be a featured artist,” Jennifer Contini shared. “[He’s] a really great talent.”
Yoder will be the gallery’s first male featured artist, and his work will be on display throughout the month of July.
Also set to be featured this summer is gallery assistant Rylie Steele, a sophomore at New Philadelphia High School who will be featured in September as the gallery’s first teen featured artist.
“She is an amazing artist,” said Jennifer Contini, who was so impressed with Steele’s artistic abilities that she offered her a job at the gallery and took her under her wing as an understudy.
Steele was recently awarded first prize in the 2018 7th Congressional District Art Competition for one of her landscape paintings. Winners from each district will have their artwork placed on display at the U.S. Capitol for the next year and will also have an opportunity to visit and tour Washington, D.C.
A special reception is also being planned locally for mid-September to celebrate the Steele’s upcoming exhibition at the New Philadelphia art gallery.
In addition to serving as the gallery’s youngest featured artist and only employee, Steele also joined Jennifer and her teenage son Leo to head up a teen painting workshop at the gallery that was held on June 2.
During the workshop, teen artists and aspiring young artists had an opportunity to paint cityscapes.
As part of its owners’ commitment to supporting and encouraging the next generation of artists, the gallery will also be hosting a series of youth art shows during the month of August. “It’s called Little Love,” Jennifer Contini shared. “There will be several of them, and we’re going to divide them into age groups. The first age group is ages 5 to 8.”
For a $10 entry fee, children will be able to submit an original 12-by- 12 artwork to be featured in the show, and four children from each age group will be invited to paint larger, 36-by-36 paintings that will be displayed in the gallery’s front windows.
“Kids are our future. Why can’t they have a show?” Jennifer Contini said. “It starts with a little seed in everything that we do. If you pick up a baseball bat at age 5, you’re gonna learn how to play baseball. Same as picking up a paintbrush and putting the paint onto canvas.”
Another goal of the gallery, according to Contini is to create a place where individuals of all ages can have fun and express their creativity. In addition to workshops for teens, the gallery also regularly hosts events for adults including girls’ night out painting parties and can also accommodate children’s birthday parties.
The gallery also recently hosted its first-ever couples painting party for area couples looking for a creative date night option. “It’s something fun for couples to do on an evening rather than just go to dinner or see a movie,” Contini explained. “It’s really cool to see how the couples will let their creativity come together and how they work together.”
Contini noted that the first event was such a success that the gallery will definitely be hosting some additional sessions this summer.
Loves Gallery is located at 101 West High Avenue in downtown New Philadelphia and is currently open by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, call 917-903-6582 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For updates on upcoming events and exhibitions, like and follow Loves Gallery (@jenandjunecontini) on Facebook.