‘A bright light in dark times’: Two local artists live their dream in Saluda

Published 12:02 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

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eARThly Minds marks one-year anniversary


Some people think opening a small business, especially an artistic one, during these uncertain times is risky, challenging, and a bit crazy. One thing they may not understand is—a dream that haunts you can be worse than any risk in life.  

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June 26 will mark the one-year anniversary of eARThly Minds, a whimsical gallery and gift shop located within Nostalgia Courtyard in beautiful downtown Saluda. The journey to that milestone was a personal and inspiring experience for two memorable local artists.

When Kristen Mode met Sabrina Romero at a gallery show, there was instant admiration for each other’s work. Mode moved around before settling back in the South where she was born. She attended UNC Asheville and graduated with a BA in Photography and Painting with a Minor in Art Education. However, Romero knew that college was not her thing. In order to nourish her creativity, Romero’s mother moved her from Miami to North Carolina. It was a culture shock for Romero, but she quickly realized it was where she was meant to be. 


Mode and Romero share their collaborative painting.
(photo by Kai Elijah Hamilton / Tryon Daily Bulletin)


When the artist’s paths crossed again while serving at The Purple Onion, they realized their shared dream. When a space came available at a reasonable price, Mode approached Romero with a unique business opportunity—to open a gallery of their own.  


“I think we both felt we needed to take a risk and be a bright light in dark times.” Mode says. 


It didn’t take long for the duo to throw caution to the wind. After all, their inner spirit was crying to be full time artists. At first, the gallery was sparse with mostly Mode and Romero’s works. Both artists are highly influenced by nature. Mode has become largely known in the area for her playful animal paintings and photography. Romero, who also paints, has a focus on resin art. Her botanical moldings such as bookends, hanging moons, candle holders, and trinket boxes bring to mind a bygone retro era. Currently, both artists are working on a painting together that represents the binding of their friendship. 


Since that first exciting summer their shop has expanded to over 30 artists of varied mediums making it a success. What sets eARThly Minds aside from other shops and galleries in the area is their contract. As a way to give back, they do not charge commission on the artist’s work. Rather, they only ask for a reasonable amount for space rental. 


That positive vibe is clear right when you walk onto the porch. Inside you are greeted by furry friends and the hint of purifying sage and incense in the air. The artwork is not formal or minimalistic. Rather, it’s refreshing, eclectic and imaginative. eARThly Minds feels as if you are captured in a gypsy-like dream world and reminds us that our dreams, crazy as they might seem, are never completely out of reach.  


eARThly Minds’ hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m  on Friday and Saturday. For more information on upcoming events, such as ArtPopUp on June 26, stop by 19 Pearson Falls Rd. in Saluda, N.C, call 828 769-9063 or follow them on Instagram @earthlymindsgallery.